After 4 years of preparation and training and two previously unsuccessful attempts, I’m delighted to report that Team Margot Rowers finally completed The Celtic Challenge, our mixed team having successfully navigated the crossing in a little over 20 hours, finishing in Aberystwyth harbour on the morning of Bank Holiday Monday 6 May.
The race start in Arklow was delayed until the latest possible time owing to the forecasted opening of a favourable weather window, meaning a noon start on Sunday 5 May for both the ladies and mixed rowing teams, with the mens teams setting off at 2pm.
Owing to some initial confusion, we got off to a late start after the race began a few minutes early; that said, within a couple of hours we found ourselves competitively placed and feeling confident that we were navigating an efficient route, under Keith Manders’ watchful eye on the conditions and tide.
This was very different from our previous Celtic Challenge attempt two years ago, primarily because the weather remained pretty constant throughout, albeit it got quite cold after night fall.
Our transitions from support boat to rib, rib to rowing boat and back again were flawless, being marshalled by one of our rib drivers, Chris who went on to make a video training manual on how to (and not to) do it. After over 240+ changeovers, he felt we deserved it !
There were only really two problems we experienced during what was a comparatively straight forward crossing.
Our support boat, The Mistral of st Helier sprung a leak on an internal pipe, which only took 20 minutes to remedy but an hour or so for the seal to set. Whilst this delayed our intended changeover, it had little or no impact on the course of our rowing boat, the Lord Beefington because the team were instead able to follow our rib, Night Owl whilst The Mistral cut it’s engine and hoisted sail for around 90 minutes.
However, the biggest issue occurred in the pitch black at around 2am when the rollock of the stroke position broke, after the oar was unexpectedly hit by a large wave during a changeover.
Luckily, we didn’t break or lose the oar, which was fished out by the cox from over the side of the rowing boat, however the damaged rollock threatened our ability to row and required a fix. And for a brief time I feared that this might signal the end of our race.
A quick bodge job using electrical tape enabled us to row on, but when that interim fix failed a short while later, the team were sufficiently resourceful to work out how we could mend the rollock using cable ties.
Whilst this fix meant that we could continue to row and indeed finish the race, the delays meant that we fell behind the lead group and were no longer competitive.
In spite of the fact that we were well out of contention for a lead place, this didn’t stop us from racing hard to the finish, 8 miles from Aberystwyth harbour, against two other boats that came were within sight, enthusiastically egged on by our skipper who for much the race was steering at there helm of the Mistral.
We eventually finished in 13th place and were the second mixed team to complete the crossing (there were only two !). Many congratulations to the Aberdyfi Mixed-Afon Dyfi mixed team which was the first boat to reach Aberystwyth and to the other 15 teams that took part. We were the only team from London and one of only three English teams to compete.
That everyone in the team remained so positive and in good spirits throughout, in particular during the toughest section in the small hours of the morning, speaks volumes for the character of the individuals involved and our professional support crew.
Thank you for following our progress and also for all your support. Collectively, the team raised more than £11,000 for Team Margot Foundation bringing the total funds raised for charity to £55,000 over the course of our three Celtic Challenge campaigns.
Together, saving lives
For more videos of Celtic Challenge 2019, scroll down?
TEAM MARGOT ROWERS
CELTIC CHALLENGE 2019 TEAM:
Dr Phil Ancliff, (Margot’s Consultant)
Jonathan Foster Kenny
Yaser Martini, Margot’s father
Skipper: Martin Beaumont (injured but aboard the support yacht)
TEAM MARGOT ROWERS ALUMNI:
Stephanie Von Werthern
Jeff Hathaway, Margot’s Grandad
AJ Durrant, probably the worlds best builder