I never would have imagined I’d be rowing over the legendary Henley course on finals day to rounds of applause from the packed stands of the Stewards Enclosure. And then be so mobbed afterwards that the pontoon would start to sink… just a shame about the earlier highly embarrassing collision with the booms in front of the Remenham Club. And that my row wasn’t a hard-earned victory, but a ceremonial paddle during the tea break.
Chris Martin had arranged for a row-over of three generations of ocean rowing boat. First came Graham Walters in the Puffin, the little dory in which Hoare and Johnstone perished during their attempt to row the north Atlantic in 1966.
Then came Chris in Pacific Pete, a traditional ocean rowing pair made in marine ply and named after Peter Bird, the first man to row across the Pacific.
Then there was me in Solo – state-of-the-art compared with Graham’s state-of-the-ark. Unfortunately, with her mega-light carbon fibre hull and no ballast, I was floating like a cork on the water and getting pushed around by the wind – hence my brush with the booms. Well, that’s my excuse anyway, and I’m sticking to it. But maybe just as well there are no booms in mid-Atlantic.