OC Round The Island Row – what an amazing effort

Posted on:  September 9, 2021

The dust has settled, the bruises and blisters are healing and we are delighted to announce that the final total raised by Team Oarsome in their Round The Island Row challenge, is £4661.69! Our generous donor matched every donation pound for pound, so everyone who donated can feel pleased their already generous donation was doubled up!

Have a look at some fab pics taken by Lynette Slight, who was a part of the safety boat team: Round The Island Row – 30 Aug 2021 | Oarsome Chance

And read our Principal John’s detailed account of how our Round The Island Row team took on the 50 nautical mile rowing challenge:

“We had all heard more wind than forecast whistling through the rigging the night of the row. The team had eaten a big pasta meal to stock up and planned to all meet aboard sy Flame of Anor for our final brief before departure at 0300 from Haslar marina with a 0400 start planned off Cape Gillkicker (the Great Cape). We discussed the increased wind strength (a steady 18-20 knots against forecast of 12 knots). We all agreed that we would go for it, due to a reasonably favourable direction from NNE and the crew felt good.

We had two support vessels, sy Flame of Anor and Popeye (23ft powerboat) with a strong safety crew on both.

We towed the rowing skiff out of the harbour so the crew could fill up on porridge, fruit and drinks before setting off. They boarded the boat in the sheltered and calm water of Stokes Bay in preparation for the start, and after a quick briefing and warm up, they crossed the transit to start 15 minutes earlier than planned.

The Oarsome team comprised: JJ (Joe) cox, Nick stroke, Carly number 2 (bow side) Ob number 3, (stroke side) and Vikki number 4 in the bow seat.

The wind was slightly aft of the port beam, and we got into stroke quicky but the short fetch to the North had created quite a lumpy and confused sea. This made slow but steady going towards NML Fort. But spirits were high and they dug in and got on with the row.

They made the fort in almost exactly an hour, at 2.4 nm which meant they had started well as a crew but slower than predicted. We had a light relief behind the fort and then cracked on in similar seas towards Bembridge lifeboat station. Again, the confused seas made slow progress as it was difficult and sometimes impossible, to get all 4 oars in an out of the water equally due to the swell. This also meant not only could they not achieve full power, but the rudder had to be used excessively to hold a straight course which also slows her down.

Dawn was a welcome sight and we approached BLS at sunrise 0615 and had finally turned downwind enough to gain an advantage and the sea was smoother as the wind strength was less also. They powered under Culver Cliff and once in Shanklin Bay, picked up their first bit of favourable tide and at one point the boat speed picked up to 6kts for a short time.

Averages were good as they rowed past Bembridge, and they hoped to pick up a little lost time as St Catherine’s Point and lighthouse came in sight.

We knew the tidal window turned at 1000hrs and we were abeam of the lighthouse by 0945 at 150 metres away.

This is where they hit the bigger gusts coming off Black Gang Chines and although trying to stay inshore, they were blown offshore quickly. Combined with small overfalls the rowing became very tricky to make progress and speed dropped to less than a knot.

One of the tactics that we had agreed was a cox change every half an hour with four rotations of crew before coming back to JJ. This set up a goal to aim for, a chance to swap the oar to the other side (to balance out shoulders/hand use) and a chance to have food and drink. The disadvantage however was that with the strong head winds, any progress made forwards was lost backwards and the rowers battled to even hold station and St Cats lighthouse stayed abeam for 2.5 hours.

After lots of discussion and frustration and 8.5 hours of nonstop rowing, we knew the tide had turned as we had been blown so far offshore and made no distance west. It was the toughest decision of the challenge so far, but we decided that we needed to tow the skiff back inshore and onto Freshwater Bay. where they began their journey once again.

The leg onto the Needles was much calmer as the wind had abated and as we knew there was enough depth of water, we threaded the Needles back into the Solent.

However by this time we were over 3.5 hours late on the flood tide and whilst it was much easier to row, we gained no tidal assistance, being weak neap tides and boat speed was back to almost 4 knots at times, we knew we had to go some to even hope of carrying the tide past Cowes.

We came past Fort Victoria to the West of Yarmouth just after 1600 and were cheered on from the shore by our Isle of Wight supporters as we rowed up the Solent towards Egypt point.

We always knew that this was going to be the leg of true headwinds and although much lighter than previously and back to the predicted 12 knots with bigger gusts, that again slowed progress enormously – the rowers were fatigued but were still maintaining stroke and their sense of humour. Unfortunately, we felt the effects of the tide turning on us again and despite best efforts could not make the finish line before nightfall and we took our second tow of the passage to cross the line again at Cape Gillkicker at 1945 hours. 16 hours after they’d set off, happy, tired, and relieved to be heading back to Portsmouth.

We had given it our best shot and learnt a lot along the way with only a minor disappointment due to taking outside assistance but elated that we had taken on this epic challenge.

To quote Obelix – we will be back, this is not the end, but only the beginning!”

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