Bobby Thatcher, Mark Slater and Richard Morton (finished 2nd at London Indoor SUP Challenge), some of the fastest paddlers of the UK, were missed in St. Maxime, but they had something more noble to do on their May bank holiday. They Stand Up paddled the 215 miles of the River Thames from Source to Sea to raise money for injured servicemen and their families.
Bobby (thesourcelondon.com) had already demonstrated he is up for crazy challenges by paddling the 44 Miles around the London ring. He has also been training and coaching the guys from www.row2recovery.com in order to prepare them for their Atlantic Row in December 2011. The R2R Crew will be made up of two ex-Commanders and two selected servicemen who suffered life changing injuries in combat. The aim is to raise £1M for Help for Heros, SSAFA Forces Help & ABF The Soldiers Charity. He teamed up with Richard Morton and Mark Slater for the Thames paddle to help raise money for the selected R2R Charities.
We have been following their Facebook group from France, there were posts like late on Friday „Still 40 miles to overnight stop. ETA 1am“ (Bobby) or „Finished for day. 3 hrs off road cycling & 14.5hrs paddling“ in sometime around 2AM or 3AM (Mark) or „Note to self: Never again book an holiday with Bobby Thatcher’s fun filled mini breaks.com“ which indicated how hard this paddle would be.
But the crew succeeded, they started at the Source of the River Thames (The Thames Stone near Cirencister) on Friday 27th May and finished at Southend Pier on Monday 30th May. The total elapsed time from start to finish was 82 hours, the total distance covered 215 Miles (22 cycle, 193 paddle)
Here is a breakdown of their impressive itinerary:
Day 1) 3hrs cycle, 14.5hrs paddle, over 80m covered
Day 2) 15hr paddle, over 50m covered
Day 3) 12hr paddle, over 50m covered
Day 4) 6hr paddle, 25m covered
The also covered 68 Miles (101km) in 24hrs (between 11.30am Fri after the 22 Miles cycle, so this was between 11.30 Fri & 11.30 Sat), which might be record for the most km paddled in one day (depending on how you define day, Annabel’s fabulous Ibiza-Spain crossing was 96.5km in one day but from morning to evening and in the Ocean).
Mark Slater kindly agreed to give us an interview:
Congratulations, Mark on the amazing source to sea paddle. Tell us all about it!
“Thank you, it was a fantastic adventure and I am really pleased I had a chance to be part of it. It was Bobby Thatcher’s brainchild and he put the feelers out earlier this year to see if he could find anybody who may be interested in doing it with him, Rich Morton & myself stepped forward and the plan of how we were going to attempt the challenge came together over the following months”
How was it? Did u consider giving up? What was the hardest part?
“I found it not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging as well. There were some low points but no one considered on giving up at any point. I think one of the lowest points was when we were doing the last 15 mile leg on the first night, we set off from our last stop at 23.10, the first 2 hours seemed to pass relatively well, I was really concentrating to get my board to glide in the mirror like water, but as we passed a lock I asked Bobby what time it was, and to our surprise it was already 01:00, but the next hour just dragged on & on, all of us were paddling in total silence and as we rounded every corner we were hoping we would see the lights of our support crew’s torches. I think the hardest part was on the last day, the end was in sight, we only had 10 miles to go, we were meeting our support crew at Canvey Island, which would mean we would only have a 5 mile leg to do after our stop, the tide was with us and as we rounded a corner we planned to do a gradual cross of the Thames, which was approximately a mile wide at this point and the wind would be behind us, so our spirits were really high. But as we started to cross the water turned into a mêlée of undesernable chop, not helped by a precession of cargo ships going by, we all found that section really stressful, which I think was emphasized by us all being near breaking point by that time”
Would you do it again? What would you do different?
“I would do another challenge again, it took so much out of us during the paddle, we have all said that without doubt it’s the hardest thing we have ever done, but the feeling of elation and fulfilment at completing such a task (and that we have raised over £4000 for a worthy cause) makes it all worthwhile. I wouldn’t have done anything different, most of the planning and preparation was done by Bobby & Rich and everything ran so smoothly, the support crew were brilliant and always had lots of food and drinks ready for us at our stops”
How did you prepare? How did you know where you could paddle and where not? What are the risks?
“I tried to get a few longish paddles in but didn’t get anything more than a few 2-3hr ones, also did a bit of swimming, running & a few weights as well. Bobby knows the Thames really well, he has spent most of his life rowing on it, so we were in pretty safe hands”
But you also needed to get some rest. Where did you sleep&eat?
“The first night was in a rowing club boathouse, the second at Bobby’s parents, who were absolute superstars and provided us with an unlimited supply of amazing home cooked food throughout our journey and the third at Bobby’s. With regards to eating, we met our support crew every 2-3hrs for a food stop and top up our hydration packs.”
Final questions: What kind of equipment did you use for this adventure?
“Bobby & myself used a Starboard K15 and QuickBlade paddles and Rich used a Surftech 14’ Bark & an X-Paddle, as for clothing we all just wore board shorts & a T-Shirt. But it really was our support crew, Oli, Michelle & Baz (along with Bobby’s parents & their home cooked food) that made this challenge possible!
Also I’d like to say a big thank you to Starboard for supplying my board, Surftech for supplying Rich’s board, Curve for hydration packs, SeaSpecs for the eyeware & Whasup for the T-Shirts and to all who donated to our giving page!”
Thanks Mark, and all the best for your next adventures!
For those who have not donated yet, the donation page is still open. Please give generously to honor this amazing achievement!
And here is a short trailer of the video: