Row, row, row your boat…

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On June 1st, Oxford resident Steve Paterson and his crew of four row 2000 miles non-stop around Britain’s coast, starting from Tower Bridge.

In total, six crews in rowing boats and one team in a pedalo will compete for a new world record in the world’s toughest rowing race.

The current male world record stands at 26 days, 21 hours and 14 minutes set by a crew of four men in 2005. The fastest female crew rowed around the UK in 51 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes in 2010.

Paterson, a 28-year-old sports science technician at Oxford Brookes University, is optimistic: “Of course, we want to go for the record and looking at the other crews we’ve got just as good a chance as they have.”

Paterson is an ultramarathon runner and only started rowing in October 2012 because of the race: “When I saw the advert of crew Pure Gym on it really appealed to me as a sort of different adventure because I had never done a sea expedition before.”

He admitted: “I actually get really badly seasick, so this will be a challenge for me.”

The GBRow Challenge is said to be the toughest rowing race in the world, as the crews will have to tackle the most dangerous and fastest turning tides, navigate through the world’s busiest shipping lanes and deal with the unpredictable British weather conditions without any aid.

The teams can decide for themselves which route they take, but according to Paterson “it’s fairly obvious that most people go clockwise mainly because of the winds coming off the Atlantic.”

He added: “In this kind of race, it is not only about strength, but also a lot about seamanship skills and how well you work with the team.

“Our crew is very varied in terms of age, geography and experience. We have different backgrounds and skills but we all have experience in endurance sport.”

Paterson has run 100-mile races before and is a mountain leader. Skipper Claire Shouksmith from Bournemouth does mountain climbing and walked to the Magnetic North Pole in 2009. Liverpool resident Paul Pendleto rowed in school and university and took it up again seven years ago. Ingrid Kvale, originally from San Francisco and now living in Bristol, is an experienced kayaker.

Together they will compete in their light blue 24-foot-long ocean racing boat with two cabins and two rowing positions. Paterson said: “It’s quite an extreme thing to do and highly relentless, as you row in two hour shifts: two hours on and two hours off.”

He explained: “Each crew gets food ration packs for 40 days and during the rest period we have to cook them, make drinking water with the purifying machine, do navigation and blogging. After that you can sleep, but the maximum of sleep in one hit will probably be around 1.5 hours”.

“If it is getting very hard”, Paterson said, “we motivate ourselves by telling each other jokes, listening to music and reminding ourselves of what we are doing it for.”

If Pure Gym, the crew Paterson is part of, should win, they will donate half of its prize money to Cancer Research UK and the rest to Evelina Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Society, Claire House Children’s Hospice and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

The team to beat the world record will be awarded with £100,000, the highest bounty in any rowing race in history. The first boat home will win £15,000, while second place wins £6,000 and third place wins £4,000.

After the race Paterson will move to Chamonix (France) to work as a sport science consultant. He said: “I’ll see how the race goes, but I will probably focus on running again when I’m in the Alps.”


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