Rowers battle it out in Great Ouse Marathon

West Norfolk Rowing Club held its busiest event of the year, hosting the start of the Great Ouse Marathon.

The 22km annual timed head race sees competitors from all over the country gather at Denver Sluice to take on the challenging distance from WNRC to Ely.

The event had not been run since before the pandemic, so there was additional excitement at it being back.

West Norfolk members were out in force, either competing themselves, marshalling all the visiting boat trailers, or rigging and launching more than 300 rowers in more than 140 boats.

Zach Grant, Thomas Williamson, Zoe Matthews and Lauren McMahon. Picture: J.Osborne
Zach Grant, Thomas Williamson, Zoe Matthews and Lauren McMahon. Picture: J.Osborne

There were competitors of all ages (16 to 80+yrs) and varied experience, single sculls to eights, and several adaptive rowers taking part.

Numerous West Norfolk crews had been in training to take on the testing distance, and all completed the race with performances they can be proud of.

Zach Grant and Thomas Williamson competed in the Open Double category and finished in 1 hour 54 mins. Matty Parle and Lucy Surridge raced together in a Mixed Pair and also came in well under two hours.

Theo Bailey was competing in a Masters F single, and came second in his category with a great time of 1 hour 51 mins, which was faster than several younger Masters and Open scullers.

West Norfolk’s Liz Palmer had been training with a Northern Irish RAF rower, Graeme Goldsworthy, which required a notable commute, and they were rewarded with an impressive time of 1 hour 48 mins in their Mixed Masters E Double, only bettered in their category by a seasoned double crew from Deben Rowing Club who race together all the time.

Angela Holford and Fran Fitzgerald completed the race in the W.MasE.2x category with a time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Zoe Matthews and Lauren McMahon, who only learned to row in 2022, came third in the W.2x category with a time of 2 hours 10 mins.

A WN coxed quad of Alistair Mackie, Catherine Coppinger, Carol Rose and daughter Poppy Holden, with Hamish Collin coxing, also succeeded in conquering the GOM (as the race is affectionately known), with several of them re-forming a crew to row the boat back from Ely twodays later with the addition of crew member Jack McAllister.

Although the event is organised by Isle of Ely Rowing Club, it requires much advance preparation from the start host club.

As well as many volunteers on the day, WN members gave considerable time to make space and provision for all the visiting crews, and to welcome early arrivals from distant rowing clubs such as Glasgow, Tees, Ross-on-Wye, Bradford.

Visiting rowers expressed appreciation for their warm welcome and the fine wide waterways of the Great Ouse. WNRC Captain, Helen Pryer described it as “all in all a very enjoyable day”.

WNRC has currently finished Learn to Row courses for the year, but people can email to register interest for next year’s programme.