The end is near! Nearly less than 300 miles to go and the race continues! 🚣🏼♂️
After a strong battle with Atlantic Discovery we managed to break away from them during a low pressure system. With no wind assistance and just our Yorkshire grit to rely on we rowed relentlessly day and night. Now, 38.2 NM separates us and our sights are firmly set on Mad4Waves who are 23.5 NM ahead. They are already putting on a huge push to the finish with less than 300 miles to go so the relentless race to the finish continues. The race order isn’t certain and anything could change.
One thing is certain, that beer at the end is going to taste bloody good!
With roughly 4 days to go until we reach Antigua things are starting to get quite Spartan onboard Victory. We are having to ration out the ‘good’ rations that we all like. We’re allowed 2 good meals a day and the rest of our meals have to be from the remaining mixture of unwanted leftovers from previous meal pace. We’re also having to ration out the last of our baby wipes (5 wipes per man per day). We’re also now down to our last 7 packs of Built On Beef Biltong so that’s being carefully rationed out too such a precious commodity 🤤.
We’ve cleaned our hull for the last time now. We managed to get in, get it cleaned and back onboard rowing within 16 mins. It was like something from a formula 1 pit stop. With the theory of marginal gains ever present in our minds it’s these things, as well as quick and efficient shift change overs that help and allow us to make consistent and strong daily progress towards the Caribbean.
We have seen a couple of HUGE ships in the last 5 days. One was a cargo ship measuring over 200m long and was over 3 miles away. We radioed her on our VHF and had a quick chat which was nice to have outside contact. Like 4 big kids we tentatively asked if the captain would toot his horn. With a slightly confused reply he said yes and sounded the deep billowing horn which was truly awesome! So much fun! The other ship we saw wasn’t such a welcome experience. It was at night and on the horizon we saw it’s bow light ...With no sign of it on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) we tried to contact her via our VHF. She didn’t respond and yet came ever closer. She must have been over 300m long and was coming to pass within 50m. We frantically kept trying to raise her on the VHF and were one step away from reaching for emergency flares A collision with a ship this size, at night would be catastrophic. She wouldn’t even know that she’d hit us To our relief she eventually responded via VHF, the guy on watch sounded Russian, said very little and slowly the big floating building of a ship ebbed eerily away.
The sun surprises us every day. We think it can’t get any hotter but every day the sun likes to prove us wrong. It goes from nice warm temperature, the sun rises, 10 mins later it’s blistering heat pounds the boat, the sun changes angle through the day, intensifies some more then 12 hours after rising it sets. The whole time beating down on us and making every stroke on the oars a real effort. Resting in the cabins is nothing short of being sat in an uncomfortable, rocking sauna. We row longing for nightfall and peace and tranquillity that it brings.
We’ve had so many awesome messages of support coming through encouraging us and helping to keep morale high. We thoroughly appreciate every message and well wish. Thank you. We’re giving it 100% effort and will continue to do so until the finish siren sounds in English Harbour. We are determined to do our charities and Yorkshire proud!
If you can then please donate to our chosen charities; The Royal British Legion and Soldier On. Every donation makes a big difference. You can donate through our website or by texting 70070 with the code ROWV59 followed by the amount. Many thanks in advance for all of your support for our amazing charities.
Royal British Legion "Soldier On!"
Day 25 to Day 30 aboard Victory
THE RACE IS ON!
During our last 5 day update we mentioned about catching up with Atlantic Discovery. Well, ever since then we’ve been racing them day and night. We over took them, they over took us and now we’ve over taken them again! All the while we’re closing in on South African team MAD 4 Waves. 40nm is all that separates all three of us and all battling for 4th place.
With the front 3 teams way out in front, managing to break away when the rest of the fleet were caught in the low pressure systems earlier on in the crossing, our race is now for 4th place.
With under 700nm left to go the race is still very much alive and the finish order far from decided for 4th - 6th place.
Aboard Victory our routine has stepped up another notch. We’re now rowing 3 up (3 rowers rowing, 1 rower resting) for as long as possible each day/night. We then switch into 2 hours on, 2 hours off to recharge before going again. It is relentless!
With the whole of Yorkshire watching and the support of all of our families, friends and sponsors we are giving every day, shift, stroke on the oars 100% effort.
A phrase we have coined as a team is ‘Atlantic Maths’. We’re always all so fatigued, often sweltering in the midday sun and hungry too. This leads to the simplest of tasks being surprisingly complicated. Take the simple task of working out a new shift rotation and who is on when, who is resting when or how far we have rowed in the last shift, day or week .... out here it’s like being in an 'A' Level maths test.
With all of us now locked out of our Spotify accounts we’re down to our iTunes music and our audiobooks Audio books have actually been really popular amongst the team. Will has now finished ALL of the Harry Potter books Duncan has listened to Mike Tyson’s, Guy Martin’s and Jason Fox’s audio books/ autobiographies. Glyn has listened to a series of books about Alexander the Great. Fraser has been working his way through 86hours worth of Sherlock Holmes.
Letters from home have been a real morale boost at this stage in the Expedition. It’s been over a month at sea now so opening carefully written letters from loved ones has been amazing.
We had the pleasure of seeing support yacht SY SKYE this week. She was making her way through the fleet checking up on the crews and making sure everything’s running according to race rules.
With only an estimated 10 days left aboard Victory before we arrive in Antigua it is now more than ever we ask you for your help by supporting our two chosen charities; The Royal British Legion and "Soldier On!". If you can then please donate. Every donation makes a big difference. You can donate through our website or by texting 70070 with the code ROWV59 followed by the amount. Many thanks in advance for all of your support for our amazing charities.
Please donate here. https://www.row4victory.com/donate.html
Day 20 - Day 25 aboard Victory.
The last 5 days have been AWESOME. We’ve seen in Will’s 36th birthday and are now just over 1,000 miles left to go!
We’ve managed to make great progress since Fraser has been back on the oars despite rowing through a big low pressure system. Consistently hitting over 70NM in the last few days.
We made up 24 miles on Atlantic Discovery to then cross paths within 0.2NM! The Atlantic Ocean is thousands of miles wide and the fleet is spread over 900 miles so this really was a unique encounter. It was awesome to see their boat Ellida only a few hundred metres away. We called them on their sat phone and wished one another a Happy New Year and good luck for the remainder of the crossing to Antigua. Top lads!
Ellida isn’t the only boat we have seen this week though. We also had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful Yacht called Alejandra. She was also travelling to the Caribbean but at a steady pace of 11.6 knots (which happens to be faster than our top speed so far while surfing a huge wave). They saw us on the AIS (chart plotter) and came over to see what we were. It’s not often you see rowing boats over 1,000 miles from land so they were inquisitive. They came up along side us and all of the crew came out on deck. It was amazing to see new people for the first time in over 3 weeks.
They didn’t speak much English but we all waved enthusiastically at each other and wished each other well. They very kindly offered to give us a big bag of supplies and alcohol, but tempting as it was we had to politely decline their very generous offer. We are on an unsupported crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and had we accepted anything from them our crossing would then be classed as a supported crossing. It’s ok, we didn’t want that fresh watermelon , sweets , and beers anyway.
Wildlife report: We saw another whale but the conditions were too rough to get in this time so we observed from deck which was still really awesome. We saw a school of Dorado which were beautiful, so bright and exotic! Hedwig is still here and visits us daily.
Will’s Birthday was a great day! Not very often you get to spend a Birthday in the middle of the Atlantic, certainly one to remember. Glyn, Fraser and Duncan all thought the other had sorted Will’s birthday card so in the lead up to his birthday we fashioned a card out of a ration pack. It sounds pretty desperate but it worked really well and Will enjoyed the sentiment. We didn’t forget the booze though as Row4Victory barman Fraser cracked out a small bottle of whisky for us to toast the birthday boy.
Injury report: Will spilt some boiling hot water on his leg while making his dehydrated rations. He’s ok, healing well and hasn’t missed any rowing. Glyn smashed his head on the bow cabin wall right onto a bolt causing quite a lot of bleeding. He patched himself up and cracked on and is absolutely fine now. All of us are fighting through sores, blisters and hotspots on our hands, feet and bums but all managing well and rowing hard around the clock.
We are rowing in support of The Royal British Legion and Soldier On if you can, then please donate. Every donation makes a huge difference. You can donate through our website or by texting 70070 with the code ROWV59 followed by the amount. Many thanks in advance for all of your support for our amazing charities.”
New year sees us as far from the end as we are from the start, truly the point of no return is upon us.
On the surface nothing looks any different, we haven’t seen land since day two just never-ending seas in their various states as far as the eye can see or massive black night skies peppered with a billion crystal clear stars. It’s still mostly stiflingly hot, scorching sunshine by day and somewhat cooler at night whilst staying humid and uncomfortable in the small, sweaty (and increasingly smelly) cabins. The routine is well established and has the odd effect at making time pass really slowly in the short term but fly past in the longer term. Each cycle of four hours feels like a day, you wake, you eat, you row, you wash, you eat and you sleep. A full days’ worth of activity that you happen to carry out six times in 24 hours. It makes a day feel really long but we find ourselves wondering where the weeks have gone and the milestones seem to come round quickly, quarter of the way, a third, Christmas and now a half.
Beneath the surface though the difference is immeasurable. We are no longer beginning this challenge but finishing. We dare to start counting down the days and miles rather than up. We are no longer getting further away from our loved ones but closer. When you think you’ve given your all you can find reserves in new depths to think your now going home and back to family and friends.
The first half has brought us an entire range of emotions and experiences. Rowing away from the start line was the most exhilarating moments of our lives yet the was also an odd, uneasy feeling along with it. The first 3 or 4 days are a blur now, it’s weird but none of us can recall much about them now. In the military we call this time the shock of capture, this is when we are trained to try and make for an escape as this tends to be the most successful chance to get away you’ll have. There is no escape on an 8-meter ocean rowing boat, there are no options, you simply must just row. As if to compound these feelings we were suffering from some vicious sea sickness, cold sweats and forceful vomiting which is draining at the best of times never mind when your rowing 12 hours a day. Sipping on liquid meals and water we got through it and one by one we came good, slowly starting to crave real food to eat. Well within the week we were cooking meals and eating on deck in all but the very worst conditions without a twinge of nausea, a feat that seemed impossible just a few short days before. You can feel the food and it calories go to work, you recover faster and can work harder on the oars. You start to notice your body more, as you get tired at night and start to slow down you eat a snack bar and within minutes the carbohydrates have you back at the coal face, grafting away. You start to learn to time these peaks on troughs of energy to coincide with your break to help assure a quick decent in to your short sleep, every second starts to count.
We have had days at time of rolling swells the size of houses coupled with winds to our stern helping push us along at speed, rowing hard to catch breaking waves that boost the boat to double and triple its speed briefly in a noisy rush. Then by contrast we’ve had days of total and complete calm. Not a flutter from the flags on ensigns, not a ripple in the sea, just a mirror flat lake of mercury. Now your rowing every single meter with no help from Mother Nature or Neptune and it’s like rowing in custard. It does come with a silver lining though! If anything breaks that perfect surface you spot it immediately. It’s during these conditions we saw a pod of dolphins 30 or 40 strong heading in the opposite direction to us, we saw a small family of whales cross to our stern and saw fish deep in the crystal clear waters of all sizes, shapes and colours.
The calm also provides the opportunity to get in the water and clean the hull, an essential task to remove and prevent the build-up of barnacles which silently rob you of boat speed if left unattended. Will and Dunc bravely volunteered to be the first into the abyss. Stripped to their underpants, goggles primed and in place, safety lines fitted, checked and double checked in they went. In what must be a one in a billion chance Duncan landed straight on an unseen jellyfish and sprung straight back out of the water with a good sting to the forearm. Glyn’s field medics training clicked into place though and dealt with the situation in seconds. It’s testament to Duncan’s strength of mind that he was back in the water in minutes to finish the job he’d started, undaunted.
We encountered a couple of small technical problems in that first couple of weeks, an oar collar broke, some brand-new bearings seized overnight in the sliding seats, a row gate popped and we had an airlock in the water maker on our first run just 24 hours in. All of which were dealt with calmly and quickly and again, within minutes we were operating as normal.
The largest obstacle faced by the team had been the intense shin pain suffered by Fraser, probably and over use injury due to letting technique drop off with the effort and tiredness of the relentless regime. A few days of complete rest and a course of pain killers and anti-inflammation drugs have seen him make a steady, phased return to the oars and all seems well. The whole episode though went to show what a great team ethos there is, both on board and with the support team back home. Duncan, Will and Glyn our in extra hours on the oars to retain as much boat speed as possible as a three. Fraser took over all other jobs keeping the boys fed and watered, the boat ship shape and clean and running the navigation. No sooner that the news broke at home and we were receiving remedial advice from physiotherapists and RAF PTI’s and technique tweaks from experienced rowers to help protect the affected muscles. At the time of writing though Fraser is back in the shift pattern and the lads are back on to 2 hours on 2 off.
1000 miles done coincided with Christmas Day and was like the best present you could hope for. Such a significant chunk of the journey done, a third of the way there. Although the weather was turning back in our favour throughout the day (thanks again Santa) we took advantage of the relative calm at lunch time to take 10 minutes off from the oars all together, share a mince pie, open our secret Santa gifts and make the phone calls home to our children, wives, girlfriends and families.
We are lucky enough to be able to get the occasional update from the support team back home, affectionately known as the Homefront. News from home and updates on the other teams we befriended at the start line really help to boost morale and the lads all enjoy updating the team with news from their loved ones. One of the best boosts though comes with news that what we are doing here is having the desired effect and that people seem still be supporting us.
Every click on that donate button or text donation is fed back to us and we’re continually blown away by the unwavering generosity of the people who hear about what we’re doing for the Royal British Legion and Soldier On! and feel moved to contribute. What we’re going through is insignificant compared to the pain, trauma and loss felt by some of the people these 2 incredible charities help every day of the year.
Get on board today by supporting Row4Victory by sponsoring or donating - please visit www.row4victory.com/donate or by texting 70070 with the code ROWV59 followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.
For more information about the race: taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com
One of the race rules requires all teams to achieve 24 hours of rowing during the hours of darkness, with time running out we made this the primary objective of last weekend’s training in the North Sea off Hartlepool. So lunchtime Friday we locked out of the Marina and out on to the sea. We had previously planned our voyage and looked at the weather conditions and sea states for the weekend and had a large triangular route set in the chart plotter using buoys as way markers all of which we were content we could return to the Marina from in the worst likely conditions. This was essential preparation given the chance of some pretty strong offshore winds forecast for Sunday that we may have struggled to make headway against.
As the sun went down we began to experience some pretty good swells of around a meter or so but we had a light breeze and good visibility so where able to crack on and fall in to our planned on board routine. We know from all the daytime hours we’ve done already that we are happy with handling the boat and the actual rowing aspect but it is general life on board that we wanted to work on this weekend all of which is more difficult and takes twice as long when you turn off the lights and throw a healthy sea swell to the equation. So it was down to setting routes to waymarks on the chart plotter, using the AIS and using the VHF, especially when we had to cross the busy Tees shipping entry. All great experience at using the boats communications and navigation equipment for real, on the ocean and at night, it really helped raise our confidence in the kit and with our training and ability to put it in to practice.
Next up, dinner, again simple activities like filling and boiling a jetboil suddenly gets a lot more tricky in the small pool of light from your headtorch whilst bobbing around like a cork on the ocean. But boil it we did and dinner was served, a 1000 calorie chilli con carne. Freeze dried meals like these will make up the bulk of our meals on the crossing, once topped up with boiling water you have to wait around ten minutes for the food to rehydrate and I can tell you, after a few hours rowing that was a long wait indeed. I don’t whether it was just the hunger but it was a pretty decent meal that was gobbled up in less time it took to make. Now then, with a with a full belly and in darkness, so you can’t focus on the horizon and on a pretty lively sea state it didn’t take long for a couple of the team to feel a little green around the gills but we soon figured out a spell on the oars or getting your head down in the cabin soon helps that pass and gets you back in the game. The rest of the night followed.. row, eat, sleep repeat until the sun breached the horizon and lit up clear blue skies. 12 hours of darkness rowing completed, we were all still aboard and were exactly where we thought we were, a success and a real confidence booster.
We had the tide with us and pretty strong onshore breeze was building so we took the opportunity to lock back into the marina do some repacking of equipment and redistribution of weight to fine tune the boat and do some dry drills for some of the activities we had planned for that night and have a general tidy up before heading back out. The folks at Hartlepool marina have been supportive of us and Fred got us through the lock safely yet again. More hours of rowing in the daylight and yet again the sun started to come down over Hartlepool with some more beautiful skies for us to enjoy until the darkness fully fell. Although the sea was much flatter tonight with hardly any swell the winds were much stiffer but this was perfect and gave the perfect opportunity to row with the wind slowed by the drogues deployed off the stern followed by a spell into wind on the para-anchor. This is a large underwater parachute on a long line you deploy from the bow that stops you being pushed backwards by the wind too quickly. We would deploy this in the race when the wind was so strong on our bow that we couldn’t make forward speed in order to preserve energy and not lose to much distance while we rest.
It was whilst we sat on the anchor that we heard the radio crackle in to life, a boat further up the coast was letting Hartlepool marina know of a lone swimmer in the water that they were supporting. We immediately put 2 and 2 together, it was Ross Edgley, we’d been following his progress as he swims around the entire British Isles which will be a world first despite a few attempts in the past. Ross is a legend, sort of a strong man crossed with an ultra-endurance athlete backed up with a brain the size of planet he fully understand the limits of human physiology and ability. This provided us with yet another opportunity to try some skills we’d learned on the RYA courses and put the boats equipment through its paces. We used the onboard AIS, a system that communicates with other boats fitted with AIS to warn of possible collisions at sea, to identify Ross support vessel. Once we had the boat on our screen we could look up details about it including its MMSI, a special code that allows you to request communications directly with the vessel on a channel of your choosing. Unfortunately Ross’s boat wasn’t equipped to receive such a request so we tried an alternative method of hailing another vessel using Channel 16 which is the channel monitored by all traffic incase of an emergency. We initiated contact and moved straight to a clear channel to continue our conversation, we were spot on, it was Ross’s support boat, “Hecate” ships Skipper, Matt. He immediately suggested we rowed round the headland to meet them and row along side Ross for a while as he loves to get visitors to help break to monotony of swimming for 6 hours twice a day.. every day.. for the last 120 days. This was too good an opportunity to miss and provided yet another training point, we took Hecate’s position from Matt over the VHF, entered it in to the chart plotter and set off rowing. A good stretch into wind and we saw the light atop the mast of a catamaran on the horizon with the sun rising behind us, it was them. As we approached we could see Ross’s buoyant bag that he tows behind him with his GPS in and then we could make out his arms smashing into the sea. Under instruction from Matt we circled round so Ross could swim between the 2 boats for a while, when we settled into position we could see Ross was making 1.9 Knots…. Just incredible. As soon as he clocked us he made a bee line for us and greeted us with the most cheerful and resounding “Hello” you’ve ever heard with a smile beaming from his now heavily bearded and salt encrusted chops. We were able to speak to him for a little while in the water before he had to set off swimming again to warm back up in the freezing cold North Sea waters but we were blown away by the enthusiasm he had for our own challenge and through his embodiment of the old Royal Marines adage, “cheerfulness in the face of adversity” a sentiment very close to our man Glyn heart from his own days in the Corps.
We rowed alongside Ross for his next couple of hours swimming and chatted with the guys on the support boat, themselves all very experienced and incredible, inspirational people, as they darted about on their tender. As we escorted him along the coast we got to see a spectacular sunrise over the ocean, a porpoise followed us for a little while and a seal bobbing around off our beam. All in it was a brilliant and inspirational start to the day. After a few more hours on the water and with the wind building and a poor forecast for the afternoon we turned back to the marina and docked up in the marina. Tired after a weekend on the water there was no time for respite, all the rations we had taped in to individual day packs needed getting aboard and packaging in the watertight compartments on deck. Luckily we were buoyed by the awesome morning we’d had and happily worked away for a couple more hours of freeze dried meal tetris but we just about got all our meals in the hatches and all ready for shipping to the start line in just a few weeks’ time. While we’d been busy Ros and the crew had got their heads down for some well deserved sleep but on awakening they asked for a look round our boat Victory (thank goodness for the tidy up earlier on). Obviously we couldn’t wait to show her off so immediately invited them over, Ross isn’t aloud ashore until he finishes the swim so he got brought over on a tender and came aboard and we were lucky enough not only to have him write an inspirational quote in the cabin to help out when times are tough but also christen the boat for us with the worlds smallest bottle of Champagne.
“Be naïve enough to start but stubborn enough to finish”.
Here we will be keeping you up to date with all our musings pre, during and post competing in the Atlantic Challenge race that started 12th December 2018.