Staff beat students and smash a rowing record!


Staff and students from the University of Cumbria have been taking part in a national rowing challenge for #sportrelief2020 and on Wednesday 11 March two teams took to Lake Windermere to battle it out on the water.

A team of staff led by university Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell took on a team of students from its Ambleside campus. The vice chancellor led the staff team to victory, smashing a record for the 10 mile row from Windermere’s southern tip at Fell Foot to Brathay in just two hours 11 minutes, beating the 2 hours 25 minute previous best set by RAF rowers in 2008.

Brathay’s learning and development consultant Paul Bate, said there had been many attempts over the distance in the intervening years, but yesterday’s university champions had done incredibly well, with the added benefit of ‘a near perfect wind behind them’.

The student team finished in 2 hours 17.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell said: “It was an exciting experience and I would like to think we could make this an annual event, with other universities joining in.

“It was very enjoyable and there was great team spirit. We were very excited to be taking part, getting out there and having some fun for a worthwhile cause.

“Supporting mental health is important for everyone as it affects so many people, students, young people, families and friends. The more we can do to recognise and support with events like this, the better.”

An inclusive mental health, fitness and wellbeing challenge, organised by The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT), Row Britannia invited teams across the UK take part to raise vital funds and create positive awareness around mental health. 

Led by Phil Packer MBE, The British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) was established in 2010 to deliver inspirational education and support to young people who are facing mental health difficulties. Laying down the gauntlet, Phil has been touring the country with his Row Britannia boat to inspire and encourage universities to participate.     

Phil said: “Row Britannia is a team 2020 mile rowing challenge to raise £3,000 for Sport Relief. 

“We have invited every university and college in the UK to register a team and have extended the invitation to the UK Fire & Rescue Service, Royal Navy and British Rowing.  

“If every university and college registers just one team and hits that target, they would collectively raise almost £1.5m for Sport Relief! In addition to raising vital funds, the positive awareness of mental health, fitness and wellbeing that they would raise within their communities could be extraordinary. 

“We hope that every person who takes part in Row Britannia for Sport Relief will feel great about being part of something special.” 

For Amber Woods, a first year conservation and biology student at Ambleside campus, it was a novel way to spend her 27 birthday. Originally from Kenya and now living in Kendal, she said she was glad to have taken part – “It feels so good” she added.

Ambleside technician and support boat skipper, Pete Waite, said the teams had rowed brilliantly.

“We started with some Force 2 winds, but it picked up to Force 6 in the middle. It was a real challenge for them all.”


Picture 1 - The rowing teams receive their briefing from support boat skipper, Pete Waite


Picture 2 - Out on the lake


Picture 3 - The student team battling hard


Picture 4 - Happy to have finished