PRAISE has been heaped on a crew from Teign Scullers after they secured an unlikely fourth place at the British Rowing Offshore Championships.

The quartet of Sarah Free, Lucy Bufton, Alison Upton and Rachel Palmer – along with coach and cox Mark Eastman – lost two sculls during a race and still came close to a podium finish.

‘This was our first ever beach start, with lots to learn – especially with a boat with a fixed rudder so we had to wade quite far out,’ explained Eastman.

‘On the gun, we all got in and were away quite well but were impeded by the Welsh boat next door, so were in about fifth position after 50 metres.

‘During the first leg I was immensely impressed by the crew, whose sheer power, race rating and rhythm allowed them to overhaul four crews with ease, including our friends from Exmouth.’

From the first mark to the second the crew maintained their position of less than two lengths behind the leaders and drew well away from the rest.

Crew member Rachel Palmer continued: ‘The wind was around 25mph and the water was the roughest we’d ever rowed in. It was pretty exhilarating and we were loving it!’

That was when disaster struck.

‘Unfortunately, we “caught a crab” in the difficult side swell and a scull was driven under the boat and snapped,’ Eastman added.

‘The crew were not deterred, and we continued with seven blades but inevitably lost some ground with Exmouth overtaking.

‘We were then pinned between two crews at a mark with nowhere to go and, as a result, caught another crab and… yes, broke another scull. Did they give up? No way!’

Despite being T-boned twice by another crew, the Teign ladies fought valiantly on with only six sculls and finished in a remarkable fourth place.

‘We did put in a protest but they didn’t consider it possible to promote our placing,’ said Mark. ‘Given the circumstances, to come in only 25 seconds behind third place and two minutes behind the winners was an amazing result. Fortunately, it was Exmouth who won – so at least it was local.’

The group expect to be in action again at the World Championships, again in Saundersfoot, and possibly the Europeans in San Sebastian – both in October.