This gallery contains 32 photos.
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.
The big day is drawing close. We’ve embedded our Twitter feed on this page which will be updated by our dedicated support crew as we row across the Channel, so check back for near-realtime updates on our battle with tides and ferries…
It must be said that the forecast is not currently looking good so there is a chance our start will be delayed, but we’ll keep you posted here.
Thanks to everyone for their generous support to date, we’ve already raised over £4,470 in individual donations at our MyDonate page!
Mary from Marie Curie’s North London fundraising team very kindly offered to show us around one of their hospices to see how the money raised by the row could help. We went along last night.
Marie Curie Cancer Care is probably most famous for its network of nurses who work in the community to provide end of life care for people in their own homes. What you may not know is it also runs nine hospices around the country and together Marie Curie community nurses and hospices cared for more than 31,000 terminally ill patients last year.
The first thing you notice about the hospice is how warm, light and friendly it is. The Marie Curie team has obviously put a lot of effort into making the patients feel at home with walls covered in paintings and bedrooms encouraged to be filled with flowers, photos and family members. They even have a special family room with a kitchen so that nearest and dearest can be close by. And unlike a hospital, there are no restrictions on visiting hours so friends and family can be with their loved ones at any time during day, sometimes staying overnight on a camp bed.
Hearing Mary talk about the nurses who work at the hospice, makes you feel incredibly humble. Their compassion, enthusiasm and strength in helping patients during very difficult times is truly extraordinary. Lucy explained how they liked to see their time with patients as “celebrating a life”. I think it sums up nicely the real sense of positivity and friendliness that exudes from this remarkable place.
After visiting the hospice, there really is no way we can’t do this. And if you’d like to give us any extra incentive, please do visit our MyDonate site: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/thechannelfour.
Big thanks to Mary for hosting us and to the staff of the Hampstead hospice for all that they do.
On Sunday 1st April, we completed our longest row to date, as part of our final training session. In the same boat used by John Bishop and the Sport Relief crew, we rowed 15 miles around Hayling Island in a little over 3 hours – giving us a good feel for the open water ‘endurance’ element of the challenge.
In the final three weeks we’re now focused on nutrition and stamina training in preparation for the crossing on 21st April, and working with our escort team (Michael Oram) to keep an eye on the long range weather forecast. We’ve been reassured by Mike that we won’t start the crossing if the wind is any higher than gale force 5!
I met comedian John Bishop at last night’s BT Sport Relief ball. If you missed the news, John recently rowed The Channel as part of his Paris to London “week of hell”. John and his crew (Freddie Flintoff, Davina McCall and Denise Lewis) rowed the same boat we will be using and Mike Gilbert who coxed them is our coach and cox. I had to ask John for some advice and his tip was to put rehydration tablets in the water. He didn’t have them which he said really affected him. I also managed to grab Freddie whose main advice was “it’s boring”. I guess I’ll take a good book then. Hats off to both of them.
We are now training 4-5 times a week with endurance training at weekends (a 75 mile cycle ride and run planned this week), plus a final training session in the boat with our coach Mike Gilbert on 1st April.
Mike recently did a great job coxing the BBC Sport Relief crew of four rowers across the Channel in around 8 hours, proving the crossing can be done in this boat with a crew of four. It demands smooth, fast changes of position, minimal breaks, disciplined intake of food and drink and a high level of fitness.
Thank you for all your generosity so far, with Gift Aid we have raised over £1,300 in individual donations. As we enter the final month of training in preparation for our crossing at the end of April, we welcome your support at MyDonate.
“I send all my good wishes to my constituent Chris and his team in their challenge to row across the English Channel this April to raise funds for the excellent charity Marie Curie Cancer Care. As a crew, mostly made up of amateur rowers, it an ambitious project as well as a worthy one and I hope that everyone gives them all the support they can.”
MP for Witney
With 75 days until our crossing attempt, we decided it was time to take this training business seriously. Well, reasonably seriously….