“A big family reunion” on the 19th British Rowing Tour

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Ninety rowers from across the country converged on the River Thames at the weekend (September 20-23), for the largest-ever British Rowing Tour.

The annual tour – which was being held for the 19th time – saw rowers from 20 UK clubs take part in a 72km row along some of the most picturesque stretches of the Thames, from Henley to Teddington.

Organised by John and Caroline Turnbull of Weyfarers Rowing Club, the three-day tour attracted a vast range of ages and abilities – the oldest rower being 82 years old.

Recent years have seen the tour take place on the Lancaster Canal (2011) and River Trent (2010) but, after an unparalleled summer of sport in London, a return to the River Thames proved too tantalising to resist for the 2012 edition.

“We wanted to return to the Thames in the Olympic year,” said John Turnbull, “rowing past Dorney after the Games.

“We try to go to different places each year and open up new waterways, and it’s been more than a decade since we last took the tour to this stretch of the Thames.”

The route from Henley to Walbrook saw the rowers – in stable quads and doubles – negotiate 16 locks, as well as visiting the Brooklands motorsport and aviation museum on Friday.

“It all went exceedingly well,” John commented. “The Brooklands Museum visit was very well appreciated – one of the highlights of the weekend. We try to do interesting things beyond the rowing, and it’s very much a social gathering as well as a rowing event.

“It brings people together. We’ve got a core of regulars who come each year, but around that core is a growing number of new faces.”

The social aspect of the tour has been crucial to its success, since the inaugural event in 1994. Trent RC’s Dee Jones has been taking part in the tour since 2008, and is a firm believer in the British Rowing Tour community.

“These rowing tours are like big family reunions, with new family members added to it each year” she said. “It was nice to see so many younger faces, there’s a proper mix of generations. I was glad to see all my old friends from previous tours, and to make new friends as well.

“Rowing with people from other clubs is so important – we learn from one another and can help each other. You come away with so many more tips and tricks that you wouldn’t have gotten just rowing from one place and with the same people all the time. Racers have this opportunity at regattas, but recreational rowers have it on rowing tours!”

After another successful tour, plans are already being developed for 2013. “We’re looking at doing something special for next year’s tour – which is the 20th anniversary of the event,” John added. “Scotland is one possibility.

“Our thanks go to all the clubs who helped us on the 19th tour – Henley (where we started), Maidenhead, Eton Excelsior, Weybridge and Weybridge Ladies (where we stopped along the way), and Walbrook (where we finished).”

To find out more about recreational rowing, visit www.explorerowing.org.

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