Back in September, a friend came out to stay with us in Oman and over a pizza I interrogated her about some recent photos I’d seen on her Facebook page……. Something about her rowing the Atlantic?! Yes, it turns out that Sarah (along with 3 others) had signed up to row in the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge; labelled as the World’s Toughest Rowing Race. Starting in La Gomera in the Canaries, the crews row 3,000 nautical miles to reach English Harbour in Antigua. The crossing time varies from around 40 days to 90 days, depending on (amongst other things) the weather. They were entering an all-girls crew; team Atlantic Endeavour, with the aim of trying to break 2 world records and raise money for the mental health charity Mind in the process. Obviously I told Sarah that I was very jealous; what an awesome adventure!
Fast-forward a month or so, and I get an email from Sarah, asking if I would be interested in joining the crew; there was now a space in their team that needed filling. So I jumped at the chance….. who wouldn’t?! The first thing I did was Google “Has anyone died rowing the Atlantic”. Watching videos of previous years’ entrants battling waves and capsizes did not do anything to calm my fears. Over the next month I had a ‘trial’ period with the rest of the Atlantic Endeavour crew; being able to work as a team and getting on with each other were going to be very important further down the line when we’re stuck on a very small ocean rowing boat together, thousands of miles away from land. Regular crew meetings (thank goodness for Skype!) and admin sessions (and a lot of whatsapp banter) became the norm; before we knew it December had rolled around and we were organising where and when we were going to have our photoshoot.
I learnt to row at the age of 14, and for the best part of eleven years I rowed competitively; for my town club as a junior, then Southampton University as an undergraduate and postgraduate. Rowing on the sea however….. that is something that I have absolutely no experience of whatsoever! All I could think of was sitting out stormy weather in the north western Atlantic, 80 nautical miles off Bermuda, on board the research ship Atlantic Explorer. Then thinking that I didn’t think I’d like to be in a little boat in that weather……. Too late! Two of the other team members have never rowed before so they have their work cut out learning how to scull over the next few months. Fortunately, we’ve been able to team up with Fulham Reach Boat Club, a new club that has just opened up on the Thames, with plenty of opportunity for water outings (and crew ergs) in the future. It’s been a long time since I sat on an ergo (aka rowing machine) for training with any kind of regularity. I WILL learn to enjoy ergo time again!
Whilst I was back in the UK over Christmas we all met up in Christchurch for a photoshoot with the wonderful Alex and David from Sportography TV. This was the first chance we’d had for us all to be in the same place together and for me to meet Kate and Becky in person. We spent a very cold, but lovely and sunny morning posing with cheesy grins for the cameras, with some fantastic photos as the result. A good pub lunch to warm up afterwards was in order!
Now that it’s 2015 (terrifyingly – where on earth did 2014 go?), business is back to normal – sending out sponsorship packages and information to try and pin down the money we will need in order to be able to undertake this mammoth adventure. Just getting to the start line itself is all part of the challenge! If you are interested in helping us on our journey, please do get in contact!