A great river deserves a great race. One Saturday morning in early September modern lightweight materials of fibreglass and plastic were forced aside as traditional watercraft made their way down the River Thames on a 22-mile course from Ham to Greenwich. The entry sheet read more like a spelling test as the much abused C8 lined up beside Plymouth Estuary Gigs, Skin Curraghs and Teifi Skiffs.
Richmond entered the race for the first time with a 7-man team in the C8, renamed Leaky Double Diagonal. For a vessel with sieve-like characteristics and of dubious strength, the team was whipped together for a respectable time of 2 hours 42 minutes. And the boat barely leaked.
What was planned as a leisurely, sightseeing tour of London became something of a race as Cox Tadgh MacIntyre barked orders from the back, and Sean and Richard set the pace up front. Passing a start line barely 500-metres upstream from the club, we looked fresh as we powered pass the cheering balcony, slicing the water, the patchwork repair akin to war-paint.
Beyond Kew it's new territory to non-DWers, but no talk of landmarks. "It's a canoe race not a history tours," shouted Tadgh. We saw bridges because you can't avoid them, and the confined waters of the ebbing tide bounced threatening waves up against the boat. Eyes drifted as we passed all-female crews. Tadgh developed an unnerving habit of sneaking between the chopping blades of skiffs and cutters.
As the mile count increased, pain crept into the muscles. Switching sides Canadian style, sores built on the behind - the planks in the C8 don't make for comfortable seats.
And in all the excitement, we forgot to look at David "Human Hamster" Blaine in his slightly mad, and slightly sad Perspex world.
With just a mile to go Richard H ups the rate to a fuzzy blur and the race novices pray for a sighting of Cutty Sark's mast and the finish line.
It is a great river race, and the C8 stood the test. And get this, a couple of days after the race, Sean said his body hurt more than after a DW - apparently it's the uncomfortable seats.
The team, Sean, Richard H, Rick (Richard's smallish friend and our official passenger), Dean, Vince, Harry, Peter and Tadgh. Thanks guys - great effort.
For details of results and the race see www.greatriverrace.co.uk Here's to next year.