The Tyne plays host to the sixth South Shields Marine School’s Annual Row this Saturday, when eight teams battle it out to be first over the finishing line at the town’s Marine Safety Training Centre (MSTC).
Nicely, it also coincides with the beginning of Seafarers’ Awareness Week.
For the first time, the winners and runners-up medals are sponsored by South Shields Ferry, under the aegis of Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive/Nexus.
In another first, Svitzer Towage, the largest towing company in the UK, and responsible for towage on the Tyne, will sponsor the South Shields Marine School’s rowing kit.
The row takes place over eight nautical miles, rom Newcastle Quayside. There are three legs with two crew changes, the first at Hebburn Marina, the second near Tyne Dock, followed by the last leg to the finishing line.
Teams this year include South Shields Marine School, South Tyneside College Ladies, South Tyneside College general engineering, Fleetwood Nautical Campus, Glasgow Marine Academy, NE P&I Club, Bernhard Schulte Shipping and the American Bureau of Shipping.
It was a close race last year with South Shields Marine School overtaking the South Tyneside College general engineering boat, which had led all the way, in the last 600 metres.
The event was originally thought up by Tommy Procter, 68, a former tugmaster and retired Marine School lecturer.
He believes the row is becoming even more competitive than in previous years, if that’s possible.
Tommy involves himself heavily with picking and training the Marine School crews.
He says: “This wouldn’t be possible without the immense help given by the staff from TS Collingwood Sea Cadet unit who have given a lot of their free time, since the beginning in 2010, in assisting with the training of not only the South Tyneside College three boats, but last year, for the first time, Bernhard Schulte and American Bureau of Shipping. TS Collingwood also provides three of our safety cover boats for the row; the college’s Marine Safety Training Centre providing the other three.
“HMS Calliope, the Royal Navy unit at Gateshead, is also a great help as they let us moor the boats overnight at their pontoon the night before.”
After the row there will be a barbecue at the MSTC along with entertainment, followed by the presentation of the cup and medals by Lindsey Whiterod, chief executive of South Tyneside College.
Says Tommy: “Lindsey has given her full backing to the row from day one, when we started with two boats borrowed from TS Collingwood.
“She also enabled the college to purchase two of our own boats the following year, which we use for training and the row, and TS Collingwood makes use of them for the summer months getting young boys and girls out on the river teaching them boating skills.”
The individual teams will this year make donations to charities of their choice.
Says Tommy: “We also must thank the staff of the MSTC for all their hard work before, during and after the event.”