FIVE rowers will launch out for a paddle around the lake this weekend, writes Nick Hartland .

But it’s not just any lake that James Allison, Jon Keyte, Mark Stewart-Woods, Colin Lewis and Eric Froggatt will be dipping their oars into in aid of St David’s Foundation Hospice Care.

The Monmouth RC oarsmen aim to circumnavigate Lake Geneva in Switzerland – a 160km round trip – without stopping as part of the 40th Tour Du Leman rowing race.

“It’s going to take at least 15 hours, so it’s going to be a real test of endurance and oarsmanship,” said Dr Allison, a GP at Monmouth’s Chippenham surgery. “We start at 9am on Saturday and will be racing into the night, hopefully finishing in the early hours of Sunday.

“Navigation will be crucial, as we’re going to be at least a couple of miles from shore, and we’ve got GPS to help us, and it’s going to be pretty rough out there so we’ve got lots of bailing equipment.”

The crew have been training on the Wye at Monmouth and the Severn at Tewkesbury for the race, which is organised by Societe Nautique de Geneve, which won sailing’s America’s Cup in 2003.

“The setting is absolutely stunning,” added 48-year-old James, “but I don’t know that we’ll have much of a chance of sightseeing as we’re trying to get the record time for the fastest ever masters four boat.”

Monmouth RC’s men have lots of experience of long races having won Britain’s longest inland race, the 31-mile Boston Marathon, and the 28-mile race out to the Eddystone Lighthouse and back. They have also crossed the Irish Sea, a 96-mile row.

This time, the British masters champion rowers plan to row for 30 minutes at a time and then change positions, with each rower swapping sides and the strokeman swapping with the cox, a tricky manoeuvre at the best of times, let alone in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest lakes.

“We’ll have 30 minutes’ coxing at the end of every two hours’ rowing, so hopefully we can recover enough to go again,” said James.

You can keep up with race progress at http://regate.inser. ch, and there’s more information at

The crew is raising money for St David’s and you can help them reach their £2,500 target at Geneva