A COCKERMOUTH woman won masters gold in the first-ever British Rowing Virtual Championships.

Lakeland Rowing Club member Samantha Ayers was the fastest lightweight woman aged over 30 in the indoor rowing event last weekend, which took place in real time over the internet from competitors’ homes.

She covered 500 metres in a phenomenal 1 min 44.8 secs, beating Great Britain triathlete Roslyn McGinty by more than 9 secs, to take the 40-49 age group for women weighing under 61.5kg.

The time was also good enough to win the overall lightweight women’s masters’ title.

Samantha, 49, who lives in Eaglesfield and runs exercise company BodyFit Cumbria, learned to row with Derwentwater-based Lakeland RC just three years ago.

She said: “As with all other athletes, my purpose for training has been completely changed this year due to the onset of Covid-19.

“My rowing partner, Nick Cowan, and I were originally training for the National and World Masters Rowing Championships in June and September respectively, but this had to change to rowing indoors on a rowing machine.

“The British Rowing championships provided something to aim at. As a club, we met via Zoom to do power work and short interval sessions targeted at a 500m race. Many of us achieved personal bests during training, but I was still surprised to win the gold medal.”

Meanwhile, Samantha’s club mates Helen Tucker and Alex Morgan, from Cockermouth, and David Pratt, from Borrowdale, have set their sights on a far longer distance.

The trio are taking part in a Guinness World Records attempt, organised by US indoor rower Bryan Fuller, to achieve the longest ever continuous row of 10 million metres.

More than 100 indoor rowers from all over the world are taking part in a non-stop relay of half-hour sessions to support the work of global medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders during the pandemic.

After 10 days of rowing, they have just passed the 2.5 million metre mark.

To donate, go to: https://tinyurl.com/y8qdtdpe.

David, who also took part in the British Rowing championships, setting personal bests at 500m and 2km, said: “I’m loving the charity relay and finding out where people come from.

“I took over rowing from a young girl in Puerto Rico today.”

Lakeland members have also been successful in virtual regattas during lockdown. Samantha, David, Celia Whittam, Graeme Mactavish and Andy Richardson won their age categories at Tyne ARC Virtual Regatta, while David and Simon Bamforth notched up masters and seniors wins respectively in Durham Regatta @Home.

At Chester Virtual Regatta, Samantha, David, Graeme and Simon took top spots in singles, doubles and quad categories with Dave Lock, James Waterfield, Gordon Jack, Zoe Brain, Celia Whittam and Julia McCumiskey, while David, Graeme and Nick Cowan also enjoyed wins at Tees RC Virtual Regatta.

For more details about the club go to www.lakelandrowingclub.com or find it on Facebook.