TWO rowers braved treacherous conditions to take part in a endurance rowing race and raised money for charity along the way.
Laura Dunmow, 46, and Tony Peck, 45, both from Leigh, were invited to take part in The Celtic Challenge which involved rowing 90 nautical miles from Arklow, County Wicklow, to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast.
Laura, the ladies captain, and Tony, the race captain, from the Lower Thames Rowing Club based in Leigh, were part of the Aberystwyth Rowing Club crew made up of five men and seven women.
The race uses traditional Celtic and Pembrokeshire longboats that are eight metres long and have four rowing positions and a coxswain to navigate. Their craft was the Branwen.
Tony said: “Last year we raced in the Great River Race through London in our Celtic longboat but were frustrated by our performance so in October we went to train at the Aberystwyth Rowing club. We put our names forward for the race and were selected to be part of the crew.” Depending on the weather the race can take anywhere between 15 and 24 hours to complete. Crew work in shifts transferring from a safety boat.
The race committee gave the go-ahead for a 1.30pm start. However, conditions proved extremely challenging. By 4.30am next morning winds had reached 36 knots and the Branwen crew was having to contend with three metre waves.
A decision was made to retire the Branwen with the crew having courageously completed 70 of the 90 miles and raised over £1,500 for Mencap and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Tony said: “We knew we were getting very close to the finish.We could see the Welsh coast but it became too dangerous. The winds were very nearly gale force.”
Thirteen crews entered this year’s challenge but only four made it to the finish. Organisers described it as being the most difficult for 20 years.