One of our correspondents from the North West reports on the Coigach Lass and her crew taking part in the Great River Race:
After a breakfast of complex carbohydrates it was onto the bus and off to the Milwall slipway. It was an incredible sight to see all the classes of boat arriving and such is the tight organisation of the River Race Committee all 310 boats launched with relative ease through the smelly sludge and onto the Thames. The commentator at the slipway (who we felt could have done with a few lessons from David Green) asked if anyone present would consider being the required passenger on a Dutch boat. Forward stepped Sam resplendent in the kilt to whoops of delight from the Dutch ladies and we were suddenly a cheerleader down.
The race operates on a handicap system and the ‘Lass’ was given a start position of 106 which the crew felt was very lucky given that this is the number of Steve Husband’s croft in Achiltibuie. The first and second tranche of boats went off to the sound of canon fire and with jangling nerves it was the turn of the ‘Lass’ crew to jockey for position at the start line At 14:09 she was off! Tony did a magnificent job of coxing the ‘Lass’ through the 150 boats that were charging up the Thames and in no time she was powering along in relatively clear water after passing most of the early starters. Running the race upstream meant that the crew had the benefit of the prevailing flood tide – but the Thames was jabbly and the lashing rain soon soaked us through. Tower Bridge was negotiated and the cheers of ‘Lass’ supporters at Westminster Bridge got the glycogen converted back to glucose. As the crew passed the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben struck 3pm. A quick check at the soggy race instructions indicated that the Coigach Crew were seven miles into the race with 14 still to go -but the mood on the boat was determined.
Onwards the ‘Coigach Lass’ charged under Lambeth, Battersea, Wandsworth, Putney, Hammersmith, Chiswick, Kew and Richmond bridges. At varying points along the course cheers of encouragement could be heard from ‘Lass’ supporters who were tracking her progress closely. Occasionally, between sips of tea and mouthfuls of cake, Julia and Pip could also be heard shouting encouragement from their Thames ferry. With only two miles to go the faster dragon boats started to catch the ‘Lass’ up but such was the determination of the crew (and their fear of disappointing Mark, given he had the beer tokens) that the Lass powered past the finish line in a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes and finished a spectacular 44th.
Special thanks must go to our old china plates Tony, Pip and Mark for their attention to detail in organising the boat, accommodation and transport. On the flight home the crew decided that the weekend was up there in a lifetime top 10. The ‘Lass’ is safely tucked up in Rutland and she returns to the ‘Buie in a fortnight- if she doesn’t meet a dodgy geezer in the meantime.
Alison Hitchings – ‘Coigach Lass’ crew, Achiltibuie.
Unnabridged version and more pictures: http://buieboat.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/our-lass-on-the-thames/