Geneva: COMPLETED PDF Print E-mail
Written by Joe Oldak   
Thursday, 15 October 2009 19:44
Food Prep Crew Start Finish Done
I'm very pleased to be able to say that the 'rowing fools' (James Green, Alan Martin, Rob Milner, Hamish Muiry, Joe Oldak) successfully completed the 37th Tour du Leman a L'Aviron. In English, that's a non-stop 160km rowing race around Lake Geneva.

It took us a painful 15 hours and 45 minutes: starting at 9am on Saturday and finishing at 12:45am on Sunday.

A Quick Recap

Around two years ago, while in the pub, I accepted a bet with five friends: £500 each (payable to my chosen charity) that I'd never complete the Tour du Leman.

The race is entered in a team of five people: at any time four are rowing and one coxing. The cox changes places with a rower periodically so that each person gets a rest every couple of hours.

So, over the following few months, I 'tapped up' a few likely rowing teammates. For reasons best known to themselves, four people agreed to join me.

Then we just had to lean how to scull (row with two oars each - fortunately Rob is an expert in this department and he taught us what to do), and do an awful lot of training!

"Conveniently", six days before the race last year, the Boston Rowing Marathon was taking place - 50km from Lincoln to Boston. We used this as an opportunity to try out our distance rowing: four of us in a quad scull, and Hamish in a single. Buoyed by our relative success in this event, we were looking forward to taking on Lake Geneva!

The weather in Geneva was terrible and the race was a bit of a disaster: around 15 crews, including us, sank within the first hour of the race. For a full race report see here.

And so, on to this year!

Again, the Boston Marathon was taking place six days before the Tour. I (stupidly) decided to do this in a single scull, and Alan and Hamish did it in a double scull. This was more painful than any of us had hoped, and in themselves were decent achievements! And then we were off again to Geneva...

We were better prepared this year, learning from last year's experience. We had an electric bilge pump for the boat as well as two hand pumps. We were determined not to sink again!

In the end we didn't need the electric pump - the weather was relatively kind and our wave defences (made of five rolls of gaffer tape) held well. Unfortunately though our rudder broke around 1.5 hours into the race, so we didn't take very many optimal racing lines!

We settled reasonably quickly into the cycle of two hours rowing to half an hour of coxing. The coxing rest being vital to eat & drink etc before the next two hours of pain!

The scenery round the lake was amazing - just a pity we weren't in a better position to enjoy it! Perhaps the most enjoyable part was the night-time rowing, especially when there were "only" about three more hours or so of rowing remaining and the end was (figuratively rather than literally) in sight.

After finishing, and being helped out of the boat and pointed towards the hot showers, we all decided that we were NOT going to be doing that again! (Though I suspect Rob is tempted to have another go, and attempt to win it!)

The Charity

I selected ShelterBox as the charity for the money from the bets, and for everyone else who wanted to sponsor the 'rowing fools'. Their aim is “To provide humanitarian aid worldwide in the form of shelter, warmth and comfort to people displaced by natural and other disasters.”

Their solution is a tough, green plastic box containing a tent and ancillary equipment designed to enable a family of up to ten people survive for at least six months.

These boxes don't come cheap though - each one costs around £500.

It's a lovely thought, and one that helped us through the pain, that by us completing the Tour the money from the bets will provide fifty people with shelter.

We'd love to be able to make that 100 people, by raising £5000 for ShelterBox. So if you are at all impressed by our efforts, please send them a donation. You can do so directly, or by visiting the 'rowing fools' JustGiving page.

The Pictures

  1. Our food being loaded into boxes. 
  2. Kitting out the boat with wave defences.
  3. Ready to go!
  4. Launching for the race.
  5. Landing after the race.
  6. Tired but happy to have finished!
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 October 2009 20:22