The rowers from Portsmouth charting the health of Britain's coastline while racing 2,000 miles

  • ITV News Meridian's Richard Slee spoke to the rowers who are completing their final training

Three teams of rowers will set off this weekend to race 2,000 miles around Britain, while doing important research on the health of our coastal waters at the same time.

The rowers will be collecting water samples for the University of Portsmouth, which will provide "crucial scientific evidence" about the water quality.

The three boats will be crewed by five or six rowers, who are completing their final training for the GB Row 2022, a 2,000 mile race around the British coastline.

The teams' Skipper, Jessica Plail, said: "We've got to battle tide, winds and currents and rocky outcrops of headland, so we've spent a long time doing navigation courses and learning how to read the weather and practising our skills when out on our practice rows.

"We had to become competent crew on the sailing boats as well so you're able to apply your skills from different water sports for this row which is great and it will be an immense challenge because it's Great Britain."

Between the three boats, it is hoped that about 80% of the British coastline will be covered. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The crews will set off from the River Thames in London and row for two hours on, two hours off, clockwise around the coastline.

They will have just a small cramped cabin to get some rest, fitting their sleep, eating and resting within the two hour break.

But every day, the teams will also be collecting water samples, including micro plastics and environmental DNA, which will look at biodiversity.

Between the three boats, it is hoped that about 80% of the British coastline will be covered.

Reader in Biogeochemistry & Environmental Pollution at the University of Portsmouth, Dr Fay Couceiro, said: "Microplastics tend to get eaten or get trapped in the gills of fish and other marine species which can make them grow slower, make it harder to feed so they don't survive as long or die and that's a problem for our biodiversity and ecology in the sea.

"But it might also be a problem for us, we eat fish and there are species like oysters which tend to accumulate microplastics in them."

The project will continue for the next three years, with samples revealing if the sea is improving in quality or not.

But the rowers will also focus on their speed, as they have to get around within 40 days to break the record.