Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

Great River Race, London, 2015

Well, it turned out to be quite an adventure on Saturday! Whilst we were waiting for the start of the Great River Race in the East End of London, an announcement on the Tannoy told us the weather forecast was very bad and there was a possibility that the race might have to be abandoned.

However, in the end the race started and we set off, with a crew of nine; Paul Armour, Anne Biot, Thierry Biot, Paul Bennett, Terry Buchan, Peter Clark, Ross Lane, Hazel Mosley and Jess Twyman; ‘Boat No 1’! Right from the start, a very heavy wind blew up from the west, slowing us down and making the river very rough (wind against tide) – probably the roughest conditions we have ever taken the boat out in. Nevertheless, we persevered, going past Tower Bridge as a military band burst into ‘Entrance of the Gladiators’ by Julius Fučik; nice sentiment, but more commonly associated with circus clowns these days … thanks, guys …

After two hours of paddling there was a terrific ‘bang!’ as a huge Dutch rowing boat rammed into our stern. Some members of the crew were thrown to the floor, but nobody was hurt or knocked overboard. With a brief apology (pffff!) the Dutchmen went on their way, leaving a chunk knocked out of our beautiful boat. Half an hour later we managed to collide with a big metal buoy in the middle of the river (don’t ask me how) and damaged some of the stitches on the starboard side. Doh!

Eventually, after nearly five hours of paddling we were within 1.2 miles of the finish line, but the dreadful weather conditions had slowed us down so much that we were struggling to make way against an increasingly strong ebb tide and had to be taken in tow by a rescue boat. We felt rather despondent that we didn’t reach the finish line as we did last year, but we had a tremendous welcome from hundreds of people as we finished the course.

It transpired that none of Dragon boats in the race had even started because the weather conditions were so dangerous, and of the boats that did start, two had capsized and at least four others had retired for safety reasons. So in the end, we were quite pleased that our Bronze Age boat had survived the wind, waves, the Dutch and a navigation buoy, and that we had come so close to finishing the race. Maybe better luck next year!
The Great River Race, didn't quite make itThe Great River Race, skipper's certificate

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