Stratford rowers conquer the Channel

A team of rowers from Stratford upon Avon Boat Club successfully crossed the English Channel last week, taking a little under six hours to achieve the iconic feat.

Setting off from Dover on Saturday (27th April) – after a number of days waiting for hospitable weather conditions – the mixed eight-person crew took on choppy waters and crowded shipping lanes before arriving on the French coast.

“The weather conditions were perfect with a flat sea, clear skies and only a slight wind,” said Ray Coyte, who captained the SUABC crew. “The boat felt very heavy and slow to begin with, and it seemed to take ages to get away from the coast. At times, it felt as if the tide was just holding us back. There was a lot of shipping around us in mid channel and at one point we had to make an alteration of course to steer around and behind a West bound ship. Up close, you realise how fast they travel and how slow we were!”

Prior to the row, the crew – consisting of Ray Coyte, Ruth Winter, Chris Straw, Mike Adkins, Lorraine Mackey, Linda Casement and Sophie Robinson – took part in a number of training sessions at Langstone Harbour, in a Cornish Pilot Gig.

However, despite their efforts to prepare themselves for the challenge, it was far from plain sailing.

“Rowing in heavy waterproofs and lifejackets was horrible and after a few hours we were all beginning to wonder if this was a good idea,” said Ruth Winter, crew member. “The sea started to build up just before the half way point and at times we found ourselves in some very choppy water that was throwing the boat all over the place.

“We found it hard to row through the rough water as we just could not settle into a steady rhythm and every time the boat hit a wave, it slowed us right down. It was never overly dangerous but we did get the odd wave slop over the side. As you can imagine, the problem was that you either had an immensely heavy oar to pull on or the oar was just missing the water completely! We all got a big boost when we passed the mid channel marker. Approaching the French coast was tough as it just seemed to take ages. The sea started to get really rough off Cap Gris-Nez and we really struggled to finish the row off.” 

“The Channel Rowers completed the crossing in a very respectable five hours and fifty eight minutes,” added Jen Clements, SUABC’s proud Club Captain. “Between them they raised several thousand pounds for charity and they all, quite rightly, feel chuffed to bits! Stratford upon Avon Boat Club is very proud of our Channel Rowers and what they have achieved!”

For more information about SUABC, visit www.stratford-rowing.co.uk.

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