It’s not easy to sum up two days on the Thames onboard Lisa Too with Ian Rowe and his team. Inspiring , challenging , educational , physical and fun all easily spring to mind however the experience is much more than that.
Offered the chance by Ian when an experienced rower had to pull out with an injury I jumped at the chance without really knowing what I was letting myself in for. A look at the (very detailed and planned) route showed Henley (home of rowing) , Windsor (home of a big castle) , Marlow (home of a big suspension bridge) and Boulters Lock (where I’d taken part in a sponsored walk previously) , These were all places I’d seen before but only from dry land.
At 5.30 in the morning on Day 2 of this years Thames Row I climbed on board with two very experienced rowers not knowing what the next two days would bring. We set off to the first lock , only a five minute row away but five minutes later I realised the reality of my “of course I’ll step in’ decision. I really wanted to pull my weight whilst onboard but very quickly knew that that would mean trying to learn a lot very fast.
Ian and Mark were brilliant , teaching, encouraging and pointing out improvements I could make and I was very determined to learn from both of them. I know they were being kind, I know my steering wasn’t particularly straight and it offered little encouragement knowing Julia and Simon (Read Simon’s account by clicking here) who’d rowed the day before were equally keen to see ALL of the river. At a lock somewhere before Henley things got even more serious with David joining us. Ian and Mark had spent the first couple of hours letting me know about ’the machine’ and he certainly lived up to the description. I really wanted to row Henley Straight and after a brief stop for coffee just under Henley Bridge, a cabin sleep for Mark (which gave us one of my favourite pictures) and a welcoming smile from Julia the team were kind enough to give me the oars.
Teaming up with David we powered down the straight and to me rowing this bit of water in a boat that was rowed across the Atlantic whilst listening to Ian talk about his own amazing experience on the same ocean and being coached by Mark and David is something I’ll never forget. Many hours later , tired and in need of a beer with me on the oars we rowed into the Oakley Court Hotel moorings to more smiles and chance of a well earned rest.
Highlight of the evening had to be when I explained to the waitress about our challenge and the fact that I was sitting next to a man that had ‘rowed the Atlantic” . Very calmly and matter of fact she simply said ‘That’s great , my dad and grandad have done it too!’ This allowed us the opportunity for a great evening of gentle ribbing and constant wondering if we could find anyone else who’d done it too ,
needless to say we didn’t .
Day 3 (and my day 2) again saw us up at 5.30. The Thames was absolutely beautiful , misty but calm and bathed in the rising sunshine which by the end of the day we’d be cursing. We pushed on hard today, following Ian’s detailed timescale which he told us he’d written with a special antique river abacus. I tried to keep the pace but also knew that the experienced amongst us were moving the boat much quicker (and straighter). I
have to say a huge thank you to Ian , Mark and David here. It would have been easier , quicker and more direct to only put me in the important seats when they had to but to their credit I was allowed to take my turn and again this allowed me to row up to the finishing line.
Rowing is hard , you use your legs a lot , you need to keep your arms straight ( no Sean STRAIGHT !!!), locks are narrower than extended oars , the seat moves backwards and forwards , experienced rowers like to row the shortest route ( no Sean STRAIGHT) and steering in a straight line is hard but wow it really is an experience I will never forget and one I haven’t stopped talking about since.
The whole experience with Ian and Lisa Too was an honour , it is almost impossible to begin to understand the physical and truly amazing challenge Ian set himself on the Atlantic but after a couple of days of being onboard you come away thinking what your next challenge could be.
Huge thanks to everyone , please invite me back next year.
Read the story of the whole trip by clicking here.
Below, Lisa Too in her original guise – being rowed across the Atlantic by double Olympic Rowing Champion James cracknell and TV adventurer Ben Fogle:
Gallery pics from the trip:
Smashing it down the Henley reach
Calm before the ‘storm’
Charity pose! For Jubilee Sailing Trust
Oakley Court – what a great place to stay – on the lawn, bottom right!
Final stretch – its getting really tough
Not smiling so much anymore – yet this is where we earn our acheivement
Coaching team taking a well earned drinks break
Steering is far more pressured and difficult than you might think – and you really, really do not want to get it wrong!
Sean – so eager to get involved he found a kayak and paddled along for a bit!
When I was on the Atlantic…
Crew ready too
In the water – ready to go
Bav & Satch – invaluable friends supporting the Thames Rowers of Simon, Julia and Sean
Tight squeeze for some
End of Day 2 – phew
We know what we are doing, we are experts…
Julia and Simon – ore Thames meeting; little did they know….!
Day one – finish
Bav and Sogan breaking the glass
Rowing – it’s all about timing
Steering – it’s a straight line thing
Steering again – cut the corners, shortest route – the ‘engine’ is volatile!
…finished, in all ways! Crew lads pulling together, great work.
If you would like to be considered for part of all of a trip next year, let us know with the form below: