Frequently Asked Questions – AHOY Channel Row Challenge

What is the Channel Row Challenge?

It is a unique yet unforgettable opportunity that very few have accomplished  - to take on the challenge to row on the English Channel - crossing the busiest shipping lane in the world into international waters in a Thames Waterman Cutter rowing boat.

It is also the AHOY Centre’s ultimate rowing challenge - competing for the fastest time and raising the most sponsorship money.

Each team entering must commit to raise a minimum of £12,000 sponsorship for The AHOY Centre charity

How many people are in each team?

The boats require six rowers and a cox. (the cox/coxswain steers the boat and keeps the team of rowers together). You can take also have one passenger/alternative rower. So each team consists of a minimum of six people and a maximum of 8. In the past organisations have put together company crews, friends have come together as a team, or crews have been made up of near-strangers (who have ended up as great friends by the end of the challenge!).

What sort of boat is a Waterman's Cutter?

It is a 34-foot fixed seat rowing boat and the design is based on the traditional boats which were used on the Thames in the 17th century to ferry passengers. It is the biggest fleet of ‘one design’ rowing boats on the Thames. There are six people on the oars at any time, one cox (steering the boat) and it can carry a spare rower.

How fit do I have to be ?

The AHOY Centre offers a training programme that will give you the rowing skills you need as well as improve your fitness. The training consists of 5 sessions rowing on the River Thames and a long row two weeks before your challenge. The training can be taken as two weekend crammer sessions if getting your team together proves difficult. Otherwise basic fitness and determination is all you need!

What about people with disabilities ?

If you have upper body movement you will be able to take part. The AHOY has adaptive seats and equipment that will allow most people with disabilities to participate in rowing.

What equipment do we need?

All the specialist equipment you need is provided by AHOY. You will need 2 pairs of trainers (one pair will get wet), track suit, shorts, T shirt. and water bottle. Optional: gloves, wash kit & towel. For your own personal comfort you may decide you require padding for the seat  - this you can decide after your first training session.

When does it take place?

We have a series of dates booked each year between May and September and these are arranged through the Pilotage Company and are chosen to ensure the best chance of good weather and a crossing. Your team will be asked to keep a 'weather-window' free with three consecutive days to allow you the chance of the best day for the row. Row dates for 2015 are here

What if the weather is bad?

If the weather prevents your row an alternative ‘slot’ is allocated. When you sign up you will be told which days to keep free.

Can we use the Challenge to get publicity for our organisation?

There are opportunities for PR coverage for teams/companies being involved in the Challenge, and The AHOY Centre will be glad to assist with this.

Can we challenge other people?

Absolutely! There is nothing better than to have a "challenge within a challenge" to give it the extra edge! We expect many teams will want to throw down the gauntlet to departments/work colleagues within their Company or challenge a ‘rival’ or a customer/client.

Who takes care of the practical arrangements?

The AHOY will provide boats and equipment during the training so all you need to do is come to the Centre for your induction and training sessions. On the day of the row, The AHOY Centre will organise everything from moving the boats to the starting point, getting permission from the British authorities and providing qualified pilots for the row.

Where is the AHOY Centre?

The AHOY is based on the River Thames at Deptford (SE8 3JY). Deptford station is one stop from London Bridge (+ 8 minute walk) - Cutty Sark DLR (+ 11 minute walk) - River Bus to Greenwich Pier (+ 12 minute walk). Or the potential to come by Meridian Duck (amphibian craft) direct from the centre of London to AHOY.

What next?

The next step is for you to confirm that your team/you wish to take part with the person who gave you the leaflet or make direct contact with AHOY (email:  Then we'll arrange your Induction date.

What happens at the induction?

You'll be taken through the various aspects of the challenge - including:

  • introduction to rowing techniques
  • setting the training schedule 
  • booking in the training dates
  • setting the date for the Challenge
  • fundraising ideas and plans
  • signing the pledge
  • other information needed for the Challenge

The first training session and fitness assessment inductions take place on Wednesdays evenings from 18:30 to 20:00 pm.

Water training sessions take place on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (6pm–8pm) and Sundays with three sessions: 9.30am to 11.00am, 11:30am to 13:00pm and 14:00pm to 16:00pm.

What does the training programme comprise?

There are two training programmes to choose from:

1) 2 x single sessions (2 hours each) + 4 double sessions (4 hours each) – so you need to find six dates when the team can get together

2) The ‘crammer’ with 4 sessions over one weekend or 2 individual days from 09:30am to 16:30pm followed by a long row on a different morning/afternoon (duration 3 hours).

Are there any age restrictions?

The minimum age is 18 to row on the Channel and there is no upper age limit! All rowers are individually assessed for fitness at Induction and throughout the training by our experienced and qualified rowing instructors.

What's the difference between a Cox and a Team Captain?

The cox‘s role is to ensure the boat travels the shortest distance and that the rowers are both in time and pulling efficiently and, of course, they inspire and motivate the team to finish the race. The role of Team Captain is to be the main point of contact between your Crew and AHOY's Events Team. The Cox can of course also be the Team Captain.

Can we swap rowers with the Cox?

Yes - training is given for up to 2 people to become a cox if required. Ideally, as the first priority of being a Cox is to steer a course for the shortest distance possible, then the minimum amount of changes should be made. You will need to ensure that you have practiced ‘smooth’ changeovers before the row.

How long will the row take us?

Depending on your team’s power ’output’ you can expect to take around 5-6 hours. 


You no doubt have lots of ideas for fund raising and The AHOY Centre has a list of various fundraising events and ideas that have worked well for other teams. AHOY will assist in setting up a donation page on MyDonate, Virgin Money or JustGiving. All ideas are welcome and we will try and help you with advice and assistance where needed.

Level of sponsorship?

We ask that the £12,000 minimum be raised two weeks before your Channel Row Challenge date. As some of your sponsors will donate after the event the total amount will include any pledges that you have. 

What happens to the money we raise?

The AHOY Centre relies on money raised by great people like you to change the lives of disadvantaged young people or people with disabilities through the medium of sailing & rowing. All the money raised goes directly into running programmes and courses and keeping the charity going and has a direct impact on the lives of people who benefit from The AHOY Centre’s work.

For example:

  • For us to train one young disabled person for an RYA (Royal Yachting Association) qualification is £1000

  • A sailability (the RYA term for getting disabled people on the water) Taster Day is £80 per person

  • Waterproof jackets for disabled people cost £140 each

  • A set of sails cost £1,100, all our sails now need replacing and boat covers cost £350 which also need replacing

  • To train a disadvantaged or at-risk youth to become an RYA Assistant Instructor is £2,400

  • To run our Shipmates Programme - aimed at local young people aged 8-18 which dvelops life skills such as planning, team work and leadership through sailing and rowing costs £95,000 per year

We encourage all Rowing Challengers to meet the people who will benefit from your rowing and fundraising efforts when you are training and visiting The AHOY Centre.

What happens if we don't meet the fundraising target?

Unfortunately the row cannot take place until all the funding is raised or pledges in place. In some circumstances we can reschedule the row for a later date allowing further time to raise the funds. However with a good fundraising plan in place this will not become a problem.

How do we get to and from Dover?

Teams/individuals make their own arrangements to get to and from Dover. At Dover The AHOY team will meet you at the designated meeting area to run you through the registration and other points.

Do we have to bring refreshments for the challenge?

The AHOY provides all the basic refreshments for the row including energy drinks, water, snacks etc. However please bring whatever you feel you need.

Will I get seasick?

During the row it is very unlikely you will feel sick, however, it is recommended that you take travel sickness medication beforehand if you think you might be susceptible.

What happens if I get ‘caught short’?!

Most rowers take a ‘spare’ bottle/container with them just in case.

What happens after the Channel Row?

You will race back across the Finishing Line situated 50 yards from Dover Beach and the Pilot Boat will then tow you back into Dover Marina where the AHOY team and your supporters will be awaiting your return! There is then a short reception with a hot meal at The Dover Marina Hotel for rowers and support personnel. We will ask you to confirm numbers of supporters so we can ensure all key people are catered for.

Can our supporters travel with the Pilot Boat? 

Unfortunately not as the Pilot Boat must have capacity for the rowers and any support personnel. However, you can privately hire a boat through companies in Dover ie Dover Marine Services.

Can we have a passenger in the rowing boat?

You can carry a passenger; however, any extra weight will affect your team’s speed and finish time.

What happens after it’s all over?!

We like to maintain strong links with all our rowers. We host a Rowing Party Reunion in October to present individual and team awards which is a great get together. We would also like to keep you up to date with the charity’s news and other events.

Can I become further involved with the charity?

Yes please! We have many areas within the AHOY where we need help with fundraising, marketing, assisting with activities through to rowing and sailing instructors. Please let us know if you are interested so we can discuss in more detail.

Who should I contact if I have any other questions?

Please contact our Fundraising & Challenges team by telephone: 020 8691 7502 x 105 or email: