Shropshire Star

Katherine Grainger among rowers to smash thousands of metres for Doddie charity

The challenge was to see which team could row the furthest in three hours.

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Doddie Aid Britannia Regatta participants

It was all hands on deck on a former Royal Yacht as seven teams of sports stars and athletes rowed hundreds of thousands of metres between them to raise money for Doddie Weir’s charity.

Olympic gold medal winner Dame Katherine Grainger and former Scotland rugby captain Rob Wainwright were among the participants battling it out on rowing machines on board the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith on Saturday.

The challenge, which was joined by several other teams virtually, was to see who could row the furthest between 10am and 1pm.

Despite the high energy and impressive efforts of all rowers on the ship, the winners were The Spoke & Diesel team, who took part in the competition remotely from their rowing machines in Dublin.

Headed by former British & Irish Lion Paul Wallace, the team reached a staggering 59,683m in three hours.

The epic challenge, known as The Doddie Aid Britannia Regatta, was arranged to raise money for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation which is committed to raising funds to fight motor neurone disease.

Its founder, the former Scotland International Doddie Weir, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2016, died in November last year aged 52.

The event, run by Doddie Aid, which was founded in 2020 by Weir’s former teammate Wainwright, promotes mass-participation sports across the UK and is the largest annual fundraising event for the Foundation.

Six-time rowing world champion Dame Katherine, who won gold in the double sculls at the London 2012 Olympic Games, was on board the Britannia rowing for “Katherine’s Coxless”.

The team, which included Wainwright, racked up an impressive 50,587m.

Speaking to the PA news agency after the challenge, Dame Katherine said: “The competitiveness came out in everyone and, reflecting on it now, what a wonderful thing to be part of.

“It meant so much to so many people, and it’s for such a great cause.”

She said for herself and other former athletes taking part, they “pretend” that their competitive side is long gone.

“It’s never gone,” she said, with a wink.

Doddie Weird Team
Pierre Schoeman, Rob Wainwright and Grant Gilchrist, before they took part in the The Doddie Aid Britannia Regatta (Doddie Aid 2023)

“It’s just slightly buried and all it takes is a little nudge and it came flooding out.”

She added: “We are all here because we all in some way knew Doddie Weir and it’s so hard with it being so recent since we lost him.

“It’s lovely having his sons here, the memory is so strong, the spirit is alive.

“Everyone is busy, everyone could say they have other commitments, but everyone who is here wanted to be here for Doddie, for this charity, and for doing something together.”

The exhausted but also invigorated teams were all handed a tot of rum to salute their success and efforts following the challenge.

Doddie Weir
Doddie Weir died last year (David Davies/PA)

Rear Admiral Neil Rankin, chairman of the Royal Yacht Britannia, made a toast to all participants onboard the ship.

He said he received permission from the King to “splice the mainbrace” – an order given aboard naval vessels to issue the crew with an alcoholic drink, which needs to be approved by royal family members.

“It’s a privilege, and it gives me great pleasure to say, on behalf of the Navy: Splice the mainbrace!” he said.

Other well-known names who joined the event included former Scotland internationals Jim Hamilton and Roger Baird, as well as television stars Jason Fox, Louise Minchin, Jennifer Reoch, and Dougie Vipond, all of whom are backing the cause to raise as much money as possible for MND research.

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