A GROUP of 12 women from around Cork and Munster are taking on one of the world’s foremost rowing challenges next month, and hoping to raise serious money for their chosen charities in the process.
The Beours With Oars are preparing to row from Arklow in Wicklow to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
This crossing of 90 nautical miles (roughly 166km) is known as the Celtic Challenge and is regarded as an extremely punishing test of endurance.
It generally takes between 15 and 24 hours, depending on the weather.
Each boat is about 24 feet (8m) long and has four fixed seats and one cox. Each team doing the challenge consists of 12 people who take it in turns to row, spending the time in between on a support boat.
A small inflatable is generally used to transfer people between the support boat and the rowing boat.
The race happens every two years and the Beours With Oars aim to become the first female team from Munster to complete it.
The group are all committed rowers with various clubs around Cork, including Blackrock Rowing Club, Cork Boat Club, Courtmacsherry Rowing Club, and Naomhóga Chorcaí, The Cork City Currach Club.
Many have won individual and crew prizes for rowing and they are relishing the new challenge.
“We are all a bit mad!” crew member Lesley Wills told The Echo.
They have been training together at various locations in preparation for the sea crossing. On Saturday they gathered at East Ferry rowing club for a 12-hour session on the water.
“We will be rowing through the night during the challenge so we want to get a few night rows in as well,” Lesley said.
“This time, East Ferry was our host club, so we started from there.”
The group have been blown away by the support they have received since deciding to undertake the challenge.
“The boat we are doing it on is a Celtic longboat, they are only found further up the country and in Wales, and that is why the challenge is from those areas, they use those boats,” she said.
“A man from Mountcharles rowing club [in Donegal] kindly donated a boat for us to train in.
“We normally train in the coastal boats so we had to retrain ourselves into these boats, which are slightly different. They brought the boat all the way down to us a couple of months ago.
“People are very good, you would be astounded when you start something, how good people are to come out and support it.”
As well as the enjoyment of completing such a daunting challenge, the group decided to use the opportunity to raise money for causes close to their hearts.
“We are doing in for the Jack & Jill Foundation, in memory of Luke Collins,” she said.
“He was the son of a very good friend of mine and they used the services of Jack & Jill.
“It is also for Médecins Sans Frontières [also known as Doctors Without Borders]. Another lady in the group, her son is involved with them, so that is why we picked those two charities, they are close to us.
“We want to raise as much money as possible for the charities before we go.”
To read more about the group and donate to their chosen causes, go to www.beourswithoars.ie.