With Ed and Jon based in Sydney it was up to Ewan and I to do the educational trip to La Gomera to meet the 2018 TWAC teams and get an idea of what to expect next year.
After flying in from different locations, Ewan from Singapore, myself from Birmingham we met in Tenerife Friday where we stayed for the night with the plan to get the ferry to La Gomera in the morning. Saturday promptly started with us running down Los Cristianos pier to catch a ferry to La Gomera, thankfully we were not too late.
After watching several of the previous year’s documentaries, pulling into La Gomera was inspiring and strangely familiar. We soon met Nikki, the TWAC campaign manager, who gave us our passes, an introduction to the area and most importantly directions to the Blue Marlin bar. The pre-rowers briefing delivered by Ian Crouch gave us a great insight into what to expect and how to list our priorities. Funnily enough, top of the list was attending the Ocean Rowing Course, run by Ian, and thankfully physical fitness was down at number 5. As you would expect, knowing the boat and equipment and collecting the mandatory training certificates was also up there. One thing that stood out was making sure we had clear objective agreed with the team: entering the race solely to complete it or do we want to win it?! Something we will need to decide on before we set off, rather than deciding out there when our thinking is impaired and our patience short. It is interesting topic which we will discuss further when we make our decision when we are all together in April for our training row.
At the briefing we got a chance to meet some of the other 2019 teams and it is clear 2019 has some impressive participants; The Dobrabos, doing a number of mad challenges in 2019; The Buck Buoys, old buggers who just happened to see the race finish last year and got inspired and The Oarsome Foursome who include a mother, daughter and hearing-impaired rower, just to list a few. Even in our brief meeting you can feel a sense of camaraderie starting as we discuss the difficulties in working fundraising and training around work and family commitments.
We spent lunch in the square watching one of Mourinho’s last games in charge of United and suddenly the sun had set and the Blue Marlin was starting to become a bit livelier, and like moths to a light we were drawn in. This is where we met a few rowers from the 2015 TWAC, Neil Blackeby and Matteo Peruchinni who won the solo class that year. In addition to this we met the multiple ocean rowing world record holder, Leven Brown, who was out doing weather routing for some of the teams. We were warned by Nikki to be careful speaking to previous rowers as their views can often be looked back on with rose tinted glasses. Thankfully after spending the night with them and waking up on the floor of our apartment at 5am the only thing we remembered was their penchant for sipping Sambuca.
After an athlete’s breakfast (pizza) we went to meet the teams out on the pontoon. Here we got to get up close to the sort of boats we would be spending over a month in next year, something we have not yet been able to do. Luckily, we had a friendly face on the pontoon, Mark Agnew, who was rowing in the pairs team, Atlantic Albatross. Mark is the main reason behind our entry to the race having given the idea to Ewan who was once a reserve to his team. Mark was kind enough to let us on board to give us an idea of the available space or lack of available space. One thing is for sure, we are going to need to be tidy little rowers if we are not to go mad.
Although they were all busy and I imagined incredibly stressed they all managed to take the time to speak to us. ‘Big Jon’ who was part of the Antiguan team last year there helping out the Antiguan Girls was particularly useful to speak with as we discussed the power issues they encountered during their race and convinced us not to compromise our power source in any way.
Our trip ended much the same way as it started, Ewan and I running down the pier to catch the ferry, unfortunately this time the gate was going up and we had missed it, maybe we didn’t have time for that coffee!