Sunday, December 8th, 2019

New Record in World’s Toughest Rowing Race

Published on July 10, 2013 by   ·   No Comments


At 17:25 on Thursday 27 June, four young men crossed the finish line at London’s Tower Bridge to break the world record for the fastest row around Great Britain.  Completing the 2,000 mile course in 26 days nine hours and nine minutes, smashing the previous record set in 2005 by more than 12 hours, ‘The Islanders’ picked up a tasty 100,000 pounds for the record breaker and 15,000 pounds more for the win.


The fabulous four were Josh Taylor (24) from Mersea Island Essex, Alan Morgan (23) also from Mersea Island, James Plumley (24) from Guernsey and Gavin Sheehan (25) from Cork in the Republic of Ireland (hence The Islanders).  Speaking of the win, skipper Josh said, “We are four very competitive guys and we’re very close, we’re like a family now.  We motivated each other the whole way round. The support back home has just been phenomenal and overwhelming.  We didn’t want to let anyone down so we pushed hard.  Every time we got knocked down, we got back up and carried on going.”

Gavin said it was Tuesday, a couple of days before finish, that they realised that a world record was on the cards, “We didn’t know if it was going to happen until two days ago… and all of a sudden you get a sniff of the finish line and it all changes. It’s just incredible.”


The Islanders had an oar snapped in a storm, dodged a live military firing exercise near John O’Groats and turned down medical help in the Bristol Channel when Gavin suffered a back injury in huge waves, but they weren’t the only ones to struggle.  In fact The Islanders are one of only two teams from the initial line-up of seven who even have a chance of crossing the finish line.  Little wonder they call it “the toughest rowing race in the world”.


Setting off from Tower Bridge on Saturday 1 June, the seven crews (six traditional oar-powered vessels competing for prizes and the world record and a seventh, a pedalo, “just to see if it’s possible”) faced the most dangerous and fast turning tides on the planet and the world’s busiest shipping lanes containing car ferries and industrial fishing trawlers.  Completely unaided (no tying up in port, all food and drink must be carried onboard) they had to remain in sight of the land for the duration making it more than tempting to quit.  Throw in the “great” British weather and team GB Row 2013 faced an epic challenge – recognised as being harder than a transatlantic row.  In fact, more people have walked on the surface of the moon than rowed nonstop around Britain.


Even before the 2,000 miles began to unfurl, two of the seven teams were already out of the running.  Boat five withdrew due to injury and the Ocean Pedal Challenge pedalo was disqualified due to “health and safety concerns”.   Despite being seaworthy and designed specifically for the GB Row, scrutineers said it had neither a satellite phone nor an anchor onboard for use in an emergency – and, whilst the crew had experience, they hadn’t a RYA Day Skipper license between them.  Kieran Sweeney (27) said, “It is really disappointing, but I do understand the decision.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours planning and building the boat – as well as a lot of money, in the high tens of thousands.  We had even bought the food, ration packs, which I’ll just have to eat.”  And then there were five.


On 6 June The Coast Girls, Charlene Ayres from Cardiff and Sally Kettle from London, were rescued during what was to become a jaw dropping 12 hours for GB Row 2013.  With breakers just 300 yards away and both anchors coming loose and dragging on the sandy bottom, the two ladies were towed at 2am by the RNLI to Ramsgate.  Charlene had been suffering from three-day sea sickness and had a brief spell in hospital to rehydrate.  Next up at 10am, Pure Gym GB Challenger, a two-man-two-woman team led by Bournemouth’s Claire Shouksmith, experienced a complete failure of the boat’s electrical system (no navigation, comms or fresh water) and strong force six easterlies were threatening to blow the crew onto the rocks.  A local fisherman came to their rescue charging a few hundred pounds for the privilege.  Lucky fisherman.

Finally at 2pm on 6 June, four-man Team Hallin led by Falklands veteran ex Royal Navy Commander David Hosking (58) pulled out as they ran into tricky weather and irreparable steering difficulties off Land’s End.  They had been just ten miles behind the leaders, but that ten miles was enough to spare one team from high winds but not the other.  Guess who rescued them?  Hosking said, “Unfortunately you are at the whim of the wind and tides, and it was clear we did not have a choice so we called a local fisherman who charged us £300 to come out and rescue us.”  Yes, the same fisherman.  One man’s loss is another man’s gain.


Chris Usborne, Race Director, said at the time, “With three boats retiring today, GB Row has had a very bad day, however everyone is safe and safety is paramount to this race.”  This left just six-man Oarsome Adventures, male duo Savoir Faire and The Islanders in the hunt.

On 7 June Oarsome Adventures’ dream came to an end following a catastrophic steering failure around 30 miles northwest of Padstow.  With The Islanders taking the chequered flag on 27 June, the only other remaining team is two-man Savoir Faire, which, at the time of writing was off the coast of Aberdeen and not expected to finish in London for at least another week.


Tags: , ,

Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.


FAR COLUMN: Add Widgets