The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019

On December 12th 2019, we will test our endurance, spirit and friendship, as we pit ourselves against the Atlantic Ocean. Covering 3000 miles from La Gomera to Antigua, this is the world’s toughest rowing race. Crews will test the limit of their physical and mental strength; to achieve something unthinkable, rowing unaided across the Atlantic ocean. The race begins in early December, where teams will launch to spend up to 40 nights at the mercy of the sea. So difficult is the task, that more people have been into space or climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic. Ocean rowing is, as John Fairfax described, ‘a battle with nature, primitiv and raw’.

“More people have climbed Everest or been to Space

than have rowed the Atlantic”

The Boat

Our Ocean Rowing Vessel

Meet the aptly names “Usain Boat” – thanks to the legends that won the boat naming prize at our charity auction! She is a Rannoch R45, a 23ft specialized ocean rowing boat. Believe it or not, she actually holds the Atlantic Ocean rowing world record set in 2017 by The Four Oarsmen who crossed in 29 days. No pressure then. She has two watertight sleeping cabins fore and aft (front and back for those less nautical,  like us)and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize. Being so small, she is designed for speed, not comfort and is packed with high tech electronics such as solar panels, navigation and satellite communication equipment and has just enough room for us to take everything we will need for the entire crossing on board.

Shift Patterns

2hrs on, 2hrs off...

We are aiming to row in pairs, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, around the clock for the duration of the crossing. Whilst this is undoubtedly going to be a real struggle, the theory is that 2 hours is just long enough to get a decent 90 minute sleep cycle (although in practice this is likely to be much less) whilst short enough to maintain a good rowing pace. We also plan to stagger the shift changes so that there is some variation between rowing partners. We plan to only stop for one hour per week to perform some boat maintenance such as diving into the deep blue and cleaning her underside

Seasickness

Will we get sea sick?

We get asked a lot if we get seasick. The two of us that have been on a boat before know that we do, as for the other two, well that remains to be seen. We have been told that most people do suffer from some form of sea sickness, however it doesn’t always surface as nausea, but sometimes is revealed as sleepiness or a bad temper. I’m pretty some of the crew were “sea sick” ahead of the  ergo session last week! Despite this, sea sickness usually passes within 3 to 4 days. If it doesn’t, then we will be in trouble.

The Route

From San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda, the race covers 3,000 Miles (4,800 kms) across the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the Mid-Atlantic Route, the teams will aim to take advantage of the trade winds – a persistent wind blowing from East to West across the Atlantic, on the northern side of the Equator.

Food

Nutrition for the entire crossing

In preparation for the crossing, we have an extensive food calorie plan which outlines the amount of calories required per day for each crew member. This ranges from 6,000 to 8,000 calories required per day which we will mostly get from freeze dried meal packs that we will be taking on board. Along side these, we will have daily snack packs of high calories foods such as Nuts, Pork Scratching, Protein Bars, Protein Shakes, Chocolate & Haribo. Although we are hoping to cross in around 40 days, we are taking enough food to last us 60 days. We will also be taking a quantity of “wet-rations” – food which doesn’t require re-hydration – in case our water-making equipment fails.

Water

What do we drink?

We have an electronic water-maker installed on our boat which is capable of converting enough saltwater into drinking water to meet our needs each day. If this breaks, we have a back up water maker that is manually operated with a hand pump. After two hour of rowing, I can assure you that we want to avoid having to pump for 30 mins to get a few sips of fresh water! The 50 Liters of ballast on the boat can also be used as emergency drinking water, however if we break the seals on these, we will be disqualified from the race

2 Hours on, 2 Hours off. 24/7

The aim is to keep the boat moving. Only stopping for 1 hour a week to clean the boat, the team will row in 2 hour shifts, followed by a 2 hour eating and sleeping break, continuously around the clock.

40 DAYS

The record for rowing the Atlantic is just over 29 days, set two years ago in our actual boat. Aware this means we cant use our equipment as an excuse, we are hoping to finish within 40 days but this is largely weather dependent.

The Bucket

The 4 man team will be self sufficient relying on a watermaker to provide water for drinking, washing and re-hydrating their food. A bucket be used as the on-board toilet!

50ft Swells

Mental and physical endurance will be at breaking point as they battle sleep deprivation, hurricane strength winds and 50ft swells. The experience will result in an achievement that will never be forgotten.

6,000 Calories

Each team member will need to eat over 6,000 calories a day to maintain the energy levels required to row 12 hours a day. Food consists of hi-calorific dehydrated meals designed for purpose, not taste.

2017/18 Race Promo

The First Week

A culture shock from life at sea

We are expecting the first week to be the toughest, with the sudden culture shock of life at sea combined with sleep deprivation caused by our shift patterns and undoubtedly some levels of sea sickness. It is highly likely that we will want to get off the boat during this time – but hopefully we will be able to talk each other down from inflating the life raft and making an escape. We will experience a bizarre combination of claustrophobia – due to our small boat and even smaller cabins – and agoraphobia resulting from the vast seas that will surround us. This first 24 hours have been described as a dizzying blur of sensory overload, which most rowers can’t even remember later on.

Temperature

Uncomfortably hot

The route takes us just north of the equator where temperatures can near 40 degrees Celsius at times. With the added reflection of the sun off the sea, we will be taking a family pack of Factor 50+ sun cream, and long sleeved UV clothing to protect us from getting burnt in this harsh environment. Smaller waves will make us constantly vulnerable to “lap dumps” – about a bucket of water straight in the lap – whereas the larger waves will soak us completely. This means we will have to keep our cabin doors closed at all times to reduce any risk of water ingress, leaving our tiny sleeping quarters to become a floating fiberglass sauna.