Your friends are fundraising. Don't miss out, opt in.

116 %
raised of £5,000 target
by 109 supporters
Joseph Oldak avatar
Joseph Oldak

210 Kilometres of Rowing Pain

Fundraising for ShelterBox

116 %
raised of £5,000 target
by 109 supporters
  • Team members: James Green, Alan Martin, Rob Milner, Hamish Muiry, Joe Oldak
  • Event: Rowing Madness


We provide emergency shelter and vital aid to support families overwhelmed by disaster

Charity Registration No. 1096479


210km is a smidgen more than 130 miles. The first 50km is the Boston Rowing Marathon on Sunday 20th September. Then there's the 160km "Tour du Leman" - a non-stop race around Lake Geneva on Saturday 26th, just 6 days later.

To put that into context, that's the equivalent of 5 running marathons in 7 days.

Latest Updates!

I'm very pleased to be able to say that the 'rowing fools' successfully completed the 37th Tour du Leman. It took us a painful 15 hours and 45 minutes: starting at 9am on Saturday and finishing at 12:45am on Sunday.

A Quick Recap

Around two years ago, while in the pub, Joe accepted a bet with five of his friends: £500 each (payable to Joe's chosen charity) that he'd never complete the Tour du Leman.

The race is entered in a team of five people: at any time four are rowing and one coxing. The cox changes places with a rower periodically so that each person gets a rest every couple of hours.

So, over the following few months, Joe 'tapped up' a few likely rowing teammates. For reasons best known to themselves, four people agreed to join him.

Then we just had to lean how to scull (row with two oars each - fortunately Rob is an expert in this department and he taught us what to do), and do an awful lot of training!

"Conveniently", six days before the race last year, the Boston Rowing Marathon was taking place - 50km from Lincoln to Boston. We used this as an opportunity to try out our distance rowing: four of us in a quad scull, and Hamish in a single. Buoyed by our relative success in this event, we were looking forward to taking on Lake Geneva!

The weather in Geneva was terrible and the race was a bit of a disaster: around 15 crews, including us, sank within the first hour of the race. For a full race report see here.

And so, on to this year!

Again, the Boston Marathon was taking place six days before the Tour. Joe (stupidly) decided to do this in a single scull, and Alan and Hamish did it in a double scull. This was more painful than any of us had hoped, and in themselves were decent achievements! And then we were off again to Geneva...

We were better prepared this year, learning from last year's experience. We had an electric bilge pump for the boat as well as two hand pumps. We were determined not to sink again!

In the end we didn't need the electric pump - the weather was relatively kind and our wave defences (made of five rolls of gaffer tape) held well. Unfortunately though our rudder broke around 1.5 hours into the race, so we didn't take very many optimal racing lines!

We settled reasonably quickly into the cycle of two hours rowing to half an hour of coxing. The coxing rest being vital to eat & drink etc before the next two hours of pain!

The scenery round the lake was amazing - just a pity we weren't in a better position to enjoy it! Perhaps the most enjoyable part was the night-time rowing, especially when there were "only" about three more hours or so of rowing remaining and the end was (figuratively rather than literally) in sight.

After finishing, and being helped out of the boat and pointed towards the hot showers, we all decided that we were NOT going to be doing that again! (Though I suspect Rob is tempted to have another go, and attempt to win it!)

The Charity

Joe selected ShelterBox as the charity for the money from the bets, and for everyone else who wants to sponsor the 'rowing fools'. Their aim is “To provide humanitarian aid worldwide in the form of shelter, warmth and comfort to people displaced by natural and other disasters.”

Their solution is a tough, green plastic box containing a tent and ancillary equipment designed to enable a family of up to ten people survive for at least six months.

These boxes don't come cheap though - each one costs around £500.

It's a lovely thought, and one that helped us through the pain, that by us completing the Tour the money from the bets will provide fifty people with shelter.

We'd love to be able to make that 100 people, by raising £5000 for ShelterBox. So if you are at all impressed by our efforts, please send them a donation using this page!

Older News


We're flying out to Geneva today, race on Saturday! Exciting!

Here are a few pics of Me, Alan and Hamish in the Boston Marathon last weekend, our "warm up" for Geneva...

For Geneva, our plan is essentially the same as last year, only with more bilge pumps! We have two hand pumps and an electric one so far!


Video from the Geneva row now available on the left of this page! It's shorter than you might think! ;-) It's also on Facebook on our various profile pages, if you're into that sort of thing.

The previous video of the Boston Marathon is available here.

There are also some photos of the guys in the running marathon:
  Alan: Photos
  Hamish: Photos
  James: Photos


Well, we had a fun weekend in Geneva, but the race itself went rather badly! From 23 crews that started, all but five sank due to bad weather, including us! There'll be pictures and video of our adventure on here soon.

There's a full report of the race on the X-Press website.

We are determined to get all the way around though (not least thanks to all those people that sponsored us), so we have already entered the race for next year! Great - another 12 months of training to look forward to...


I just found the official website for the tour. Every time I see something official from them I get a bit more worried.

Also, it turns out that to get to Geneva we have to leave for the airport at 3:30 am. As if the row itself wasn't hard enough!


I just learnt that on Sunday, the day after our 100 mile row, the Geneva running marathon is taking place! Anyone want to sponsor us to do that too? :-)


The fools successfully completed their warm up row - the Boston Rowing Marathon. The quad won their category on the way, taking home nice whisky tumblers for their efforts (these may come in handy next week!)

There's a condensed video of the marathon on the left of this page - taken partly with a camera attached at a slightly wonky angle to the boat's stern. James has done a fine job of editing it and setting it to music, so it doesn't appear as painful as it really was :-)

A short FAQ


There's a team of five fools: James Green, Alan Martin, Rob Milner, Hamish Muiry, and Joe Oldak. Hamish is doing Boston in a single scull and the others in a quad scull. We're taking a coxed quad scull around Lake Geneva, in which we'll take it in turns to be cox.


That's a rowing boat where you have two oars each.


About two years ago, in the pub, a small wager was made between Joe and a few friends that the race around Lake Geneva was just too difficult and couldn't be done. Those friends may yet be proved right, but we've put together a strong team and we're going to give it our best shot!


The Boston Rowing Marathon and
The Tour du Lac (pdf) - some pictures from last year's race.

How long will it take?

The Boston Rowing Marathon will take between about 3.5 and 4 hours. The Tour du Lac we expect will take us around 14-16 hours (start 9am, finish about 1am - that's quite a long day!).

Will it hurt?

Err, yes? Quite a lot I expect. Hands, bums, and backs mostly. We won't be able to sit down, stand up, or hold things for about a week afterwards!

How's the training going?

Well, the first time we took out the quad scull we crashed into another boat, totally wrecking their boat and breaking two riggers on the quad. It's all fixed now and, fortunately, we've not had any more incidents!

Other than that it's been pretty monotonous.

You're rowing for 14 hours non stop. What if you need to pee?

I think the general idea is to ask the rest of the crew to look the other way...

Who are ShelterBox?

They're a great charity whose aim is “To provide humanitarian aid worldwide in the form of shelter, warmth and comfort to people displaced by natural and other disasters.”

Their solution is the ShelterBox - a tough, green plastic box containing a 10-person tent and ancillary equipment designed to enable a family of up to 10 people survive for at least six months.

These boxes don't come cheap though - each one costs around £500.

For further information try the ShelterBox Website, or try searching for them on the bbc website for some interesting articles and videos.

Who are Justgiving?

They're hosting this site for us - any money you donate here is passed onto ShelterBox (Justgiving take a small percentage to cover costs).

Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure. It’s also the most efficient way to sponsor us: Shelterbox Trust Limited gets your money faster and, if you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving makes sure 25% in Gift Aid, plus a 3% supplement, are added to your donation.

Alternatively you can donate to ShelterBox directly on their website.

Note that all the money you donate goes to charity - we're covering our own expenses.


  • Finished
  • Land
  • Launch +7