STAGING 'Three Dopes in a Boat' fundraise for Motor Neurone Disease Research - British Rowing

‘Three Dopes in a Boat’ fundraise for Motor Neurone Disease Research

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World Champion rower Anna Watkins has signed up to coach a three-man team of Oxford-based novices as they embark on an epic and fun-filled challenge to raise funds for motor neurone disease research.

Anna, 28, an Olympic medal-winner who took the world ‘double sculls’ title in New Zealand in 2010, will run a training session for the plucky team at Henley’s Leander Rowing Club on Monday 16 May. They will be available from 4pm for photographs.


The lads are attempting to row a 26ft Victorian skiff 100 miles upstream in six days along the Thames from Richmond to Oxford – a gruelling journey equivalent to crossing the Channel five times against the tide.

They have dubbed themselves Three Dopes In A Boat after Jerome K Jerome’s classic 1889 comic novel Three Men In A Boat, which saw three friends row from Kingston to Oxford.

But the real inspiration came when team leader Stuart Bates’ beloved brother Spencer, a father of two young sons, was diagnosed with crippling motor neurone disease in 2009.

Stuart said: “Watching him change from a fit, muscular, ‘life and soul of the party’ man in such a short space of time is almost unbearable. Trapped inside the body that is shutting down is the same amazing, intelligent, hilariously funny man – now unable to communicate properly with his family.

“The Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) provides amazing care for these people and is also funding vital research into the causes of, and hopefully soon a cure for, MND.”

The team have no rowing experience whatsoever. Stuart, a 41-year-old window cleaner from Cumnor, Oxford, once punted on the Thames, losing a tooth in the process. Gardener Julian Tolputt, 32, from Ramsbury, Wiltshire once rowed round the lake at Blenheim Palace. Third member Lawrie Hall, 22, a sports science graduate from Summertown, Oxford, may be fitter than his colleagues – but admits to being panicky that he has never rowed in his life.

World champ Anna said: “When I heard about Stuart’s plans, I thought that the boys had their work cut out! I am going to be helping the guys learn the basics of rowing and also advising them on how to last the distance.”

The Three Dopes’ extraordinary adventure begins at Ham House as close to noon as the tide allows on July 3, 2011, ending at Donnington Bridge, Oxford, on July 9 at around 2pm.

Full details at

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