South West Wales

Celtic Challenge: Sue Kent's Mumbles longboat turned back by poor weather

Cox Sue Kent with the Mumbles ARC men's crew
Image caption Sue Kent with members of the Mumbles ARC men's crew before the race began

A longboat rowing team coxed by a Swansea woman disabled by the drug thalidomide has been forced out of an Irish Sea race by bad weather.

Sue Kent, 49, says the rough sea cut short her Mumbles amateur rowing men's team's race from Arklow in Ireland to Aberystwyth.

They managed to cover about a third of the 100-mile Celtic Challenge longboat race before it became too rough.

She said sea sickness was also a big issue, despite the crew taking tablets.

The 24-hour race began on Saturday afternoon, later than expected due to the weather.

But by 21:00 BST, with strong winds and in 14ft swell, her crew returned to their support vessel, although they did not arrive back to Arklow until 03:00 BST.

Other competitors also retired due to the conditions with Aberdyfi Rowing Club coming in first to take the trophy.

She said that luckily, the hotel owners where they had started their day were still awake and allowed them to bunk down in an available room.

Medication

Some other rowers managed to complete the longboat race which is staged every other year.

Rowers take it in shifts to row, resting on their support boat.

Mrs Kent, who was born with 8in (20cm) arms and seven fingers, said her group's problem was compounded by using a support boat which, while kindly loaned to them, was not the most appropriate after the vessel they planned to use was no longer available.

Organisers said 23 teams, including 15 from Wales, had had to wait for better weather to start the 2012 west-to-east race on Saturday.

Each boat is about 24ft (8m) long and has room for four rowers on fixed seats and one cox.

Each team is comprised of 12 people who take it in turns to row.

Volunteers at the RNLI boat house at Aberystwyth said a team from Aberdyfi Rowing Club were the first back along with Aberystwyth Rowing Club and Foyle Rowing Club, in Moville, Donegal.

Year's practice

A statement on the Aberdyfi Rowing Club website said there were "hard conditions for all rowers" in this year's race.

Mrs Kent coxes Mumbles Amateur Rowing Club teams using her feet and her hands.

Clip-on adaptations to the boat water-pumping systems to allow her to carry out her role effectively.

She had been practising for the race for about a year, although most inshore races take under an hour.

Mrs Kent, a barefoot masseuse, has been taken on by the Paralympics to give massages with her feet to athletes.

She said she found her calling after massaging her son when he developed a bad back from sailing.

Mrs Kent turned to massage, qualifying as a masseuse three-and-a-half years ago, after she gave up her job in marketing and advertising to look after her parents when they were ill.

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