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Down Your McWey – A Special Supplement September 2019

A Guildford Rowing Club Newsletter Supplement

Guildford rowers go International

  • Monster the Loch – 5 intrepid Guildford rowers row the length of Loch Ness
  • United Nations Annual General Assembly – Guildford Junior addresses the UN General Assembly on Climate Change

‘Monster the Loch’ is an annual challenge for any human-powered craft raced over 22.7 miles on Loch Ness from Fort Augustus in the south to Dores in the north.

Emma Dodd was the driving force behind completing this challenge and she recruited/persuaded Flo Land, Brad Bryant and her son Conrad Wells (17) to join her, and a coxswain Ella Simms (16). Emma wanted to mark this year of a significant birthday but also to raise money for the charity Mind.

The story is told by Emma:

Safe in the knowledge that September would never come and that it would be logistically impossible, I ran the idea past my friend Flo Land, (Olympian Rower, Seoul 1988) and to my amazement she agreed to join me. A few phone calls later and I’d secured a coastal rowing coxed quad, some blades, and someone to trailer it up there.

Oops.. it actually looked as if we were going to do this thing.

In April my husband, Justin, injured his back, so my 17 year old son agreed to step into his seat. I recruited Brad Bryant, a member of the men’s masters squad at Guildford. Our cox would be the gutsy Ella Simms, a 16 year old junior cox. Accommodation, flights, car booked. No getting out of it now.

On September 27th we flew to Inverness and found our boat waiting for us at Fort Augustus at the south end of Loch Ness.

The day of the race dawned.

Having only taken hand luggage we were without tools, and found ourselves having to chase the one screwdriver between 64 crews. (Note to self— never do that again).

As a result we were amongst the last to boat and half way to the start, some 500m from shore, disaster struck. One of Brad’s blades snapped.

A hurried return to shore in the hope of finding a spare and a message to the start to go ahead without us if we were holding them up followed. A blade was found, unfortunately rather longer than the other one, and the race waited for us to get back into line.

Sixty -four boats, including Cornish Gigs, Scottish Skiffs, Kayaks, Fine Boats, a GB Men’s Eight and even Pedalos, lined up on the start

Then we were off into the mist.

It was absolutely thrilling. There is really no other word for it.

As the mist lifted and the mountains came into view the magnitude of our task became clear, but the stunning surroundings made the whole experience such a pleasurable one.

The weather was calm and dry, but the Loch was still very choppy in places.

The first 10 miles flew by and we stopped for a stretch and some food half way. Hands were blistered, but otherwise everything else was holding up nicely.

The second half was great too. Only in the last couple of miles did I start to long for the finish.

We arrived to the sound of bagpipes and a great reception. It was a fantastic atmosphere and there were smiles all round. We’d done it in 3hrs 45 minutes, actually rowing for 3.15.

And I drank the most delicious beer I can ever remember!

The GB men’s eight broke the record by 22 seconds, despite having to bail out the boat several times having not got a pump. They did it in an impressive 2hrs 4 mins.

It was an altogether epic experience and one that I highly recommend. I’d love to do it again. Maybe a double next year with my husband.

It was particularly special for me to do it with my son, who loved every minute, too. ‘Monster the Loch’ surpassed all my expectations and I will never forget it.

We were rowing in aid of Mind, the mental health charity. Below is a link to the story behind our row. And also a lovely short film made by the official time keepers, Marloe Watches. It really gives you a taste of the atmosphere. (Ed: The Marloe film is highly recommended – as Emma says, captures the atmosphere: inspiring)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic…..

A Guildford WJ15 Emmie Dowling was at the United Nations Annual General Assembly in New York. We’ll hear about how and why Emmie came to be there:

In June I attended an iamtheCODE hackathon at RGS (hosted by Marieme Jamme, CEO of iamtheCODE, who is listed in the BBC’s top 100 most influential women) where we explored the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) set by the United Nations. In groups made up of pupils from a wide range of Guildford schools, we were tasked with picking any goal and developing a digital solution.  My group picked Goal 4 (quality education for all) and we developed the idea of a platform which would enable teachers to connect globally and collaborate to share their knowledge. A panel of judges selected our group to have the best solution and as a result I was asked, with another pupil from our group, to present the idea as part of the United Nations Action Summit in New York.

On 25th September we travelled to the UN headquarters for their Annual General Assembly.  The conference centred around the SDG’s, the speakers and panels were very powerful and inspiring.  Our group’s idea was well received with many influential businesswomen and men asking to follow up on our solution.  With the iamtheCODE team I was able to speak via video call to girls in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya (they had been taught basic programming by Marieme and her team) who shared their incredible and moving stories, talking about their aspirations and future plans that iamtheCODE is helping them to achieve. 

Overall, I had an unforgettable experience and developed strong ties with the iamtheCODE organisation for whom I am hoping to become an Ambassador.