Great River Race attracts 332 crews to the Thames

Row for Freedom compete in the Great River Race

Over 300 crews took to the Thames on Saturday 17 September,
for the 2011 Great River Race.

Around 2,400 people took part in the annual event, with 332 boats
including Celtic Longboats, Cornish Pilot Gigs, Skiffs, and Montague Whalers racing
alongside traditional row boats.

The 21-mile race started at the Millwall Dock Slipway,
London Docklands, and finished upriver at Ham House, Richmond.

The Rafters claimed a memorable double on the 2011 Race, finishing
fastest in their 16-man Dragonboat and defying the handicap system to finish
first overall in a time of two-hours, 10 minutes and five seconds.

Another Dragonboat 16 – crewed by Masters International – finished
second a mere one minute and two seconds behind, with Aberdyfi Men finish third
in their Celtic Longboat.

Aberdyfi Ladies went two better than their male
counterparts, finishing in two hours, 37 minutes and 10 seconds to claim the
overall women’s title.

OCUK Women were the fastest women’s crew of the day –
finishing in two hours, 31 minutes and 24 seconds – but were edged into seconds
overall courtesy of the handicap system.

Thirty five trophies were available for crews, reflecting
the variety of boats and crews gathering to contest the 23-year-old event.

One award, for the Most Inspired Challenge, was shared
between Row2Recovery – a team of injured Army personnel – and Row for Freedom,
who completed the course in the same boat that the all-female crew will row
unsupported across the Atlantic next year.

‘The
race was preparation for our challenge in more ways than we expected,’
said crewmember Debbie Beadle.

‘Our
first problem was that our oars were not delivered, so we had to source oars
and fix the oar locks to fit. We were then hit with some harsh weather
conditions which seemed to come just for us, but after that we had a very
enjoyable race – winning the trophy for most inspired challenge.’

The four-woman crew (pictured, above) were forced to take a
tow from the start line to Chiswick due to the inclement weather and fierce
current, but they eventually crossed the finishing line in three hours, eight
minutes and nine seconds.

‘It was such an oar-some experience to be part of
the Great River Race,’ added team member Julian Immonen. ‘The atmosphere was
electric amongst the crews, and it was such a great opportunity to test out our
Atlantic Ocean rowing boat The Guardian for the first time!’

The Row for Freedom team aims to become the first female
crew of six to row unsupported across the Atlantic in December 2011. For more
information on their challenge, and the anti-slavery charity they are
supporting, visit the Row for Freedom website.

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