This year, there are 39 entrants, with a combine of solo rowers, pairs and fours, and one 5. The crews are predominantly from the UK, however there are Dutch, Swiss and Australian crews too, amongst others.
Women compete towards males and combined crews to be general winner and winner of two completely different boat lessons, though there’s a separate gong, the Murden Trophy, for quickest feminine crew. However, Blackshaw says: “It’s only a matter of time before an all-female crew wins the whole event.”
All in all, it doesn’t sound like an excessive amount of enjoyable. However, every girl is set not solely to increase hundreds for his or her chosen causes – the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and army charity the Felix Fund – but in addition to check their bodily and psychological limits.
The concept happened after Edwards’s husband David did the Challenge in 2019-20. She says: “Even being involved by proxy gave me a sense of purpose and excitement. It planted the seed in my mind and then we were offered the use of their boat.”
But her motivation runs deeper than it simply being her flip. “David is a deputy head and I’d consider that we have quite an equal marriage, but still the responsibility for the kids at home falls almost exclusively to me,” she says.
“I’ve got two girls and two boys aged between six and nine and I don’t want them growing up thinking that the woman does the cooking and the cleaning, and daddies go out to work all day. In order for that to happen, they need to see it’s not the case.”
Blackshaw, who has twins aged 11, is the one who’s struggled most with the emotional burden of leaving her children. Husband Jules is totally behind her, however being older, her youngsters perceive the dangers extra.
“Children suddenly go from not thinking about the next day to thinking about the next year, and that’s taken me by surprise,” she says. “I’ve always been a working mum, but with lockdowns they got used to me being around every day. They’re trying to be supportive and they don’t want to stop me doing it, which makes it harder in a way.”
When she was youthful, Blackshaw rowed for GB Juniors in 1991 and in the 1992 Women’s Boat Race for Oxford. She has contemplated whether or not it’s “selfish” to be a part of the crew, however says: “I miss being part of a team and I miss having that challenge where I can say, ‘I can push myself and I can do that’, and I want my children to see we can still do that.”
All the girls are eager to overcome hurdles life has thrown at them, too. Ashley, who works in advertising for British Gas and who has three youngsters aged between three and eight, had a profitable hip substitute in September 2019.