'Bonkers' Huw on the crest of a wave

VETERAN oarsman Huw Champion is in training for an epic river race of 50 kilometres which will take at least four hours of muscle-burning effort.

But the really remarkable thing is it will be the 43rd time he has taken part in the Boston Rowing Marathon.

Other rowers at Doncaster Rowing Club reckon the 63-year-old is "bonkers" - but that won't deter him and team-mate Dave Maxfield.

Nearly 250 boats of different sizes have entered this year's race along the River Witham tomorrow from Lincoln to Boston, including five from the Doncaster club which trains on the Don from the bank at Hexthorpe Flatts.

A team of eight veteran women, two mixed quads of four, and two men's doubles - including Dave and Huw - are hoping to raise over 1,000 in sponsorship for the Aurora cancer care centre and to help support some of their young rowers on an elite training programme.

For Huw, whose day job is managing Doncaster's New Performance Venue project from the Blue Building in High Street, it will be yet another test of endurance in what is believed to be the world's longest rowing race.

Born in Boston, he has taken part in every marathon since he was a student in 1967 and even hitch-hiked from a holiday in Europe as a young man to get there just in time for the event.

Wherever he has worked around the UK he has always made it back.

Although he lives in Chesterfield, Huw finds it suits him to train with the Doncaster club, which has grown in recent years with a strong intake of youngsters.

Although the Boston Marathon is a hard event its lure is too much for Huw and his ambition is to complete a half century.

"There's one chap in his 80s who comes down from York to do it so I don't see why I shouldn't do 50," he said. "In the roof of the Boston club there is the old boat in which I rowed the first one and it would be nice to do the 50th in the same boat and beat my original time."

On Sunday he and Dave are hoping to do it in around four hours.

"The boat feels good and we feel we've got the legs to get close to that time," he said.

Carol McGlone, veteran women's captain, is one of those taking part tomorrow but is amazed Huw has done it so many times.

"It's hard work doing 31 miles because most races are a lot shorter than that. The only other long one we do is the London Head, which is just over four miles.

"At one point on the marathon there is a lock at Bardney where we have to lift the boat and walk to the other side and then get in again, which is not easy. We're able to keep each other going but the last time we did it we were so tired two men had to lift our boat out at the end."

Fellow club member Richard Harpum, who has rowed it a couple of times, said: "I will not be taking part this year. Unlike Huw, I need a number of years before I forget just how painful the whole experience is. He must be completely bonkers!"

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