Olympic countdown begins at Great Tyne Row

Tynemouth club members

Over 50 rowers joined the Open Weekend celebrations in Newcastle on Sunday to take part in British Rowing’s inaugural Great Tyne Row.

Eleven crews covered 25km along the River Tyne from Newburn – tackling challenging conditions as they swept through the Quayside bridges to the Fish Quays.

Rough waves prevented the five-man crews from completing the final stretch to Priors Haven beach, but there were still plenty of locals present to cheer the competitors ashore.

Rowers came from as far afield as Oxford and London, and were joined by local club crews from Hexham, Talkin Tarn and Tees.

Chris Dixon, Chairman of Tynemouth Rowing Club, said “this was a great opportunity for Tynemouth Rowing Club and the northern region to welcome rowers from across the country, and to show off the wonderful and unique experience rowers at our club get to enjoy.”

The winning crew, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge Billygoats, completed the epic challenge in just under two hours. “That was amazing!” said the Billygoats’ triumphant captain, Roland Beevor. “Towards the end the waves were getting a little big, but having our family cheer us on from the Millennium Bridge was really special.”

British Rowing Chairman Di Ellis travelled to Newcastle to be part of the weekend’s celebrations.  Catching up with the crews for a beachside barbecue, she said “this has been a truly inspirational day. With a year to go until the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Great Tyne Row was an encouragement to the local community and a huge opportunity for the sport through Explore Rowing.”

The new stable boats make it much easier to learn the sport, and are also encouraging more adventurous rowers to take on challenges such as the Great Tyne Row. The boats are being introduced to rowing clubs across England as part of a new initiative from British Rowing called Explore Rowing.   

Explore Rowing’s Programme Manager Rich Stock said “British Rowing is supporting clubs to offer first class Learn to Row courses and deliver different challenges and activities in rowing to people of all abilities and ages.  Everyone who tries it says rowing is addictive, so why not give it a go!”

Jess Eddie, who rows for the GB Rowing Team, took time out of her busy Olympic training schedule to send a good luck message to the competing crews: “the Tyne’s a bit more challenging than the lake we train on, but that also makes it a really fun and hard task to go out there and row.

“Being a rower from Durham I looked back into my heritage, and it turns out that my great granddad used to be a professional rower on the Tyne so I have quite strong links to the river.”

Carol Bell, head of culture and major events at NewcastleGateshead Initiative said: “the Open Weekend was a great opportunity to look forward to the London 2012 Olympic Games and celebrate the sporting prowess of Great Britain. The Great Tyne Row utilised the River Tyne and the famous cityscape of Newcastle and Gateshead to great effect and we’re proud to support British rowing.”