‘There was a moment’s lull and then the steerer shouted ‘carry on’’ - North Norfolk rowers paddle to the finish despite broken oar in international competition

From left: "Steve", a Scottish competitor borrowed as an oarsman by the Blakeney team, Robin Forrest

From left: "Steve", a Scottish competitor borrowed as an oarsman by the Blakeney team, Robin Forrest, Clive Lickley, Ian Duffill and coxswain Barry Howes. Picture: ANDY MARCZEWSKI - Credit: Archant

Lesser mortals would have abandoned ship – but not the undaunted men of the Coastal Rowing Association Blakeney (Crab).

They looked disaster in the face, and fought on.

Like their Rio rowing counterparts, the north Norfolk crew has been racing against international teams.

But while the victorious Olympic squad has seen nothing but success, amassing a clutch of gold and silver medals, Crab members faced calamity when an oar broke just as a race began.

The veteran team were on Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland, taking part in the St Ayles Skiff World Rowing Championships which attracted competitors from the USA, Canada, Holland, England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.

Tension mounted as the four oarsmen and their coxswain/steerer prepared for the start of a 2,000m race.

'We were lined up, hanging on to a buoy, and at the signal we let go and started rowing like mad,' said Crab member Ian Duffill, 71, from Thurning, near Melton Constable.

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'You need to put in a lot of effort at the start but, after three strokes, one of the oars broke – we found out later there was a slight fault in the wood. Poor Clive [Clive Lickley whose oar broke] was left feeling a bit of a lemon.

'There was a moment's lull and then the steerer shouted 'carry on'.

'By this time we were about 20 yards behind the others but the other three of us immediately paddled our hardest to try and get round the course,' Mr Duffill added.

As they had crossed the finish line – in last place but only 90 seconds behind the next boat – the crew of an accompanying safety boat had let out an appreciative cheer.

The Crab team finished the whole contest in a respectable half-way position among the field of about 40 boats.

Mr Duffill added: 'It was great fun – not quite like the Olympics, more of a mixture of competitiveness and lightheartedness.

Have you got a story of success against the odds? contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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