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Cambridge rower to be part of crew to tackle first 2,000km anti-clockwise row around Great Britain

Cambridge club rower Simon Watson is part of a crew of eight planning to take part in the first anti-clockwise row around Great Britain.

The gruelling 2,000-mile challenge is expected to take about six weeks to complete.

Simon Watson is taking on a 2,000 mile charity row for Cambridge Acorn Project . Picture: Keith Heppell
Simon Watson is taking on a 2,000 mile charity row for Cambridge Acorn Project . Picture: Keith Heppell

Simon, 53, who rows for the Cantabrigian’s Aquaphobes squad, will raise money for Cambridge Acorn Project, which supports children and their families across Cambridgeshire who have experienced trauma and abuse and are living in poverty.

He said: “I have previously taken part in challenging expeditions, but nothing as difficult and relentlessly all-consuming as this endeavour.

“The challenge will test my limits both physically and mentally, but it is allowing me to use the sporting ability of a rower for a greater purpose – to raise money for a charity that performs such an important social function, and one that I very much wish I could have had the support of when I was a minor.”

The Counternavig8 GB team of six women and two men hope to set a Guinness World Record for being the first to ‘row against the flow’ around Great Britain.

They are currently in training and intend to begin the challenge around the start of June, as soon as the weather allows.

They will row around the clock in shifts, with two hours on and two off.

Simon Watson in training on the River Cam Picture: Keith Heppell
Simon Watson in training on the River Cam Picture: Keith Heppell

Crews seeking to row around Great Britain have historically begun in London and headed clockwise. But the Counternavig8 GB will begin in Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders and head counter-clockwise.

“The ocean rowing quad boat is similar to that used in cross-Atlantic rowing challenges – it has berths at either end in the form of narrow ‘pods’ that stop one from being thrown around too much in heavy weather,” explained Simon, who has given up his job as a lawyer to take part.

“The trip is intended to be self sustaining, and we will carry a water desalinator, all our food, clothing and equipment on board and so, hypothetically, there should be no need to come into land/port at all until we get back to Eyemouth.”

But rowing ‘against the flow’ will make the task that much harder.

“The prevailing south-westerly that blows through the UK will make the row down the Scottish west coast through the Irish Sea to Cornwall and around Land’s End much more difficult, if it’s really blowing,” notes Simon. “Otherwise there are several tidal gates – basically significantly adverse tidal conditions – that are harder to navigate anti-clockwise.”

The scale of the challenge, he said, will “all come down to the weather”.

Simon has already raised more than £6,000 for the charity and hopes to reach £15,000.

Hannah Golding, from Cambridge Acorn Project, said: “We’re delighted that Simon has chosen to support Cambridge Acorn Project as part of this incredible record breaking challenge.

“We are a small local charity that has a huge impact on families and communities across Cambridgeshire. Our work is about breaking cycles of trauma and poverty, tackling the inequality that stems from adverse childhood experiences, and helping children and families to emotionally recover.

“Simon’s donation will mean that we’re able to support local families.”

Other rowers in the team will raise money for other good causes, such as Alzheimer’s UK and Prostate Cancer UK.

Simon can be supported via his fundraising page at gofundme.com/f/row-around-the-uk-for-the-cambridge-acorn-project, of visit their Facebook page to follow the team’s progress.

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