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”.
WHEN four burly blokes surround you and ask you to do a job for them it is difficult to decline.
Fortunately they are a quartet of top men who are aiming to break the world record for rowing across the Atlantic and they want some help with a charity dinner then the decision to say yes is easy.
Will Quarmby, Fraser Mowlem, Glyn Sadler and Duncan Roy will set out on their quest from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December and attempt to get to Antigua in the Caribbean in less 29 days.
But before that they have had to train and raise enough money to compete in the challenge alongside holding down full time jobs and finding time to spend with their families.
Duncan Roy told me that the biggest challenge for most teams that want to enter the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is often not the epic row itself but raising the near £100,000 it costs to take part in the race.
I first met the Row4Victory boys at Welcome to Yorkshire’s stand at the Great Yorkshire Show last year when they told me of their ambitious plan to not just row the Atlantic in a tiny boat but to do it in a world record time.
It sounded a crazy idea and I wished them well, but not before introducing them to Welcome to Yorkshire Y30 member Nic Marshall, who said his firm, a growing Hull-based telemarketing business, called ResQ, would probably not be the best brand name for their boat to have emblazoned on it.
But the lads shared Nic’s sense of humour and a deal was struck for ResQ to become a gold sponsor of Team Row4Victory.
A year on I met the team again at the Great Yorkshire Show and learned that the diligence and ambition they have given to their training has also been applied to their networking in search of sponsorship.
Welcome to Yorkshire has backed the team and has helped introduce them to a number of great Yorkshire businesses that have become sponsors, including Harrogate-based business energy provider CNG.
Another gold sponsor of Team Row4Victory is Grantley Hall, the luxury hotel being created near Ripon in North Yorkshire by the Sykes family.
They not only sponsored the team but also offered Duncan Roy a job as director of Grantley Hall’s spa and elite performance centre.
As I said, these boys are both impressive and persuasive.
I have a reader of this blog to thank for getting the job to compere the recent Row4Victory charity dinner.
Entrepreneur Chris Lord, who founded shop display manufacturer Bartuf Systems, and a former British rallying champion, read about their exploits right here.
He then met them when they displayed their boat at York Races in July.
Talk turned to their upcoming charity event and Chris told them they should speak to me about compering it.
And I’m thankful that he did because the event, held at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate on a balmy Saturday evening in early September was wonderful.
That’s if you enjoy listening to me.
I introduced the evening, interviewed the team, profiled the charities that will benefit from their exploits, introduced the raffle and silent auction and then, slightly nerve wrackingly, conducted the charity auction.
However that was helped by having Duncan demonstrate the rowing machine which was among the auction lots.
I’m pleased to say that the event was a huge success and raised more than £15,000 for the two charities the team are supporting, the Royal British Legion and Soldier On! which both support ex-service personnel.
The team use the simple motto of:
You can’t help emotionally connect with what they are doing.
But you can also have some fun with them too.
When I introduced them, the boys were all wearing dinner suits tailored by historic Yorkshire clothing business Brook Taverner.
I said I knew that they are searching for a replacement for Daniel Craig as James Bond and we’d got four to choose from here.
When Glyn, Fraser, Duncan and Will came up to the stage for a Q&A session – pictured above – I said they looked a bit like a Yorkshire version of Il Divo, which the 220-strong audience liked.
And the Q&A took a lively turn when Nic Marshall’s wife and business partner Gill Marchbank enquired whether it was true that the boys would be doing most of their rowing naked.
They confirmed that was true and when I asked what they would be doing when mid-Atlantic on Christmas Day, they left us with an indelible image of them rowing starkers wearing nothing but Santa hats.
I don’t know if they have bells on.
Rather than just toss a coin for the traditional ‘heads and tails’ game, I came up with some unusual questions for the audience.
Surprisingly, my first question saw more than half the room sit down having got it wrong.
Having been to La Gomera, I was aware of its claim to fame as the setting out point for Christopher Columbus on his epic voyage of discovery.
But most of the room plumped for the alternative choice of Vasco da Gama.
It still gave me time to ask some questions about the history of Grantley Hall, CNG’s involvement in the Knaresborough Bed Race and also profile the challenges undertaken by Nic Marshall of ResQ – which include cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and, perhaps most impressive of all, swimming the Humber estuary.
The one man in the team who isn’t either a former or serving member of the armed forces is Will Quarmby, who runs Quarmby’s Deli in the village of Sheriff Hutton.
So I asked whether, last Christmas, the deli stocked a range of chocolate truffles shaped like brussels sprouts or kumquats.
(It was sprouts).
You have to get inventive in my game.
It’s called adding value.
I don’t care what you say missus, it certainly got the audience engaged.
However I didn’t think one part of my introduction would – when Duncan asked me if I could make an announcement that a room keycard for the nearby Crown Hotel had been found at the pre-event drinks reception.
Holding up the keycard I hastily suggested that we were thinking of putting it into the charity auction and I indeed, was considering bidding for it.
When a big bloke approached me with the words: “Yes, it’s mine,” I handed it over with a weak smile as the audience hooted.
IF Theresa May is considering taking any dancing lessons following her disappointing display of moves on her recent trip to Africa, may I suggest she consults Jacqui Hall, managing director of CNG.
She burned up the dance floor at the Row4Victory dinner and must be a contender for the Boogie Boss Awards – if there are any.
Now there’s a thought…
ON a recent trip to see clients in London my colleague Liz Theakston and I sat down on an LNER train and in the seats opposite were Gary Mcleod and Elaine Holmes, joint managing directors of successful Yorkshire travel company Traveleads.
We exchanged warm greetings and chatted about business, the economy and mutual contacts.
Just as the train was pulling into King’s Cross Station, Gary proffered me a fiver, and said: “Hope you enjoy your holiday, that’s for the mankini selfie shot.”
That was the prospect I dangled to readers in my last blog before my holiday in Greece.
I have to say I was tempted to take the fiver.
And the selfie.
If you can rid yourself of such imagery…have a great weekend.
By David Parkin
Director of Copa http://www.copasummit.com/
0500 Thursday 5th July the alarm sounded, Duncan and Fraser (like kids on Christmas morning) leapt out of their pits… Shower, breakfast, Coffee on the road from North Yorkshire to Rannoch Adventure in Essex by 0530. We were off to collect the boat, Angus, Charlie and the Rannoch team had kindly agreed to let us take the boat out of production to use for a week of fundraising. Full of excitement the lads pushed on South making great time and even getting the opportunity to chat to ocean rowers past (Chris Shirley, Atlantic Allies) and future, passing on lessons we have learned so far in our campaign.
The boys arrived, in 30 degrees of sunshine to a quiet yard in Burnham on Crouch and there she was… Victory… immaculate in white and shining in the light. The lads hardly dared to look at her to start with but were soon taking her in and sneaking the odd cheeky touch of her hull, like they weren’t really allowed to. Daft really, she’s ours, the fifth member of the team! Lizzie found us, dazed and bewildered, in the carpark, got the brews on and tracked Angus down for the formal introductions. He took us round the boat, structurally she is complete and has had 24 hours on the water to check for leaks but she needs to go back for all the electrical equipment, comms, nav and watermaking kit. She is ours until Sunday 15th July when she needs to be back here in Essex to get completed in time for final delivery in August so we can start training in earnest on the North Sea. The clock was ticking, so after a quick brew, a Pistol squat lesson with Laura Try in the car park and a butty it was back behind the wheel with Victory in tow.
One of our Sponsors, Drive by Media, had us lined us up to drop the boat in Shipley at the vinyl wrappers by 1630 that afternoon to give them all day Friday and Monday morning to apply the sponsor logos before the Great Yorkshire Show, where we were due to be in place by Monday lunchtime. You can imagine our frustration when we ground to a halt in traffic on the M11 30 minutes into our return journey. It quickly became apparent we weren’t going to make it on time, but the team kicked in and phonecalls were made, emails sent and deals done and we arranged an 0730 drop off the following morning and a late arrival to the show on Monday. Phew. Welcome to Yorkshire, another sponsor of ours, had a MASSIVE job on that week arranging and running their marquee, corralling all us stall holders and co-ordinating suppliers, guests, caterers etc, not to mention getting 20 tons of Bridlington sand shipped in for the manmade beach, thanks you so much for being flexible with us and taking it all in your stride, your admin is second to none! Sorry you ALL had to suffer Duncans Alpaca joke.
Duncan took Glyn and Will to Shipley on Monday for their first look at the newest member of the team, only now of course she was looking super smart in her reflective silver wrap and sporting all the logos of our awesome corporate sponsors. Glyn jumped in the Drive by Media Landrover, also newly wrapped, and towed her across Yorkshire and on to the Welcome to Yorkshire stand at the Great Yorkshire Showground ready to be unveiled to the public when the gates opened at 0730 on Tuesday morning. I can tell you, you get some funny looks and double takes towing a 8.5m silver and white torpedo through rural Yorkshire, she was clearly going to make quite an impact.
Tuesday was crazy!! Red hot, relentless sunshine and super busy. We were interviewed, questioned, photographed, filmed, we met the inspirational Niki Doeg from the Yorkshire Rows, the actual Calendar Girls (kisses all round too), the Yorkshire Vet Peter Wright and Mr Yorkshire himself, Sir Gary Verity. We were approached by some more local companies looking to join the team, watch this space for some exciting announcements coming soon. Our Gold sponsors, Grantley Hall, also had a stand on the Welcome to Yorkshire site just a few feet away from the boat so it was really cool to spend some time with them and meet so many members of the team, especially as Duncan is now a member of both.
Sir Gary introduced us to the crowd at the afterhours BBQ, generating even more interest from potential sponsors and we met even more, genuinely lovely people, most of whom thought we were crazy but all offered us their prayers and best wishes. After a great feed and a pint of Yorkshire Ale we had to move the boat to the Military village on the other side of the showground that night in order to be on parade at 0730 sharp the next morning. Wednesday and Thursday proved just as hot but were able to engage with hundreds of school kids, military folk and inquisitive members of the public wondering what on earth a boat was doing at the GYS which is essentially an agricultural show. Top three questions, in no particular order were, what do you eat? Where do you sleep? Where do you poo?
Another of our sponsors, Lifelab Testing, were on hand to help out, which meant we could get away for interviews and meetings while they looked after the boat and engaged with the crowds. They did such an awesome job and had their ocean rowing patter down to a tee, I reckon they’d have a fair stab at the 2019 race. Go on Carl, you know you want too!! We would like to take this opportunity to thank Carl, Ian and Paige for their help, their smiles and the awesome offer to help us even further by sourcing our snack bars for the row in conjunction with their in house Nutrionist, Sian, to make sure we stay fuelled up and putting power down as efficiently as possible during the race.
After three long, 15 hour plus days we packed the boat up and all the paraphernalia and shipped home…. for 5 hours sleep before we towed the boat to the York Racecourse for the John Smiths race meet on Friday and Saturday. Again, we were looked after brilliantly by the whole racecourse team who couldn’t do enough to help. They arranged for an interview on the big screens to explain to the 32000 strong crowd why there was a boat at the entrance to a horse racing event and whet their appetites and kept us in tea and coffee like champions. One young man on a Stag Do, Jimmy, came good on the horses and made a really generous donation which blew our minds and the Race course team invited us back for the last race of the year in October. We can’t wait to go back and will proudly be adding their logo to Victory’s livery.
Glyn’s Father in law took pity on us sunburned and exhausted wrecks and offered to take Victory back to Rannoch HQ for us on Sunday. We owe him a pint and a roast dinner for that one for sure. That was one of the most productive 11 days of the whole campaign and in no small part thanks to having Victory there with us. Its going to be a long few weeks without her… next stop… North Sea.
Ticket price is £65 each and includes bubbles on arrival, three course meal and music until late. We will be hosting an auction that already has some amazing and unique contributions and you be able to see the boat on the lawn of the hotel sporting all our amazing sponsors logos and hear about the awe inspiring challenge from the team. Tables of 10 to 12 are available, please contact us on email@example.com for tickets or if you would like to make a contribution to the auction.
Whilst the 2017 flotilla got started for this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Fraser had the absolute pleasure to spend a day in the company of British Rowing’s Master Coach, Eric Kent, on the Go Row Indoor Workshop. It was a brilliant opportunity to get some top level technique pointers and a great insight in to running a circuit training session for a group on the Concept 2 rowing machines. The group also learned how to teach proper form and technique to newbies as well as helping more seasoned Erg users to refine their technique and achieve a more effective, economical and powerful stroke. Most importantly for the Row4Victory team they also learned how to avoid injury and how to stay safe. The lads will have to all keep an eye on each other at sea to make sure they all stay safe as form is sure to slip when the weather is rough and exhaustion sets in but it’s precisely in these tough times that injury is most likely to occur. With just 12 months to go until the 2018 race the lads are going to be spending more and more time in the gym and on the rowing machines and you couldn’t ask for better instruction on how to make the most progress possible than you get from Eric and the British Rowing team, thanks for the excellent day and the top tips, rest assured Eric, we shall be cracking walnuts with every stroke.
Here we will be keeping you up to date of our preparations, training and progress towards competing in the Atlantic Challenge in 2018.