Great River Race 2023

Rowing boat approaching Thames bridge

As an Assistant Leader in Cubs in Ajax, you’d expect me to have some interest in water-based activities, and I do, I’m a kayaker…but I don’t row! Or at least I didn’t.

Up until a month ago I had never picked up an oar! I’d made it my mission to travel forwards on water, not backwards but that’s all changed, at least until 16th September. On that day, I and four others, a combination of other Ajax leaders and parents, will take part in The Great River Race, a 21.6 mile row up the Thames, along with 400 other craft, in a gig (large wooden rowing boat). None of us have ever rowed the race before.

So who’s on-board?
We have our enthusiastic and ever-encouraging Team Captain, Jan – an Explorer Leader – and the reason why we’ve all embarked on this slightly crazy undertaking. Andrew, part of Scout leadership team and a calm presence on the boat. Andrew and Jan are our ‘experienced’ pullers. Then you have the novice group of myself and two ‘willing to give anything a go’ parents in Simon and Nathan.

How have we been training for our undertaking?
Well time has been limited with work and family commitments and the holiday season but we have tried to use our time wisely. We have been out on the Thames several times now have completed a good quarter to a third of race distance. Not as much as we would like but we’re super-pragmatic about maximising the limited time in the sessions we have. We’ve focused on commands, pulling technique, looking at our oars in the water, and most importantly, timing. We’ve also had some good chats and tried some different beats-per-minute for the all-important tunes we’ll be playing on our portable speaker throughout the race!

What’s our goal?
Well, given our relative inexperience, to finish first and foremost. We’re also rowing for a local children’s charity, Momentum, so we plan to raise as much as we can. Finally, it would be great to beat the Explorer boat we also have registered but we’re realistic enough to accept that they are younger, fitter and certainly more experiences than us. Above all we want to have fun and try to enjoy the experience, even when it hurts!

Alex, Assistant Cub Leader, Ajax Sea Scouts