The Sisterhood

Charity and sisterhood

Great River Race

The Great River Race is London’s ‘river marathon’…22 miles from Ham to Greenwich which The Sisterhood take part in every year.

For the last few years the Sisterhood have been storming through the event..and at last our speed has been formally recognised, as we are to race as the Mayor of Hounslow’s official boat in the ‘Riparian Challenge’ – a challenge set to all the boroughs that border the Thames.

This year the event started in Greenwich and finished in Ham due to the tides and wotnot and The Sisterhood were the 2nd fastest womens crew in the event – in an awesome time of 2:39!  We also did the Mayor proud and came third in the Riparian Challenge! Brilliant effort to all in the boat.

Following the success of the Channel Crossing in 2007 – The Sisterhood took part – and came 2nd!

Amanda Cherry recounts the glory..

To be honest, tearing down the river at 9 knots an hour wasn’t actually part of the plan.  We’ll take it a bit easy, we said. We’ve only just done the Channel, we said. We’re World Record Holders, we said, we don’t need to prove ourselves…

Trouble is, we’re the Sisterhood and even if we weren’t competitive before we became a part of this merry band, I can safely say that every one of us most certainly is now!

And so caning it is exactly what we found ourselves doing one balmy September afternoon. Before attacking the Channel Challenge we did a lot of mental preparation. Before the GRR we did precisely none (unless, of course, you count draping ourselves over race-starter Sting for a keep-sake photo).

After the initial excitement of setting off from Ham in our little boat and paddling past the cheering crowds, the first hour proved to be significantly more challenging than any of us had anticipated to the point where a few of us quite seriously considered quitting the race at Quintins (our very generous boat-house) and hoping that a no-show at the end by the Sisterhood boat would go quietly unnoticed.  Being on a stretch of river which we’d paddled up and down innumerable times over the course of the previous ten months meant we didn’t share the excitement that some of the crews got from seeing the sights along the way.

Slowly but surely though, the focus, mental strength and determination all came flooding back and every one of us buckled down to some serious paddling.  As we settled in and found our rhythm, the aches and pains of the previous weeks gently receded into the depths our memories.  We locked on our targets, two dragon boats ahead of us – the mixed crew Demelza Raging Dragons and the all male (self-styled) Wrecks – they couldn’t be allowed out of our sights, otherwise we’d have lost the battle.  At every bridge our focus levels slipped for a second or two as our Brotherhood supporters cheered us on by attacking us with water-pistols but the fierce competitive spirit was raging too strongly to be distracted for long.

Our furthest paddle down the Thames had been a trip in June to Parliament and back, so the excitement of passing into the unknown stretch of the river beyond was not lost on any of us.  At Westminster Bridge, however, our spirits sank as we realised that after 1h45 we were only half way through the race – we should have been faster.  Much faster.

The sudden realisation, on passing under London Bridge that in fact we were more like ¾ of the way through the race and that we’d grossly miscalculated the distance meant our spirits soared massively and with extra determination we charged on, never letting the two dragon boats get further than 50m ahead of us.

Approximately 3 miles from Greenwich and the finish line, and still close behind the other two boats, our secret weapon kicked in.  STAMINA!  We had only been paddling for 2h15 and most of our recent training sessions had been at least that long if not longer – we had loads left to give so we opened the throttle, flicked the turbo-booster switch and torpedoed down the river, cruising past the other boats just before crossing the line and leaving them eating our wake (I’m not sure that they either noticed or cared, but we most definitely did!).

A huge “hats off” must go to the two hot blondes at the back of the boat (Maly Sayle and birthday girl Jane Felstead) for their efforts and a big thank you to Helena Searle (Caroline’s sister) and Jane Chew for being so gracious when they were, frankly, railroaded into paddling!  To our little passenger, Livvy, who nearly froze to death but who was perfectly compact and cheery in spite of that, a very sincere gracias.  And to the boys who cycled alongside us the WHOLE way and other supporters who came to see us off/see us in, thank you!

And, of course, a gentle nod of respect to the Sisters who threw themselves so wholeheartedly (read: foolishly) into the GRR – Amy Sharpe, Amanda Cherry, A-L Felstead, Lisa Marriage, Jo Rogers, Sarah Lawson, Toe Bothner, Camilla Lavagna-Slater, Catherine Loveless, Lucy Egerton, Caroline Searle and super-helm Emma Sayle.