A crew of six from Shrewsbury - including disabled adventurer Darren Edwards and rowers from Pengwern Boat Club – rowed the English Channel yesterday to raise over £3,000 for mental health and suicide prevention charities. Images by Josh Raper of joshrapermedia.co.uk
The fundraising stunt saw the crew set off from Dover and head to the midpoint of the channel and back – five and a half hours and 26 miles of gruelling rowing – returning to Shrewsbury after midnight.
They wanted to do the full crossing, but current regulations forbid it - so they settled on halfway there and back, or the equivalent of a cross-channel row!
Darren, whose father lost his battle with mental health in 2021, wanted to complete the row to mark his dad’s 66th birthday, accompanied by Colin Hayton, who runs the adaptive rowing at Pengwern Boat Club and paracanoeist and former British Army officer Nick Beighton, who won a bronze medal in the 2016 summer Paralympics. The other team members were Darren’s friends Harry Thomas, Louis Alexander and endurance runner Sally Orange.
Darren Edwards pictured here training for the Cross-Channel row
Darren himself is well-known as a famous disabled adventurer from Shrewsbury who has fought back from his terrible rock-climbing accident in North Wales in 2016, which left him paralysed from the chest down, to carve out a career in adventuring and motivational speaking.
“We were absolutely exhausted, but elated to finish it as a team in memory of dad,” Darren said. "The Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals across the UK and has resulted in increased pressure on mental health and suicide prevention charities. All money raised from this gruelling challenge will go directly to supporting mental health and suicide prevention charities."
The 'Channel Row Challenge' crew have raised over £3,000 so far for Ripple Suicide Prevention and Shropshire Mental Health Service - you can help boost their total HERE
“Last week, it didn’t look as though we were going to be able to do it, which was heart-breaking, but then we had a window in the weather – it was beautiful, so stunningly calm," Darren added.
“We had frequent big cargo ships go past, bumping us up and down on big wake waves, which is fun when you’re going backwards!”
The crew had a tracker on their boat and an official Dover harbour support vessel that had a radio and gadgets to communicate with big ships.
“It's the busiest shipping lane in the world. In the middle you get a sense of why. We probably saw upwards of 20 container ships, a big navy frigate, the P&O ferries. It's a very busy place. You have to pick your spot between big ships,” Darren said.
“We're all people who like a challenge and know how to train. Everyone is in good shape. But when you’re two and a half hours in and halfway through and you know you have to come back, it’s tough!”
The crew in training for their cross-channel row
All the more so as Darren had a problem with his seat on the way back: “I use an adapted seat. If I leant forward without a strap I would fall forward – I have no control of my core muscles. A couple of kilometres out of Dover harbour, the back of my seat snapped. I heard something break, I leant forwards and almost fell flat on my face. I had to row the last half an hour with a broken seat!”
Darren trained as part of the GB paracanoe team, and in 2021 became the first ever disabled person to kayak from Land’s End to John O’Groats (1,400kms). This October, he hopes to become the first disabled person to compete the World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents). He has also helped pioneer adaptive freediving in the UK.
Darren Edwards rowed the English Channel this week in memory of his Dad (pictured) who lost his battle with mental health in 2021 - so far his crew have raised more than £3,000 for mental health and suicide prevention charities.