Row, row, row your boat

Some run marathons to raise funds, others climb mountains. This Wednesday, however, 32 people with firm biceps will spend 24 hours rowing around Singapore in the first such charity event of its kind.

Mission Row Around Singapore Island 2015 is a 140km challenge that aims to raise $750,000 for international charity organisation The Mission to Seafarers. The group provides practical and emotional support for sailors who spend months at sea.

Together with two friends, 42-year-old maritime lawyer Iain Anderson came up with the idea in late 2013. It gained overwhelming support from the maritime community.

"We realised very quickly that there are a lot of people who are very keen to raise money for the Mission," said Mr Anderson, a British national who moved here five years ago.

Of the rowers participating, two are Singaporean - Mr Frederick James Francis, 54, a senior lecturer at Singapore Maritime Academy, and Mr Lee Wai Pong, 59, executive director of Singapore Chamber Maritime Arbitration. Other rowers are Australian, Indonesian, Indian, French, American and Canadian.

There will be six rowers and a coxswain in two Cornish pilot gigs. They have been training around six times a week for the past seven months, and could face unpredictable currents and weather patterns. However, they are not short of confidence.

"The passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew spurred us," said Mr Francis. "Our physical difficulty is nothing compared to the sacrifices he made."

Each rower will have six two-hour paddling shifts. Those not paddling will rest in a flotilla accompanying the two boats.

The event will coincide with Singapore Maritime Week and will also commemorate SG50.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who endorses the charity, said: "Singapore welcomes every day some 12,000 seafarers from all over the world. The Mission to Seafarers performs an important function in championing seafarer welfare."

Mr Andrew Wright, the Mission's director-general, said the money raised will make a "massive difference".

This article was first published on April 20, 2015.
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