June 14, 2021
Author:
Nicola Douglas

Lionheart Great British Row: June-July 2021

Please note this blog has the most recent updates at the top. Please scroll to the bottom to start reading the full story from the beginning.

The "All Rounders" and skippers (L to R): Lizze, Ali, Mark, Sophie, Arya, Rupert & Charlie

Leg 6 Crew

Ali Ball, Sophie Bostock, Lizzie Brown (Skipper), Mark Brownjohn, Caroline Cunningham, Rupert Fenby, Arya Khatu, Damian Lawrance, Neil Lomas, Tonya Mueller, Steve Smith, Chris Starr

And so, after 41 days, Roxy's Lionheart Great British Row finishes back where it started at the Royal Burnham Yacht Club in Essex. The Rannoch Adventure team was there to meet the crew as they arrived, tired but full of smiles as their big adventure came to an end.

The facts:

6 Legs over 6 weeks
31 rowers took part - 5 completed the whole journey, another 26 joined Roxy for part of it
1650 nm rowed in total (and 400 miles towed when the stubborn north winds wouldn't relent)

The weather was predictably British! Mini heatwaves were enjoyed on Legs 1 and Leg 5, hideous headwinds were experienced on Legs 2 and 6, and Scotland was seen at it's best on Legs 3 and 4.

Wildlife was abundant - highlights include minke whales, so many dolphins and puffins galore.

We saw so much. Castles, lighthouses, cliffs, beaches, rocky outcrops, wind farms - our coastline has it all and much more.

The British hospitality has been second to none. We take with us very special memories of Salcombe, St Ives, Fishguard, Stranraer, Glenarm, Port Ellen, Oban, Mallaig, Lochinver, Fraserburgh, Whitby, Scarborough, Shotley to name but a few of the wonderful towns we visited.

But this journey will mostly be remembered for the camaraderie, laughter and friendship that comes from experiencing such a unique adventure. A group of individuals who co-existed in such a confined space onboard, yet have been surrounded by the aura and beauty provided by our Great British coastline.

It's been a blast - thank you to each and every one of the 31 Roxy crew members who made this happen.

Leg 6 crew + Sam and Charlie

Day 6

After a long, hard overnight row from Shotley, the crew arrived ahead of schedule into Burnham on Crouch. Still smiling, and just a small sense of relief to be in from the strong winds and choppy sea!

Approaching The Royal Burnham Yacht Club pontoon
Fenders at the ready

Days 4 - 5

After a brief stop off in Lowestoft for pizza, the row down the east coast has been (in Lizzie's words) "quite a long slog". Force 6 headwinds, tides against them and squally showers made for an arduous row but this didn't erase the smiles from their faces!

On Wednesday evening they arrived at Shotley Marina, directly opposite the huge port of Felixstowe and had the warmest of welcomes from some of the Leg 3 and 4 crew who hosted them all for a homemade dinner at Stour Sailing Club in Manningtree, Essex. This was made all the more special as it was Lizzie's birthday - one she won't forget in a hurry. A big thank you to all those who made this so memorable and gave beds to the weary rowers.

Next stop - Burnham on Crouch, aka HOME!

Dinner at the Stour Sailing Club courtesy of some of the leg 3 and 4 rowers
Arrival in Shotley
Rowing past Felixstowe port towards Shotley Marina
Battling the headwinds
All smiles in the girls cabin
Changeable weather!

Days 1 - 3

The RNLI, off on a training exercise, bid farewell to Roxy as she ventured out into the choppy seas off Scarborough. Seasickness affected one member of the crew but thankfully by midday the conditions calmed and sweltering heat and flat seas took over. The vista was simply endless wind turbines and open sea - Mrs Pitcher's homemade flapjacks were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

At 3am the crew came nearer to land again at Cromer where they anchored up. Rowing against the tide every 6 hours crawling at less than 1 knot is not for the faint hearted! Next stop - Lowestoft.

More wind farms and moody skies
Moored up off Corton in Norfolk waiting for a change of tide
On watch
Wind farms off the Suffolk coast
Mrs Pitcher's flapjacks being enjoyed onboard
Sunset from the cabin
The RNLI boat passing and saying goodbye to Roxy

Leg 5 Crew

Ali Ball, Sophie Bostock, Lizzie Brown (Skipper), Louise Brown, Mark Brownjohn, Kitty Hamilton, Sophie Hibbin, Rupert Fenby, Arya Khatu, Tonya Mueller, James Pitcher

Days 6 - 7

After Blythe, a grey day followed as Roxy headed towards the seaside town of Whitby. On arrival in the marina, the only thing separating the crew from a hot shower was a daunting climb up a very long ladder. A leisurely day was spent in Whitby - with the boat providing a welcome escape from the bustling crowds. Then, another overnight row to their final destination, Scarborough where the Leg 5 crew bid a fond farewell to Roxy and the "Lifers".

Scarborough
Mark and his new friend
Tonya, Sophie and Kitty
Scarborough in the early morning
The ladder climb at Whitby marina

Days 4 - 5

As the crew set off southbound, they left the dramatic scenery of the north behind them and followed a flatter shoreline towards Blythe. Highlights were lots of wind turbines, lots of puffins and Bamburgh Castle. Sadly the wind picked up and slowed the row down meaning the crew missed their fine dining opportunity at the Royal Northumberland Yacht Club. However, they did manage a drink in the iconic lightship clubhouse before closing time and celebrated Ali and Kitty's birthdays during the overnight watch.

Drinks in Blythe
Moored up in Blythe
Happy Birthday Ali and Kitty

Day 3

After leaving Eyemouth, the Leg 5 crew rowed down into English waters where the sun came out and the sea calmed. Roxy diverted to meet Katie McCabe, a 14 year old aiming to become the youngest person to sail around Britain singlehandedly in her 28ft wooden sailing boat, Falanda. Katie is raising money for two ocean pollution charities as she goes, and trying to spread awareness about ocean health and its importance to the future of us, the human race, and the welfare of our planet. Good luck, Katie, with the rest of your journey!

Later that day Roxy anchored up off Holy Island and several crew members swam ashore in search of a pub and burger! A peaceful night was enjoyed on anchor, surrounded by birds and seals.

Louise and Sophie
Arya, Sophie, Louise, Rupert & Sophie aka the swimmers!
Anchored off Holy Island
A picture of Roxy taken by Katie McCabe from the deck of Falanda

Day 1 & 2

Light winds and flat seas made for perfect rowing conditions down the east coast of Scotland. Sadly the crew didn't see much of the coastline due to dense fog which cloaked Roxy for much of the journey. However, spirits onboard were high and the crew were treated to another visit from a minke whale around 23.30 on Monday evening.

Due to the speedy rowing conditions, Lizzie (skipper) decided to give everyone a break in Eyemouth where they arrived well ahead of schedule in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. A calm and serene scene welcomed them into this cosmopolitan port - another hearty breakfast awaits!

The crew have definitely gone for breakfast!
Eyemouth
The 'canyon' at Eyemouth
Leg 5 Crew setting off from Fraserburgh
The Rannoch Team enjoying drinks with the "Lifers" (those doing the full Lionheart GB Row)

Leg 4 Crew:

Ali Ball, Sophie Bostock, Mark Brownjohn, Julie Clarke, Sam Easy, Jo Fawkes, Julia Harris, Sarah Howlett, Arya Khatu, Lorena Nichols, Keith Paxman, Charlie Pitcher (Skipper)

Leg 4, Days 5, 6, 7

After a well earned rest in Wick, the crew set off for an overnight row across the North Sea to their final destination, Fraserburgh. Conditions were mixed and made for a choppy ride with side winds and waves crashing onto the boat. It gave everyone a taste of the rollercoaster ride on board an ocean rowing boat.

The highlight of this section of the Leg was the appearance of a minke whale the crew nicknamed Willy, who swam alongside Roxy for some time on their final day. It was a sight to behold and one the crew will never forget. It's moments like these that make coastal and ocean rowing what it is.

Our Leg 4ers arrived a day ahead of schedule and enjoyed a well earned rest before heading home on Saturday. The "Lifers" (those doing the full round Britain row) were treated to drinks and nibbles with the Rannoch Team (Charlie, Rupert & Chris) and a night of recovery before Leg 5 starts.

The Leg 4 Crew

With thanks to Broch Photo House for the following photos of Roxy's arrival in Fraserburgh:

Disembarking
Coming into the harbour
Passing the lighthouse
Charlie and Chris on land ready to welcome Roxy
Approaching Fraserburgh

Leg 4, Days 3 & 4

Roxy safely arrived at Wick harbour
Enjoying drinks in Wick

Stunning conditions for the row 'over the top':

Roxy leaving Lochinver on Day 3

Leg 4, Days 1 & 2

On Sunday 11th July, our Leg 4 crew left Mallaig for their big adventure "over the top" of Scotland.

The day started with pods of dolphins escorting Roxy past the Kyle of Lochalsh and under the Skye Bridge - a magical sight. The crew enjoyed perfect rowing conditions with lake-like conditions and rapid progress was made northwards with a tidal assist past Kyle Rhea. Even the news of England's football loss relayed over VHF by a friendly Range Master in the military zone did little to dampen spirits on board Roxy.

A beautiful red sky was enjoyed as Roxy headed into the night but the conditions deteriorated on Day 2. The northerly headwinds came back to make life on board frustrating and uncomfortable for some of the new members of the team. As luck would have it, Lochinver Harbour offered itself as a natural shelter for the night and everyone enjoyed a break from rowing and sampled the legendary pies from the Lochinver Larder to help recharge their batteries ready for Day 3.

Am Buachaille just off Sandwood Bay
Rowing under the Skye Bridge
Dolphins near the Kyle of Lochalsh
Leg 4 Crew leaving Mallaig

Leg 3 Crew:

Carolynn Amos, Ali Ball, Sophie Bostock, Lizzie Brown (Skipper), Mark Brownjohn, Rupert Fenby, Shirley Hillyard, Arya Khatu, Caroline Irwin, Keith Paxman, Maria Vigneau

Leg 3, Days 5, 6, 7

The crew awoke on day 5 to a sea of dense fog and had a slightly delayed departure from Oban. As they finally got underway to hopefully circumnavigate Mull, skipper Lizzie decided that due to limited visibility, they would change course and take the direct route out of the Sound past Tobermory. This would give them time to enjoy the smaller islands of Muck, Eigg and Rum instead.

The weather finally played ball, the sun came our and their row around Rum was one of the crew's major highlights of Leg 3. Galloping goats and deer were seen on the island and the rowing conditions were just perfect. Lizzie found a wonderful sheltered harbour where they tied onto a mooring and spent a lazy afternoon drinking in the best of Scotland, including some of the crew taking a cold dip in the clear waters. Much laughter was enjoyed on board that day!

The crew then set off for their final overnight row into Mallaig - the beautiful gateway to the Isle of Skye, where we bid farewell to the Leg 3ers. Roxy is now taking a week off the great British Row and looks forward to welcoming Leg 4 crew on 11th July for her "Over the Top" adventure.

Thank you, Lizzie, you are a star and all the fab crew. An unforgettable experience to share with you. An overload of beauty, peace and, best of all, great company. A hilarious and gruelling trip.

Caroline Mahoney, Leg 3

I’m still recovering but sad it’s over and missing the Leg 3 crew. Unforgettable experience in the the most beautiful part of the world. We were in such safe hands with Lizzie. It was painful at times but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.

Carolynn Amos, Leg 3

All my life I never would have thought I could survive a week on board a boat like Roxy crossing the Irish Sea up to Skye but I did and it was such an amazing journey. Thank you everybody who was on that journey with me and will be remembered with fondness my entire life. There were certainly ups and downs (not counting the waves) and coffin life was interesting but not uncomfortable and the contrast of food during the week and buckets which will be embedded in my mind forever.

Shirley Hillyard, Leg 3

Just one of the beautiful skies seen in Scotland
Soaking up the Scottish sunshine
Enjoying a cold dip
The Isle of Rum
Sea mist rising outside Oban

Leg 3, Days 2, 3, 4

After another overnight row into northerly headwinds, the winds finally abated on their arrival in Port Ellen. A predicted 16 hour crossing from Glenarm had taken them over 23 hours! After a short break in the small port (and another slap up breakfast), Roxy set off again in the late afternoon Oban-bound.

This part of the leg started well with brisk breezes pushing them out of Port Ellen but they were then met with cross winds and side waves lashing the rowers as they settled into the night shift. Once the sun had risen, the wind died but with the tide now against them, progress was slow. Lizzie suggested that rather than verbally fight the weather, they simply go with the flow, enjoying the hear and now.

Roxy received a warm sunny welcome into Oban where the crew pulled up on the North Pier Pontoon and retreated on shore for a well earned meal and an overnight rest. As Lizzie went to bed on Wednesday evening, she enjoyed this sunset view from her bedroom - and was able to keep a close eye on Roxy who was moored up safely for the night.

Oban
Port Ellen to Oban via Jura
Through the night from Glenarm to Port Ellen

Leg 3, Day 1

Leg 3 started amid blue skies and turquoise waters from Glenarm. With Lizzie Brown taking the helm of this leg, the crew waved goodbye to Charlie as they set off towards their first destination, Port Ellen. Good luck to our newcomers Carolynn, Caroline, Shirley and Maria!

Leaving Glenarm early on Monday 28th June, bound for Scotland

The first day was probably the hardest, really exciting, but difficult. 42 days can be really daunting after the first 3 hour shift. But as soon as I accepted that this was the new normal and that each session was going to be just a little bit easier, I really started loving it. Looking at a mango orange sunset during an evening shift or dolphins finning at our bows at dawn and thinking that I get to do this instead of ordinary life is special. Even when the weather is awful, the rain pouring down, waves crashing into the boat at midnight and we’re struggling to hold a couple knots, there’s an awesome feeling of “I can’t believe I get to do this” and that’s what makes this row so fantastic.

Arya Khatau, rowing all 6 legs

Leg 2 Crew:

Ali Ball, Linda Blakely, Sophie Bostock, Lizzie Brown, Mark Brownjohn, Rupert Fenby, Arya Khatu, Rick Lawrence, Neil Lomas, Keith Paxman, Charlie Pitcher (Skipper)

Leg 2, Days 4, 5, 6, 7

After a long hard slog from St Ives up to the Welsh coast with strong northerly winds and big waves, the crew have arrived in Fishguard. Crossing the Bristol Channel was hard work as they pounded the waves and rowed into the headwinds. On Thursday the grey weather finally broke and the sun came out, as did the dolphins. The Pembrokeshire coastline was a very welcome sight and getting up close and personal to Skokholm Island was a particular highlight.

Due to time constraints and more northerly winds forecast, the crew pulled into Fishguard at 2100 on Thursday 24th June and travelled overland up to Stranraer, Scotland where they put Roxy back in the water for the final row over to Northern Ireland. They set off on Saturday afternoon for their overnight row, expecting light winds of 8 knots but were dealt 18 knot headwinds across the Irish Sea. The pressed on and arrived in the beautiful port of Glenarm early on Sunday morning in blue skies and ready for a bacon sarnie. Well done to all our Leg 2ers - it's not been an easy leg and Mother Nature threw her curve ball but we rose to the challenge and made it to Northern Ireland on time.

As Roxy departs for Leg 3, I am left thinking of the new friends I've made. The banter on board, the random conversations and trivia questions. The brutal weather but unbelievable views - some things can never be explained! I shall miss Roxy, it's crew and it's captain... but I think "I'll be back".

Neil Lomas, Leg 2

Bacon sarnies on arrival in Northern Ireland
Leaving Stranraer
A very welcome sunset at Stranraer as the crew arrived after a long day on the road
Curry and beer to celebrate their arrival in Scotland
Roxy ready for her tow from Fishguard up to Scotland

Leg 2, Days 1, 2 and 3

The crew set off from Penzance at 1430 on Sunday 20th June and had a great row through the afternoon and night around Lands End. Unfortunately, as they neared St Ives, the northerlies strengthened and forced them to pull into the harbour at 0200. They then had a 36 hour stopover in St Ives (enjoying plenty of Cornish hospitality and a photo shoot and interview with the local paper), waiting for the strong winds to pass through.

Finally, on Tuesday 22nd June at 1500 they set off into the Bristol Channel, bound for South Wales and Northern Ireland after that.  

Article in the St Ives Times & Echo
Arrival in wet and stormy St Ives
Passing Lands End
Leaving Penzance

To those about to embark on the Lionheart Great British Row, it's simply awesome. You will feel pain and pleasure in equal measure, enjoy them both.

Steve Smith

Leg 1, Days 6 & 7

The crew arrived in Penzance at 0800 on Saturday 19th June 2021. They've travelled 353 nm in total after 127 hours of rowing. In addition, they had 3 hours on anchor in Dover, 2 hours at Hampstead Ledge and 12 hours on a visitors mooring at Salcombe. Highlights of the past two days have been seeing dolphins, eating real food in Salcombe, and seeing Penzance in the distance after a long night on the oars. Well done to our Leg 1 crew who arrived safely, on time and in great spirits to enjoy a very well deserved Cornish breakfast.

Arrival in Penzance

Just off the Cornish coast
Sunrise off the Cornish coast

Leg 1, Day 5

After a beautiful evening and sunset across Lyme Bay, a strong northerly kicked in around 2300. It brought a swell, rain and crashing waves and made for a very wet and uncomfortable night on board. Despite the conditions, the crew pulled together to cross the bay by 0600 and enter more sheltered conditions by the coast. They pulled into Salcombe a few hours later to wait for a weather window before they set off for the last miles to Penzance. As at 1400 on Thursday 17th June, they are enjoying a well earned pub lunch with their foul weather gear drying out on the boat!

Roxy moored up in Salcombe while the crew enjoy a well earned rest and a pub lunch
Pulling up in Salcombe

Sunset in Lyme Bay
Evening sky in Lyme Bay

Leg 1, Days 2, 3, 4 highlights:

Para anchoring off Dover in the early hours waiting for the tide to turn, Charlie cooking up bacon butties, one broken oar, a very welcome visit from Sophie's brother from Hayling Island with ice creams and cold drinks, Night Fever on board, and a stunning sunrise.  

Happy rowers
Mark at sunrise
The Needles in the early hours
Charlie
Disco fever
All smiles on board
Cold drinks all round!
Sophie's brother drops by off Hayling Island
Charlie cooking bacon butties
On para anchor outside Dover
Arya on watch while on para anchor

Leg 1 Crew:

Ali Ball, Linda Blakely, Sophie Bostock, Mark Brownjohn, Dave Dunk, Rupert Fenby, Arya Khatu, Charlie Pitcher (Skipper), Steve Smith & Chris Starr

Leg 1, Day 1

Our second big Roxy expedition, the Lionheart Great British Row, got underway on Sunday 13th June in almost perfect rowing conditions. A posse of onlookers and well wishers waved goodbye to the 12 person crew from the pontoon of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club. Blue skies and a gentle breeze then accompanied them along the River Crouch and out into the Thames estuary.

Spirits on board Roxy were extremely high as they left on the first leg of this epic row right around the coast of Great Britain over 6 weeks. Leg 1 will see the rowers make their way around the Kent coastline and along the South Coast right down to Cornwall over the first 6 days. The final destination of Leg 1 is Penzance where they will have their first crew change.

Four members of the crew, Sophie, Arya, Mark & Ali, will be on Roxy for the full duration of the row. Other rowers will join them for different legs of this challenging voyage. They will all be rowing in a shift pattern – 3 hours on, 3 hours off – with the ‘off’ time being used for sleeping and eating. They are unlikely to get more than 2 hours sleep in any shift so their bodies will have to adapt to their new regime.  

Skipper for Leg 1 is Rannoch Adventure’s founder and director, Charlie Pitcher. He says:

I am hugely excited about this row. Circumnavigating the British Coast is one of the most challenging expeditions any rower could undertake. We will be battling weather, wind, tides, rocks and other vessels at sea. In many ways it is a more challenging row than crossing an ocean but there’s no better way of enjoying the diverse coastline of this country than by rowing around it. Can't wait to get underway!

Best of luck to everyone embarking on this fantastic adventure over the coming weeks!

Roxy ready to go
Mark in the forward cabin
Arya and Rupert
Steve
Sophie
Heading out on the Crouch
Past the marker buoy
Roxy from behind
And out into the Thames Estuary
Charlie and the Lionheart Great British Row Crew

With Special thanks to Dick Goodwin and Graham Douglas for photos taken on Day 1 of Leg 1.