Oakill Academy team of six are beaten but unbowed in London-Paris rowing challenge

The rival teams set off in twilight from Westminster Bridge
The rival teams set off in twilight from Westminster Bridge
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Seven days and 500 backbreaking miles at sea in an open boat, but six Ribble Valley pals made it!

The team of fitness enthusiasts based at Oakhill Academy, Whalley, took up the challenge of rowing from London to Paris to raise money for Help for Heroes.

The Help For Heroes team at the finish (back, from left): Alex Trickett, Jonny Pattenden, Simon Heptonstall Phil Moss, Ed Snowden; front, from left: Shelley Cook, Emma Stockton, Christian Effenberg, Tony Wyles 'Suzanne Liddle, Charlie Martell, Will Smith.

The Help For Heroes team at the finish (back, from left): Alex Trickett, Jonny Pattenden, Simon Heptonstall Phil Moss, Ed Snowden; front, from left: Shelley Cook, Emma Stockton, Christian Effenberg, Tony Wyles 'Suzanne Liddle, Charlie Martell, Will Smith.

Joined by six others from various parts of the country, they made up a team of 12 to race against a team representing the Ickle Pickles sick children’s charity. And although they were beaten to the finishing line at the Eiffel Tower, they enjoyed the experience of lifetime. The Ribble Valley six were: Simon Heptonstall (Read), Suzanne Liddle (Whalley), Phil Moss (Whalley), Will Smith (Longridge) Ed Snowden (Old Langho) and Alex Trickett (Whalley).

Alex Trickett said: “It was a tough experience but we really enjoyed it. On a scale of one to ten, it was ten-plus.”

Billed as “The Real Boat Race”, the London-Paris challenge was the third organised and supported by Michael Oram’s Adventure Rowing company based in Ramsgate.

The teams had been preparing for more than a year on gym rowing machines and later in boats on coastal waters for the non-stop race, in which they all rowed in shifts for two hours then took just two hours off for food and rest.

The teams started with their support boats at Westminster Bridge on the Thames, and arrived 15 hours later at Ramsgate within two minutes of each other.

Then they rowed to Beachy Head and headed due south across a calm English Channel, visited by dolphins on the way and reaching Le Havre after 45 hours.

Next they rowed with the tide to Rouen, but after heavy rains they had a strong current against them in the Seine as they slogged towards Paris.

In some places the crews were spending two hours rowing less than 2km against the current. It had become a challenge simply to get to Paris at all. Burdened by injuries, The Help for Heroes team had to concede the race to the stronger Ickle Pickles team.

Alex added: “Being a crew member on the challenge was an opportunity of a lifetime.

“Up to 18 months of preparation and training culminated in seven days of extreme exertion, battling extraordinary conditions and injury, fighting to our limit. The lack of sleep was extremely hard to endure. Sleep was difficult to come by, especially during daylight, due to the adrenaline of the rowing and the activity on the support boat, and grasping just 45 minutes in eight hours wasn’t unusual.”

Apart from the exertion of rowing, the crews also had to endure cramped conditions on the small support boat that carried equipment and large quantities of food.

Each crew member had to eat up to 8,000 calories per day to fuel their bodies for the level of exercise, consuming rehydrated food packs and the equivalent of over 40 teaspoons of sugar per shift through large quantities of Maltodextrin added to the drinking water.

Alex added: “The Help for Heroes team gave everything they had in their attempt to win the race and have left the challenge with their heads held high. They have done themselves, their family and friends, supporters and sponsors proud!”