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Now it’s three men in a row boat

PUBLISHED: 09:30 21 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010

RICHARD BATSON

It is a classic storybook adventure: Three Men in a Boat navigating their way through the meanderings of a river, and life in general.

It is a classic storybook adventure: Three Men in a Boat navigating their way through the meanderings of a river, and life in general.

The Victorian odyssey created by writer Jerome K Jerome has been adapted as a successful film and was revived on television recently by three comedians.

Now, three local business-men are planning a similar kind of journey, only they'll be rowing 122 miles around the Broads, non-stop, over three days.

They plan to pass under a total of 345 bridges and raise more than £10,000 for good causes in the process.

In the classic comic novel, Jerome is joined by George, Harris and Montmorency the dog in a trip down the Thames, where, fortified by medicinal whisky, they have to contend with quarrelsome swans, falling in the river and getting lost in the Hampton Court maze.

The Norfolk version sees three Rotarians rowing a restored 1930s Cambridge training boat from Norwich to Beccles, Yarmouth, Potter Heigham and Wroxham.

It is the idea of Chris Jeckells, who wanted to use his time as president of Wroxham Bure Valley Rotary Club to do "something chall-enging and slightly foolish" to raise money for charity.

The managing director of Jeckells the Sailmakers, at Wroxham, has teamed up with club members Kelvin Dore, executive manager of the village's Hawkins Countryside estate agency, and Blofield builder Graham Varley.

Mr Jeckells said: "I wanted to do something that had not been done before and which would tax me.

"It could be quite tiring, and we are going to have to have our wits about us, but it is all very light-hearted."

"Jerome's story appealed

to us."

He believes the trip will still be fun even though it won't have the distractions of alcohol and women enjoyed by the Victorian originals.

Mr Jeckells expects the trickiest parts to be rowing across tidal Breydon Water, where he concedes that rough weather or wash from a passing cruiser could capsize them. "But we are prepared - and will just drag the boat to the bank, drain it and start again," he said.

He added that there was also a stretch along Walcott Cut that would have to be manoeuvred with paddles rather than oars as the channel was so narrow. And night-time stints would be done by moonlight

The idea was hatched during drinks after a Rotary meeting, and fellow club members joked it would never happen.

Nine weeks later, the crew have money pledges in the bank, sponsorship and detailed plans drawn up.

Mr Jeckells said: "We estimate we can average about 2-2½mph, which might not seem very fast but is realistic, given our limited experience and lack of fitness."

Half the proceeds will go to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital eye clinic as all three men's families have been treated there - including Chris, after being shot in the eye when he was 11 and needing a series of operations.

The other half will be split between the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, Quidenham Children's Hospice, the Nancy Oldfield Trust and other Rotary supported causes.

After the original Three Men in a Boat book, a 1956 film was made of the adventure starring David Tomlinson, Laurence Harvey and Jimmy Edwards. This year, a television re-creation of the story featured Griff Rhys-Jones, Rory McGrath and Dara O'Briain.

The Broads adventure begins at Pull's Ferry in Norwich at 12.30pm on Friday, August 18 and finishes at Wroxham at 11am on the Sunday, followed by a champagne reception by the Hotel Wroxham.

A safety support boat will be travelling with the rowers, who aim to collect cash from people along the route.

Anyone wanting to help the Three Men in a Boat charity challenge can contact Chris Jeckells on 01603 782223 or

e-mail chris@jeckells.co.uk


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