What inspired you to row the Atlantic?
I’ve done a few ‘extreme’ challenges in the past like the Marathon des Sables and was inspired by the fact that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have rowed across an ocean.
I also wanted to do something to inspire others – particularly my own children – and to encourage them to believe that no matter what age you are, anything is possible if you really commit and dedicate yourself to it.
We’ve been talking about the race for five years and life goes quick so we have to make the most of it.
What is the point of the challenge for you and your teammates?
Fundraising is a huge part of it. We’re raising money for two great charities – UNICEF and Workout for Water, which is a joint charity project between UNICEF and Les Mills to provide clean drinking water for children in East Africa.
We also want to test ourselves on the toughest of challenges, but at the same time really enjoy the whole experience of preparing for and then racing across an ocean.
Tell us the details
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge leaves from La Gomera, in the Canary Islands on 12 December and we expect to arrive in Antigua – 3,000 miles away – subject to the weather – in under 40 days.
Tell us about the boat
Her name is Valkyrie. She’s brand new and the latest in ocean rowing boats.
She looks like a spaceship and is designed to surf the waves. She’s 28ft long and weighs 1.5 tonnes.
There are two small cabins, one in the bow and one in the stern. The bow boys will be in the ‘honeymoon suite’ which is bigger and more spacious, and I’ll be in the ‘sweatbox’, which barely fits one person.
What hazards will you face along the way and how have you prepared for them?
There are lots of physical challenges, like hand blisters, raw glutes, salt sores, sunburn, sea sickness. We’ve tried to prepare as best we can by toughening our hands and using multiple seat covers.
If the weather is bad, we run the risk of capsizing, so we’ve tried to get as much practice on the boat as the pandemic has allowed.
It’s more likely the big hurdles will be psychological and we’ve been working with our ‘mind doctor’, Margi Luzanycia to prepare as best we can.
What have you learned about yourself in the process of preparation?
I’ve learned that I suffer badly from sea sickness and also that I can row a marathon in less than three hours.
Tell us about your training regime
We’ve been training hard on the indoor rower, as we’ve been restricted by COVID-19 as to how much training we could do on the boat.
We’ve also been monitoring our progress via regular fitness testing and all of us have made huge progress over the course of the last 12 months.
Indoor rowing is very different to ocean rowing, but the physical fitness required on the indoor rower in many ways is tougher. We’ve also been doing lots of mobility and strength training designed to minimise the risk of injury.
How will you protect your hands and lower back/hips?
With difficulty! Regular stretching before and after each shift will be important. Really good admin on the body – hands, glutes and feet is a necessity – otherwise we will be in a world of pain.
Have you had advice from other people who have made this crossing?
Almost too much, as there are many different and conflicting opinions on all aspects of the race.
It has been a huge learning curve for us, particularly as none of us have any real experience of doing anything on the water.
We’ve decided to row our own race and have made our decisions based on what we think will work for us. We’re committed to three things: first – returning home safely, second – enjoying the experience and third – being competitive.
You’re rowing with a team, how do you expect that to pan out?
Being with old friends and rowing as a team was one of the big reasons for taking on the challenge.
There is a lot of talk of teamwork in business but in reality, the type of teamwork required to cross an ocean in a rowing boat is in a different league.
I expect we’ll all look after each other and finish with friendships that will last a lifetime.
What will you be wearing?
We’ll row just in shorts and T-shirt or will be fully covered up to prevent sunburn or keep the stormy weather at bay. It’s more than likely we’ll regularly be fully naked to prevent chafing...
What will you eat?
More than 6,000 calories per day is required, so food is critical. Ten litres of water also needs to be consumed per day, so hydration will be key.
We’re being helped with our nutrition by the team at VIVO (www.vivolife.co.uk) who have also supplied us with their excellent plant-based supplements.
The team at Precision Hydration (www.precisionhydration.co.uk) have been great with our hydration strategy and again, we’re using their products.
What backup will you have?
There’s a support yacht following the race that can act in case of an emergency call, but it’s more likely that any rescue would be made by a passing tanker, as the support yacht will be many days away from each boat.
The race is fully self-sufficient, so we’re pretty much on our own once we leave the Canaries. All our support will be back on land.
What final preparations are you making?
We’ve been out at sea several times for up to four days at a time to prepare for the race.
Our boat is now being transported to the Canary Islands, so recently we all rowed indoors for 24 hours on a two-hours-on, two-hours-off cycle, to replicate the conditions. We’ll do the same on 6-7 November and we’ll be inviting people to join us for one of the shifts.
What do you expect to be the highlights of this journey?
Getting to the start line with no major disasters, the suntan, the beard, no emails, avoiding the annual budget process, our team dynamic, eating non-stop and still losing 15kgs. The wildlife – whales, dolphins, sharks...And then coming into English Harbour in Antigua to finish, having rowed an ocean.
Are you planning anything after this challenge is completed?
The next challenge could be the Pacific Ocean!
Find out more:
www.HCMmag.com/Talisker and www.fitterplanet.co.uk