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Crews stick their oars in to help Falcons rowers take off
Buy this photo » The intrepid team reach their penultimate lock at Cookham as Lincoln College rower Danielle Costa takes a break
A FIGHTING FIT crew from two of Oxford University’s colleges have endured blisters, sunburn and muscle strains to row two and half marathons in a day, to support the county’s first state school rowing club.
The mixed crew of 10 rowers from St Edmund’s Hall and Lincoln College clubs tackled 65 miles and 21-locks from Oxford to Maidenhead earlier this month to promote Cheney Falcon’s mission to get more state school children rowing.
Cheney Falcon was set up in 2011 at Cheney School, Headington, in Oxford to give local youngsters a chance to try the sport.
One of only 12 state school rowing clubs in the country compared to 80 private school clubs, Cheney Falcon now has 50 members between the ages of 12 and 15 and is stacking up awards on and off the water, including three golds in last year’s Oxford inter-school indoor rowing championships.
Rower Jaroslav Zak, 24, a PhD student at Lincoln College, was one of the crew which rowed in support of Cheney Falcon.
He explained: “The idea to row as far as we could in a day came from a Lincoln College team who rowed all the way to London in 1966.
“We felt this would be a great challenge for a great cause.
“One of our rowers, Danielle Costa, who has been working at Cheney School and has been helping as a volunteer coach, told us how well they are doing.
“We decided our challenge could also be an opportunity to encourage people to donate money to Cheney Falcon and to show our support for rowing at all levels.”
Armed with strong lights, food and water, the crew left Oxford Boathouse at 4.20am on August 10.
Mr Zak added: “The most difficult moment was rowing through Henley because the sun refused to hide in the clouds.
“There was lots of sunburn and our hands were destroyed by blisters, but we were very pleased by how well we rowed together despite not having trained together before.
“We also lost a lot of time queuing at locks. But the extraordinarily warm welcome at Maidenhead Rowing Club at sunset, featuring a long-sought pint of beer with participants of the just finished Maidenhead Regatta, made us quickly forget our woes.”
Dr John Forster, Cheney Falcon’s publicity officer, said: “We cannot thank these rowers enough for their endurance and support.
“The young, growing Cheney Falcon Rowing Club desperately needs funds to get more kids on the water next term and we are hoping many people will show their support by giving donations via our website cheneyfalcon.co.uk “We also hope to attempt our own charity row next season and hope the crew from St Edmund’s and Lincoln will show their support.”
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