Rower John Pritchard


An Olympic rower is to lead a team on an amazing row – along the entire length of the Mississippi.

John Pritchard will spend three months rowing 2,500 miles from the river’s source in Minnesota to New Orleans.

He will be joined by different rowers in two traditional Thames skiffs currently being built at the Stanley and Thomas boatyard at Windsor.

Their aim: to raise a million dollars for the Right To Play charity which educates children in developing countries through play and of which John is chairman.

Most of the rowers will take part in stretches of two days during the trip which starts in August. John and another experienced rower will row the entire length.

Each boat will have two rowers and a third person to steer and the challenge is still open for entries. Training is being held at the Skiff Club on the Thames at Teddington.

John, who won silver in the GB eight in the 1980 Olympics and rowed three times in the Boat Race, said: “Anyone who thinks they are up to the challenge is welcome to apply.

“So far rowers range from Olympic medallists and other international rowers to people who have never rowed before. I am surprised – but pleased – about the number of non-rowers who have signed up.”

The first part of the journey will be in canoes because the river is so narrow and shallow. But over 2,300 miles will be in the skiffs.

Skiffs under construction. Boatyard boss Mark Stanley (left) & boat-builder Julian Perry at work on the skiffs

The 26 foot boats (above) are clinker built of African mahogany on oak with fixed seats. Oars are also currently being made at Windsor at J.Sutton, oar-makers. Boat-builder Mark Stanley said: "These skiffs have been familiar sights on the Thames since Victorian times.But I'm sure never have they been used for a venture like this."

The trip will pose numerous challenges. The busy commercial waterway is five miles wide in places.
John, the chief executive of a City executive recruitment firm, said: “We will have to go through 29 locks each the size of a premier league football field.  Our little boats are going to look really odd beside huge ships”.

Rowing an average 30 miles a day or the equivalent of a marathon, rowers will burn 6,000 calories.

The Olympic rower said: “It’s quite difficult to take that amount of calories on board and continue to exercise. Food has also got to be in a form you actually want to eat because after two months and someone hands you another banana you’ll go potty.”

Other hazards include insects and alligators – the three largest have recently been caught on the river.

“Something I simply didn’t know about was Asian Jumping Carp. When disturbed they jump three to eight feet into the air. When one jumps, they all jump. It is an extraordinary: sight of hundreds of fish jumping out of the water. But they could cause a bit of a problem”

Rowers who have signed so far come from all over the world. Each is expected to raise £10,000 in sponsorship.

Mississippi Million
Right To Play
The Skiff Club
Stanley & Thomas
J Sutton

Story dated March 11th 2014

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