Capital crew enters 2000-mile rowing race in bid to win £100k

John Higson and Mark Hughes prepare for their gruelling challenge
John Higson and Mark Hughes prepare for their gruelling challenge
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MORE people have walked on the Moon than have successfully rowed around the British coastline.

But an Edinburgh-based team is set to brave treacherous tides and some of the most dangerous shipping lanes on the planet in a bid to do just that.

As many as 15 boats are expected to take part in the gruelling race – GB Row 2013 – which starts at Tower Bridge in London on June 1 next year and offers a £100,000 prize.

The participants will row 2000 miles round the coast of Britain in what has been described as the world’s richest rowing race.

Among the teams taking part will be two crews from Scotland – a four-man crew from Edinburgh led by Mark Hughes, a clinical lecturer in neurosurgery at Edinburgh University, and a team of eight rowers led by Atlantic rower Leven Brown, who lived in Edinburgh for 17 years.

Heather Rees-Gaunt, 36, originally from Edinburgh and now living in Wales, will also lead a crew of two men and two women in the race.

Already ten crews – with a total of 40 rowers – are in training to win the prize, which will be awarded to the first team that can beat the existing world record of 26 days to 
complete the tortuous race. The teams – made up of two, four or eight oarsmen and women – will row non-stop and unassisted from London, around Land’s End, up to John O’Groats and back to London.

The current world record of 26 days, 14 hours and 12 minutes was set in 2005 by a four-man crew from the Grenadier Guards who were almost drowned when their boat, no bigger than a family car, was hit by a force-ten storm in the Irish Sea.

A team led by Mr Hughes, 31, will race as H2rOw in a 23ft-long ocean rowing boat, Fight & Spirit.

The team, which also includes John Higson, Jonathan Cowie and Iain Docwra, are current or former members of Edinburgh University Boat Club and are raising money for the Cardiac Risk in the Young charity.

Mr Hughes, who lives in Canonmills, said: “My cousin died very suddenly aged 30 – it was a sudden cardiac death – so I have strong personal motivations for choosing the charity.”

He added: “We’re out to win, break the record and raise a mighty sum for charity.”

The rowers, who plan to donate all the prize money to the charity should they win, expect to lose around ten per cent of their body weight during the trip – around one to two stone each – and will burn around 7000-8000 calories each per day.

There will be no toilets or washing facilities on board the boat, which is made from marine plywood, with the rowers forced to use buckets.

They will eat freeze-dried food, ranging from pasta to curries, which they will rehydrate with boiled water, as well as almost 500 porridge cereal bars during the whole trip, which were donated by Stoats.

Mr Higson, a 28-year-old rower who lives in Newington, has already attempted to row the Atlantic but was forced to give up after his boat’s electrics failed, leaving him stranded without water and navigation aids.

Leven Brown set a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic in 2010, knocking 11 days off the previous best time. The 40-year-old will skipper an eight-man crew in the race around Britain.

He said: “We have put together a very experienced, strong crew to attempt to break the record for rowing around Britain.

“Once I have finished the row around Britain, I’ll head to Heathrow and fly to Australia and then row across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius.”

For more details, visit www.h2row.com and www.gbrowchallenge.com