As I write, I’m sitting on a plane, taxing along the runway at London’s Heathrow airport, on an outward bound flight to Dublin which is to be followed by a drive to Arklow, in county Wicklow.
There’s a lady in her 70’s sitting next to me, avidly recounting her recent cruise trip, which by all accounts is one of many.
Elsewhere, there are 14 other Team Margot Rowers on the same flight and another two team members besides, Margot’s Grandad Jeff and friendly builder, AJ who are ferrying across to Dublin from Fishguards, having volunteered to transport the rib and our celtic longboat, The Lord Beefington to Ireland.
It feels a bit odd to be flying over on a one-way plane ticket knowing that, weather permitting, we will be rowing the 95 miles across the Irish Sea back to Aberystwyth, a journey that is likely to take around 24 hours to complete, as part of The Celtic Challenge.
I have found the days leading up to this event to be quite emotionally charged & befuddled by mixed feelings, partly because the entire team isn’t together – we entered two boats to compete last year, but the event was cancelled because of bad weather and in spite of holding the team together for the majority of the last 12 months, logistically we couldn’t make both work this year.
However, that hasn’t arrested the butterflies and growing excitement. There’s a frisson across the group. None of us are extreme adventurers and we recognise the risks involved with an event like this; the majority of boats that start the Celtic Challenge, don’t finish ! So we’re all hugely determined to complete the task at hand.
When our organiser and skipper, Martin first told me about The Celtic Challenge, I thought he was bonkers. Frankly, I didn’t want to know – I’m hardly genetically disposed to rowing. But then I looked at the rest of the team and realised that there were others less physically able than me. And I soon realised that whilst this was in part a physical rowing challenge, it ultimately wasn’t really about rowing, per se, but another way to raise awareness (not to mention money!) and hopefully spark action in others, for the sake of others. It’s about humanity ! We don’t have to be in the Lord Beefington to do this, but over the course of this weekend – weather permitting – we hope to be. It’s just another form of expression. And it feels great.
When it comes to Team Margot Rowers, and indeed Team Margot more generally, the overriding sense I have is one of huge solidarity and enormous pride: of us as a group of individuals – brought together because of a cause, which has been so wonderfully adopted by everyone involved, in the most remarkable ways.
We have already achieved so much together, individually, as communities of friends & parents, runners, rowers, cyclists and ‘donors’.
The lady passenger sitting next to me confirms that she has indeed travelled extensively around the world. And she explains that the one thing she has come to realise over the years is that whilst cultures differ, “people are all just the same”.
And in that sense, you help me feel the same way too.
Thank you so much again for everything you do in support.
And thank you, Margot. x
Together, saving lives