For those who tracked our progress on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll know that we made it to the French coast in roughly six hours which is the fastest four man crossing of The Channel in a Gig boat.
But things got off to a rather inauspicious start with Pete C’s foot bar breaking just before 7am inside Dover harbour quickly followed by the crew hitting some hefty tide-induced waves just beyond the harbour wall.
Conditions were changeable the whole way across with dramatic grey skies giving way to sunshine mid-channel and then closing over again backed by winds whipping up to force 6 on the approach to the French coast. The waves were much larger than those we’d trained in and on the limit of what we could go out in, reaching four foot at times. When you’re sat in a boat that’s a foot out of the water, that is big and a few broke over into the boat leading to some unexpectedly refreshing moments for the crew.
The last two hours were particularly tough, with a strong tide flowing down the French coast faster than we could row. Lots of effort was going in but the coastline didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Our hugely experienced cox, Mike Gilbert, came to the fore and helped us dig in and keep in time. Then, just before the shore, the choppy tidal current seemed to drop and we pushed on for the final few strokes. There was a very tried, but enormous sense of relief on reaching the other side. The months of training, arranging the logistics and a final big push had paid off, backed by the knowledge that we just couldn’t fail with such overwhelming support and so much money rasied for Marie Curie.
The four-hour return crossing on board the support vessel was fairly torturous given the ‘lumpy’ conditions and another sense of relief came over the crew on reaching the harbour. We must say a special thank you to our fantastic supporters on the day. Although one key learning is shaking hands when they are covered in blisters is tricky!
Look out for the video montage to follow in a couple of days.