Twelve days and 850km of 'extreme' rowing across Europe
Rowing 70 kilometres a day for 12 days straight is enough to make even the toughest rowers cringe. Yet for participants of the recently concluded Prague to Hamburg Rowing Race, this epic challenge was well worth the effort. For three scullers in singles, it was also a shot at a Guinness World Record for completing the distance.
Billed on their website as the ‘most extreme rowing race in the world,’ this 850-kilometre event saw racers wind their way along the Vltava and Elbe Rivers across nearly half a continent from Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, to Hamburg, Germany’s second most populous city.
Facing the hardships of powerful river waters combined with poor weather created some daunting days during the multi-stage regatta. Bedding down each night for what sleep could be found was an added hurdle especially during unexpectedly high winds during one of the stages.
Stages ranged in length from 53 kilometres for the shortest, first stage (Prague to Melnik, in the northern Czech Republic where the Vltava flows into the Elbe), to an intimidating 107 kilometres for the longest, sixth stage (Riesa to Wittenberg, both cities in the east of Germany). Along the route, rowers passed through many beautiful cities of central and northern Europe with cheers and celebrations greeting them at the finish of each stage.
Participants were able to take part in sections or for the entire distance. “In the individual stages, the race was attended by competitors with different types of boats,” explains one of the race organisers, Erika Dankova.
Boat types included singles sculls, double sculls and an eight, crewed by representatives of Czech Rowing Club Usti nad Labem. At some points along the route locals took to the water and joined the racers as “non-registered participants (enthusiasts), who were not part of the official race,” says Dankova.
Ultimately, only a few attempted the entire 12 stages. The extreme difficulty of completing the journey showed through as Olympic medallist from the Czech Republic, Vaclav Chalupa was forced to hang up his oars, reportedly due to back pain, following the 67 kilometre seventh stage (Wittenberg to Aken, Germany).
Chalupa, a recipient of World Rowing’s Thomas Keller medal in 2012, was one of the three scullers in the hunt for a Guinness World Record. His departure left Ales Nejedlo, the regatta founder and Dusan Machacek, head of the Czech Rowing Association as the only racers in singles to complete all 12 stages.
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