The Celtic Challenge is the World’s Longest true rowing race where teams race from Arklow in County Wicklow, Ireland to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast, a distance of about 90 nautical miles. Celtic and Pembrokeshire longboats take part (and occasionally other similar boats also join in) – each boat is about 24 feet (8m) long and has 4 fixed seats and one cox. This year a total of fourteen boats set off from Arklow at the earliest possible start time, Friday 28th April at 14.00. The weather was forecast to worsen over the weekend and was challenging from the start.
Each team doing the Celtic Challenge consists of twelve rowers plus a support yacht, support crew and usually an inflatable to run alongside the longboat to transfer rowers on and off. The first rowers out were Ladies captain Christine, Sarah T, Dave Jones and Gavin.
With supports at home hooked on the Yellow Brick online tracking app, the MYC rowers continued to make their was across the sea. The weather was worsening and sadly some crews from other clubs were not strong enough to make it. Both Shropshire boats retired, one of their rowers suffering an open fracture during a crew change.
The rough seas made it difficult to go down into the hull of the support vessel between rows to eat or get any rest, but none of them ever considered giving up. There was a moment of panic for the on land supporters waiting at Aberystwth, when the Fleetwing was clocked at eight knots and it was presumed that they had retired from the race and were being towed back in. In fact it was just a crew change with the speed clocked as the R.I.B. was tied alongside!
As the boat was nearing the Welsh coastline the tide and wind were so strong the speed of the MYC boat down to a 1.7 knots but still they kept going. Several more boats had retired and with less than ten miles to go there were just four boats left to finish.
At 9.52 BST the Irish boat, Varty crossed the finish line the Men’s category an d overall race winner. Second was another all male boat, Aberystwth Men.
After twenty-three hours and twenty-five minutes of hard rowing Lawrence stroked Simon, Elaine H and Leslie back into the Aber harbour as triumphant winners of the mixed category Celtic Challenge 2017.
With true grit and determination the Dun Laoghaire all ladies crew managed to row their boat to the finish another three and a half hours after Porthmadog had completed. Well done to all our fabulous rowing ladies.
At seventy-three years young, our very own Simon Pendrell was the oldest competitor in the race, Pictured here with the youngest rower at just nineteen years old. It just goes to show that rowing is a sport for all ages – and keeps you looking good!
Our winning crew and support team get their well deserved medals.
The welcome committee!