Teddington RNLI row to victory as ‘The Boat Race’ returns to the Thames
Rowing crews from three London lifeboat stations fought it out for victory on the River Thames recently as the RNLI’s first ever inter-station ‘Boat Race’ took to the river.
Teams of four volunteer crew from RNLI lifeboat stations at Chiswick, Tower and Teddington went head to head in a rowing challenge to celebrate the charity’s partnership with The Boat Race in 2019 and to raise money to fund vital crew training.
None of those taking to the water had ever rowed before and each received two hours of intensive training from coaches at the Fulham Reach Boat Club. They then spent the evening doing battle on a stretch of the river made famous for hosting the annual Boat Race between the dark and light blues of Oxford and Cambridge.
After a series of closely fought races the crew from Teddington Lifeboat Station was crowned winners of what is hoped may become an annual event to celebrate The Boat Race partnership and help raise safety awareness on the Thames as well as generating essential funds.
Neil Withers, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager for the Thames, said the event was a great experience for the crews but also got across a serious safety message:
‘As expected the RNLI crews proved to be nearly as competitive as the Oxbridge teams, although I don’t think anyone at Cambridge or Oxford has taken to the water in yellow wellies before!’ he said. ‘It’s a great way of highlighting the vital work our crews do on the river everyday – and helping to promote our vital messages for staying safe along the Thames’.
In the past, lifeboats around the coast of Britain were almost all propelled by the power of oars, but these days rescue craft such as the E-class lifeboats used on the Thames, use engines capable of speeds up to 40 knots, essential to reach those in difficulty on the river and to keep people safe during events such as The Boat Race.
This year, as hundreds of thousands of people lined the banks of the Thames to watch The Boat Race, a highly skilled team of RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crew were also in attendance. They were there to ensure the crowds were safe alongside a river which, though beautiful, can often be deadly, flowing at twice the speed of an Olympic swimmer and with a daily tidal rise and fall of seven metres.
While the university crews battle for victory on the river once a year, the lifeboat crews take part in a very different race and one that happens 365 days a year – the race to save lives. It’s also a race that takes an enormous amount of training and preparation and has saved hundreds of lives since RNLI lifeboat stations were opened on the Thames in 2002.
But the crew’s training doesn’t come without a cost. Training exercises and courses need funding, as does the equipment the crews use in life and death scenarios. As a charity the RNLI relies on donations to make sure the crews have everything they need to save lives, which is why all the money raised from the RNLI Boat Race Challenge will go toward ensuring supporters of The Boat Race and those living and working beside the Thames are kept safe for years to come.
The RNLI would like to thank the Fulham Reach Boat Club for all their help in hosting the race and to Chapel Down Wines and Rupert and Buckley for the prizes. To support the challenge please use the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rnlitheboatracechallenge
All three RNLI stations at Teddington, Tower and Chiswick remained fully operational throughout the rowing challenge.
Note to Editors:
The RNLI is the official charity of The Boat Race 2019.
Fulham Reach Boat Club is a community focussed rowing club and a charity that aims to unlock the potential of young people through rowing. They are a Boat Race partner and provide the Future Blues programme with local state schools: https://www.fulhamreachboatclub.co.uk/future-blues.
RNLI media contacts
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Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.