THE FINALE - 39 DAYS, 4 HOURS AND 14 MINUTES LATER
Rory's back for one last time reflecting on their incredible last day on the Atlantic
After a month in the Caribbean desperately trying to pretend that our adventure wasn't quite over, we had always thought that it would be difficult to write this final blog. As if stepping off the plane into the driving rain at Heathrow wasn't closure enough, we viewed this last post as affirmation that we would have finally arrived back to reality. For that reason, the ongoing sense of writers block has been very much self-inflicted.
However although we may all be back on the colder side of the Atlantic, our memories of that incredible moment at around midday on the 22nd January are so vivid, that not even a cold Westerly wind can erase them.
The morning of our arrival was almost surreal. None of us had slept and as the sun came up over the eerily flat horizon behind us, the thin green shadow of Antigua appeared simultaneously ahead. We were suddenly thrown into a sense of complete euphoria that we never wanted to end, and which was only deepened when a pod of whales crossed our path in single file, some turning to one side as they glided beneath us as if to have one last glance before it was too late. It took a good two hours of hard rowing along the south side of the island before we could ease off for the moment we had all dreamed about for 39 days, 4 hours and 14 minutes - turning the boat sharp right, and into English Harbour.
As our boat started turning towards the screams from our families, friends and so many others who had grouped together waiting to catch a glimpse from land, the wall of noise hit us so hard we all broke down and cried almost uncontrollably. Unsurprisingly, it is very difficult to hand steer through a harbour when tears are streaming down your face, unable to hear each other speak through the din as a packed harbour start to sound their horns. Twenty mad minutes and a few flares later, we were hugging together as a four for the last time on water, and the boat finally came to rest on the pontoon. Those screams will live with us for a long, long time - a mixture of intense joy, excitement and without doubt a deep, overwhelming sense of relief. Perhaps premeditating the long nights on the rum that were to come, one by one we stepped onto dry land and found ourselves unable to walk in a straight line, which would have been a bit of a shambles were we not being held upright, thrown into wave after wave of passionate embraces. Even now I glance back at those photos to relive that emotion, if only for a split second.
The crowd that stood on that finish line was only the last mark of an 18 month-long journey where we have received so much support from all around the world, gaining immeasurable strength from messages of encouragement both on and off the water, and for that we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone from the bottom of our hearts. It is very difficult to put into words how powerful it is, thousands of miles away from home in the middle of huge seas and howling winds, to receive a message that starts 'We have never met, but...'.
Looking up now at the sky each night, it is impossible to look at the stars without thinking of being on that boat. It gave us huge comfort to know that if those we loved back home looked up, for a brief moment they could even be looking at that same star. During long, dark nights spent hand steering and with no battery power, we would often use the constellations as reference points to help keep the boat on it's correct course. I wrote a lot about the stars whilst we were rowing, and still find it difficult to describe the scene that would appear above us each cloudless night, with billions of stars shining so intensely that the constellations themselves were indiscernible against the multitude that surrounded them. One group of stars in particular, a line of three that form Orion's Belt, always seemed to provide the perfect line and filled me with a sense of reassurance that we were at least heading West. Now, looking up at night, those same three stars still shine brighter than anything else up there. Seeing them each time fills me with a similar sense of reassurance to the one I felt on the water: although a lot has happened over the last few months and our perspective on life has undeniably changed forever, that same beautiful scene is still shining up above us each night, it's just that we can't quite see it.
When the idea to row across an ocean first came about, the thought that we might raise over £600,000 (and counting) was inconceivable. The hope that we could secure enough funding for the first James' Place centre in Liverpool was always our primary goal and once we made it to the start line, the real motivation was the thought that we might help to ensure that James' memory lives on, and that his story can help thousands of others in a similar situation to find help.
On so many occasions over the last 18 months we felt as though things just started to fall into place. We felt that the row was just meant to be, and none more so than when we heard the news that our first sunrise on the boat would be 10 years to the day that James passed away. Yet it was on this very same morning that something equally as symbolic happened. Swooping in rather clumsily from the distance, we were joined by Boris the Bird, who we now know to be a storm petrel and who apparently has a far larger fan base than the four of us put together. As the sun rose that morning, Boris looped around us for the first time and from that moment on did not lose sight of us for nearly six weeks, watching over us until we reached land. None of us have any doubt who that bird symbolised, and I can not think of a more poignant image to finish on than that of Boris on our final morning, flying off into the distance behind us, knowing that his role to watch over us until the end was done.
To read more about James' Place click here
A Q&A WITH THE ROW FOR JAMES TEAM
Since the boys arrived in Antigua, there have been endless questions asked and stories to be told. We, therefore, wanted to take this opportunity to ask them a few questions on here and offer you an insight into their adventure and thoughts, following their epic achievement.
Did you prepare yourself mentally for the journey?
Harry: Not specifically. The best mental preparation we gave ourselves was doing a 6-day training row in the North Sea, adopting the same routine as we would on the Atlantic, and providing an opportunity to simulate some of the challenges we would encounter.
Toby: We didn’t go to see any mind coaches, if that’s what you mean. However, we were already very close friends and discussed at length what it is we wanted out of the race individually, so we all knew where each one of us stood when it came to tough times at sea. I think this individual understanding of each teammate was very important and key to our success as a team.
Did giving up ever cross your mind?
Harry: Absolutely not.
Toby: No, never.
What was your toughest moment?
Harry: Telling my poor Mum that I wanted to row the Atlantic, knowing full well that I was going to put her through misery!
Rory: Very early on, we realised that we were going to have serious issues making and then storing power. I remember this being particularly difficult to take on board, because for all the mental and physical preparation we have gone through, serious equipment failure was something that I had not prepared myself for.
Toby: The moment we knew we were not going to be able to catch Latitude 35.
Sam: I can’t think of one moment in particular. I was very lucky as there was no one point that I really hated or found overwhelmingly hard. However, the nights during the middle part of the challenge were fairly testing due to fatigue and monotony.
What was the weirdest conversation you had?
Toby: It was less of a conversation, more a performance from our very own Sam Greenly (aka DJ SnackPack!) where DJ SnackPack rapped for about 30 minutes straight about the contents of his beloved snack packs.
Rory: We had an in-depth conversation about Charlie Dimmock around 1000 miles out from Antigua. I still have no idea how we got there and I may never know again.
Did anyone get knocked overboard?
Harry: Most of my few possessions seemed to, but the four of us managed to stay on the boat at all times!
Rory: No, although we came pretty close a few times. When the night was at its darkest it was always difficult to pick up the crest of a wave, and we were sometimes caught off-guard. Every so often a wave would crash down on top of the boat whilst we were rowing, but we knew as long as we were strapped on, the boat could roll and we would be ok.
Toby: No, although I was very close on a number of occasions. I had lost all coordination in my legs towards the end and my ability to walk a whole 6ft down the boat left much to be desired.
Sam: No, however on several occasions we were knocked off our seats, fell of our seats whilst sleeping or were knocked off out feet whilst moving around the boat.
Would you ever fall asleep when you were rowing?
Harry: My problem was not falling asleep at night; it was trying to wake up before my rowing shifts.
Rory: I found I could concentrate harder at night as long as the stars were out, so I found it pretty easy to stay awake.
Toby: I wasn’t too bad whilst rowing but I did have a few moments when hand steering at night. Staring into a compass lit by the dim light of a head torch can become very hypnotic. There was a time when I thought I was dead on the right heading and couldn’t work out why Rory and Sam were frantically rowing in an attempt to swing the boat around. Turns out I had fallen asleep at the helm and not noticed that I was perfectly 100 degrees off where I should be.
Sam: At night, yes. For me personally there were times that I would do this quite regularly but not realise I was doing it. I would still be moving but my oars would go all over the place and not resemble anything like a proper rowing stroke. This became known as, ‘being in the zone’.
What item could you not have done without?
Rory: Our waterproof beanbag. After losing 11 kilos, I was left with very little cushion of my own to sit on whilst hand-steering, so this was a real saviour.
Toby: Shin pads, shin pads, shin pads.
Sam: A daily chocolate bar.
On reflection – what items do you wish you had taken with you on the boat?
Toby: Would have to be dried fruit
Harry: Dried mango - we had some but not enough, it was the most delicious thing known to man,
Sam: More chocolate and facemasks!
Rory: In hindsight, I would definitely have taken a good handheld solar charger, so that we could have filled those long dark nights with a bit more music.
What is your favourite memory?
Harry: Our last night on the water. A sea so flat it was like a mirror, reflecting an entire sky of stars, with phosphorescent plankton lighting up the water every time our oars touched it.
Rory: The feeling of rowing at 5 knots, crashing through huge waves, with the night sky so bright full of stars that you could have read a book without a torch, is one that I will never forget.
Toby: Being on the oars with Rory and outrunning a storm. Completely exhilarating – we were flying!
What has been the hardest thing about getting back to normal life after the row?
Toby: At first I found it hard to deal with large groups of people (strangely more so if I knew them, than if I didn't) for the first two weeks of being back in London. Sleep has also been fairy tough as I got quite good at telling myself that I didn't need much sleep during the row. So getting back into normal sleep patterns has been a challenge
Harry: Squeezing into a central line tube on a cold, dark Monday morning.
Sam: Not having anything to really focus on or work towards. For the last two years, we thought about the row night and day - planning, prepping, writing e-mails and training. Suddenly that has all gone and it’s hard to try and get back into a normal rhythm without all those things.
Rory: I found it quite difficult being on land for a while, as it just felt too stable. I managed to get back out onto the water quite a few times in the Caribbean in the weeks after our arrival, just to sense the water rocking beneath me again.
If you could give one bit of advice to any other person planning on taking on the row, what would this be?
Harry: The best thing we did was to spend lots of time out on the water in our boat. As novice rowers with very limited ocean experience this was very important and meant we were both confident and competent going into the race.
Sam: Get to know the boat as best as possible. Be aware of how every single piece of equipment or system works; back to front and upside down and then how to mend it in the dark whilst in a washing machine. We did a lot of training and knew our boat very well but it is only in the middle of the Atlantic that you realise there is always more to know.
Rory: If like us your campaign is centred on fundraising and promoting a cause for a charity, a PR team is the most valuable thing you can possibly have. There were so many elements to juggle in the 18 months leading up to the row, meaning that a huge number of teams do not even make it to the start line. The role that our girls played in the success of our campaign is immeasurable.
Would you ever consider doing anything like this again?
Harry: I’m definitely up for more challenges, but probably not rowing!
Rory: In a heartbeat.
Toby: I would love to take on another challenge but it would need to take less time to prepare for and undergo.
Sam: Yes, 100%. This trip in particular was such a success in every sense; the team, the speed in which we completed it and most importantly the money and awareness we raised, that I would never try to recreate it. But I would definitely try and find a challenge of this magnitude to do again.
If you have any questions you would like to send the boys about their row, that may not have been answered during the campaign or in the above questions, do send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
21 Jan 17
DAY 38 - ANTIGUA IS IN SIGHT
The last update from the Atlantic
As may have been gauged by our recent progress on the tracker, as soon as the last blog was posted with an arrival forecast for Friday, the weather dropped off completely and we were unexpectedly left with 0 knots of wind. Rather than cruising into Antiguawith a strong following wind, this meant yet more days of hard toil and effectively rowing through cement. I would now update the predicted arrival time, but now feel the sea has ears so i may keep it zipped.
As frustrating as this delay has been, amongst us there is a real sense of calm and inevitability. These few days of flat seas and burning hot temperatures have given us the chance to spend time doing something that previously, in over 5 weeks of hard graft on the oars, we had not really been able to do - reflect on everything we have done to get to this point. We stopped for 30 minutes or so for a moment to ourselves, and took time to relive memories both from the last 38 days and the preceding 18 months, and as a result the journey feels altogether more complete. There is a lot we are going to miss, none more so than the feeling of complete isolation. On leaning into the water to clean a spork, taking real pleasure in this and similar menial tasks, realising that for over 5 weeks we have had no worries in the world apart from whether to eat now or in 10 minutes time, life has been incredibly peaceful despite the conditions.
With the delay there is now an unavoidable sense of longing - mostly for food and family, around 50 of whom have all gathered together in Antigua awaiting our arrival seemingly within touching distance - and our continuing efforts to distract from this are made easier by the seascapes that we row through, day and night. And yesterday was the best of the lot. During the day we were circled by a huge and very inquisitive whale, clearly still fascinated by the whirring of our auto-helm, and still incredibly talented at escaping the flurry of lenses that appeared every time it came up for a breath. After a while we just settled for its company and looked on.
As day turned to night, the boat was surrounded by the most incredible phosphorescent plankton, so bright that dipping your hand in the water let off thousands of sparks like holding a Catherine wheel. The night sky was also the clearest yet which created a scene that I don't think it is possible to better. With the moon yet to appear, stars filled the sky all the way to the horizon, where as they met the water were then reflected back, so that it was completely indiscernible what was sky and what was sea. On top of this, the plankton beneath us formed a luminescent carpet as it was lit up with every stroke. In other words, everywhere we looked around us something was sparkling in its own way, and for those 10 hours or so it was completely impossible to row.
Talking of magic carpets, we will have David Bowie's 'Jean Genie' blaring out tonight, or as much as is possible to blare on a £6 speaker, to pay homage to our boat on our last night on the Atlantic. Despite the seemingly endless equipment failures we have had to overcome, the boat itself, named 'Jean Mary' by its previous owners, has been incredible to row. Whether it be beam-on 30 foot waves or surfing huge rolling swells, this boat has held firm throughout, allowing us when needed to concentrate on rowing and nothing more. A few more puffs of smoke than one would expect from the average genie as the equipment packed in each time, and more up the spout than we care to remember, but the boat itself has been a real joy to row.
Messages of support continue to fly in, and we will never quite be able to put into words how meaningful these are. We were recently sent through an email of support from Antarctica, which shows how far the campaign has spread - we now have a message from every continent on the planet. The next you hear from us will be on terra firma, and we would like to thank all those who have sent in messages of support throughout the crossing. Without these those nights would have been very dark, and very lonely
Sadly, not much action on the fishing front I'm afraid, although Harry has done his best to explain that this has been down to 'conditions' rather than user error. But as our skipper packs his tackle away after yet another uneventful outing I can't help but draw comparisons with another struggling fisherman, albeit of the more feathered variety. It seems no matter how good he may look doing so, he just doesn't have the knack for catching fish no matter how plentiful they are to the naked eye. The plumage he carries does little to improve his aerodynamics and as opportunities pass by again and again, his audience are less than impressed. Earlier today, we were approached by a fishing boat from Guadalupe. Harry met their pidgin English confidently with his own pidgin French, and this arrangement seemed to flow well for a while until the fishermen decided to show off their spoils for the day as they drifted a few meters from us. From an ice box was pulled a dorado so large, it almost dwarfed the 5 foot fisherman as he struggled to hold it up for show. Harry meanwhile looked on longingly, just about finding it within himself to muster in a glum tone, 'I think we should move on now'. It seems Boris isn't the only one being shown up this week.
Our winged guardian is still with us, and one recent heated topic of debate concerned exactly what he will do once he reaches Antigua. After building a bit of a fan club through these blogs but fearing he may be a bit weary to do so himself, we would like to enquire as to whether there are single birds awaiting his arrival. Applicants must prove themselves to be blindly persistent, incapable of basic birdly tasks, and available for a flying fish and chips from tomorrow onward.
Last but by no means least, i have great pleasure in reporting that the hallucinations have returned and have been in full flow. Nighttime has been more bearable as a result, and efforts to cover up these hallucinations are even more hilarious. Suddenly realise you're fiddling around your feet packing an imaginary hamper, and as you come to you realise your rowing partner has noticed? No problem. Just pretend you're picking up a flying fish and throwing it off the side of the boat. This takes real skill to pull off and there will surely be a lot more where that came from, but in the meantime a couple of noteworthy updates:
- Sam jumping out of the cabin at 3 in the morning half way through an off-shift, starts tugging on some imaginary hand-steering ropes, asking whether anyone would like a microphone or some macaroni cheese
- My only explanation for someone waking me up so abruptly was that I must have been lying on top of that person, and would not stop apologising for doing so.
- Toby is given a 5 minute wake up call, and after a few minutes heard bashing around, swings open the door to reveal a immaculately tidy cabin and asks, 'So, what's next?' He had in fact thought he was undergoing a cabin inspection.
- Harry, drifting in and out of the land of the fairies 30 minutes into his shift, starts having an open and in depth conversation with someone called 'Bill', only half way through to realise what he has just done with a groan of 'Oh No...'
As I write this we are 39 nautical miles from Antigua, and a dim light from the island is just about visible in the dead of night. Sam, Toby and Harry will all be putting together their own takes on the last 38 or so days which will be send around in due course. But in the meantime, by the time the sun comes up tomorrow...
Lots of love and thank you ALL again for your incredible support. Rory, Harry, Sam and Toby
16 Jan 2017
DAY 34 - ROWING HARD TO REACH THE HOME STRAIGHT
Rory is back and so is Boris
We have received a lot of messages from people imagining how different life is for us whilst they sit in the office and clock watch. The reality is that for the past few days, life for us has not been all that different. We are currently leaving a low pressure weather system, and the immediate forecast we have been sent is that we should expect the winds to swirl around us from the south clockwise all the way around to the east, and then remain steadily Eastwards until we reach Antigua. We are now currently at around 10.30, and are watching for every gust of wind as we wait for these North-Westerlies to turn into Northerlies, northerlies into North-Easterlies and then steadily all the way around to an Easterly 3.00, where we haven't been for weeks. So we too are now effectively clock watching.
The last few days have again been pretty brutal, none more so than the conditions on Thursday and Friday. Strong headwinds meant that we were making such little progress that if at any one time one of us would stop to take a drink for too long, the boat could start moving backwards.
We knew the conditions would be bad, and before we left La Gomera we laid the ground rule that if we were travelling at less than 1 knot for a whole hour, we would drop the para-anchor and save ourselves for the moment we could begin to make progress again. But as we grinded along at between 0.5 knots and a knot, we just kept going, and for 48 hours we battled with the headwinds, and although progress was excruciatingly slow we managed to put ourselves in a position where the winds will be a lot more favourable for the next week. During the first week of our crossing, we clocked 24-hour distances of around 100 miles and were cruising. This time, we only covered 30 miles in 24 hours. It was extremely tough, with our hands and hamstrings bearing most of the pressure, but when we look back at it from Antigua we will see it as the two days we can be most proud of. We certainly haven't rowed for over four weeks across the Atlantic just to sit on a para-anchor and drift slowly backwards.
On that note, a big hello to everyone at the Great Tew Primary School who are following our progress, and we heard that William Clarke won a gold star for 'perseverance' during a very wet Welly Wednesdays. Again, life really isn't that different.
We are sending another hello to everyone in class 6 Red with Ms Ramsay who are also tracking us, and who have sent us some great questions. We will send the answers soon, but in the meantime please remember not to snore in Ms Ramsey's lessons otherwise you may wake up the person next to you.
Our hallucinations have sadly now more or less ended and developed into a raw state of confusion at night which is a real bore. Even Toby, who for 30 days has been the hugely physical and ever-punctual glue that holds this boat together in the roughest of nights, now needs a quick reminder that he is not on holiday, but on a rowing boat now only 500 miles East of the Caribbean. It is impossible to get used to the routine of climbing into a cabin at 3 in the morning, knowing that you are going to be suddenly and abruptly woken 40 minutes later to begin another 2 hour shift.
But despite this, nobody wants to be the first to let the rest of the boat down, so tend to appear in various states of dress/undress, and often not quite as ready as they think they are. On one occasion last night one of us, who shall remain nameless, came clambering out onto deck following the "Are you ready mate?" final warning, confidently replied "I was born ready mate", clearly not noticing that his Lycra were back to front, mid layer top inside-out, and has only managed one shoe.
Boris is still very much with us, which he can thank his lucky stars for given his continuing performance. He now takes to circling our boat, inches above the water for a few minutes every morning. Every evening, he hovers right above our heads for a few moments normally whilst the emails are being read out, and then disappears into the night. From time to time a much larger gull joins in on the action and confidently snaps up a few flying fish, whilst Boris can only look on longingly.
We have now crossed paths with two butterflies within the last few days, which is a sight we were told about but never thought we would see given how rarely they make this migration across the sea. We had to stop and gauge whether this was just the latest instalment of hallucinations, but two small yellow butterflies bounced straight past us and on into the distance - one hell of a feat considering at least we spend all of our time sitting down.
As I write this, the swells are picking up and we are thrown up into the sunset and then down into the shadow between each wave, so we know we have some pretty strong winds on their way. In other news, we have a few new additions to the boat. The rowlock has been mended by Sam, using a metal rod from a back brace and some screws from the water-maker, so that the others now seem flimsy in comparison.
We also have some new sheepskin on deck. As a proud member of the Immaculati, my rear-end is in pretty good shape so far so decided to auction my sheepskin off to those less fortunate, and am very much looking forward to my 8oz rare Antiguan steak on arrival.
We are entering the final leg of this crossing now and we are all incapable of thinking about anything else but our arrival. It would be easy to forget that these moments have been 18 months in the making as a campaign and even longer as an idea. As we row ever closer to the finish line, conversation is now focused fully on what we are going to do, who we are going to see, and most importantly what we are going to eat. Each day is filled with constant groans as one of us describes in great detail the food in front of him in his minds eye, most recently bacon sandwiches and burgers, which is normally followed by a complete loss of rhythm and mad clashing of oars amongst the rest of the boat.
On a final note, we would like to send our support to Daryl on Rowers Ark, a solo further back in the Atlantic and who we hear has had to endure some horrific conditions. We will be thinking of him and are right behind him as we hear he has just been able to come off his Para-anchor.
The boys are now only £8,000 off their target of HALF A MILLION, to donate and help them reach this milestone click here
Keep the messages of support coming too, email@example.com
10 Jan 2017
DAY 28 - STRUGGLES, SUSTENANCE AND SLANG
Catching up with Rory on life out on the Atlantic
We have spent the last week traversing Westwards whilst the northerly winds try to push us south below the Antigua latitude, which we are desperately trying to avoid, and it has been very tough going.
The days have followed a pretty predictable course. We battle short choppy seas during the day, finding it difficult to find a rhythm and making slower progress as the sun burns down, whilst in the evening and through the night we are up against bigger but more predictable seas, where we tend to make up the ground we have lost during the day, but have to endure a barrage of wind and rain in doing so. I can't remember the last day where we weren't fighting against the conditions from beginning to end, and our two-hour off period becomes a time for intense recovery and sleep rather than merely just a break.
As expected, our bodies are taking a real hit. Our waist harnesses, which we strap on just before leaving the cabin each time, act as a measuring tape, and as we pull the fastening strap narrower and narrower each day, it is clear that the wind isn't the only thing that is heading south as days battling with the oars take their toll on our weight.
We had our first real 'bad' day earlier this week, but after nearly 30 days without being further than 3m away from each other at any time our minds are more or less in sync with each other, so it helped hugely that we could go through it together.
Saturday was another shocker. We have spent so much time and effort in ensuring that the spare oars are properly tied down that we did not take much notice of the nuts that held those we are using in place. There is one particular nut that, if you were to describe it would be one of those 'nuts so sturdy they tell you not to worry about and definitely don't bother taking any spares as they never loosen' nut, but if you were to read the small print on the back would say 'if you are 25 days in, unable to keep your eyes open and looking left for fear of the next wave that comes crashing over the deck, then the one on the right may fall off'. Needless to say, this now sleeps with the fishes and unless we (Sam) can fashion a replacement, we may have to say goodbye to rowing 3-up if power ever allowed.
Later that evening, we were making good ground, but being thrown about a bit when the auto-helm packed up. We quickly replaced it with the spare whilst the boat was spinning us 180•, only for the second to immediately follow the same fate. We do have a third, which we are now completely reliant on to avoid hand steering the rest of the crossing, so are doing a daily dance to the Gods of German Engineering and hoping for ze best.
To complete this cocktail of issues, we are now rationing gas, as we seem to be coming to the end of our supplies at an alarming rate. This means days spent re-hydrating ration packs with cold water, which I wouldn't wish upon anyone. In case you were wondering, it takes about 45 minutes for a freeze-dried macaroni cheese to become fully hydrated with cold water, and a chicken tikka around 55 minutes. The only person not affected by this is Toby, who would honestly eat anything that was put in front of him. The rest of us look on in envy as he wolfs down pack after pack, which he puts down to 'good parenting'.
The conversation on this boat has been pretty good throughout, if complete nonsense is your thing. Subject matters have been hugely varied, to the extent that we even found ourselves talking about Charlie Dimmock earlier this week. We have prepared thoroughly for this campaign over the last year, both physically and mentally, but absolutely nothing can prepare you for the sudden realisation that you have just spent the last 30 minutes discussing Ground Force.
We generally do have great conversations, some of which last entire days, but after 30 days have developed reams of slang, which we thought it would be an idea to send back to see what the listeners at home could translate. Here they are - some are words you would hear cried out at particular times, and some are items around the boat:
'Clunk' - a noise heard daily
'Hatchard!' - tends to be screamed
Gavi de Gavi - after a dodgy meal
Spiritu Sanctum - applied daily
'Sheepy' - essential padding
Sporketti - at mealtime
Sally Gunnell - to decant
Buff - banana hammock
Switcheroo - hourly ritual
We continue to spend our evenings immersed in all your emails, longing for the 10pm download, and they really are helping us get through these tricky times. We have now received multiple emails of support from North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Australasia and the Middle East, along with emails of support from other crews in this race further back in the Atlantic, and even an email yesterday from a family aboard a P&O ferry destined for Antigua, so all very special.
Heading towards 30 days and hopefully some respite along the final stretch. But for now, the sun's out and Wenty has his tackle out, all 50m of it (more good parenting), so hopefully we will have a fishing update next time.
Sending lots of love to you all, Rory, Harry Sam & Toby
Keep sending messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate and help them reach their target of £500,000 click here
3 Jan 2017
DAY 21 - WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
Rory describes the more challenging times they are facing out on the Atlantic
I am sure you have all noticed a significant change in our pace recently, so it is worth shedding light on the current situation. We will wake up on Monday morning already on day 20 but still in the toughest conditions we have faced. In a call to land on day 13, news had broken that the weeks of strong Easterly winds we had been expecting had turned to weeks of Northerly and no winds - the worst news we could have had. For the first time in the entire crossing, the boat was completely quiet that evening, as we all reflected on what that ominous news meant for our progress. Northerly winds mean that in order to keep on our bearing we are being hit by waves beam-on constantly. It is slow and with no chance of gaining any kind of momentum, our oars catching waves mid-stroke and clattering into our shins, which now look like they have gone a few rounds with a Pit bull.
But worse than this, and a constant now for a handful of days, has been the lack of any wind at all. When we are rolling around in the waves with following winds, your weight can shift around on your seat, so that no one spot is under any particular pressure. But as soon as the sea is flat we are effectively on a rowing machine 24 hours a day, day after day. Our hands are beginning to fall apart, whilst numbness in the rear-end is even tougher and impossible to avoid.
Our power continues to be a chronic issue, and gives you an idea as to how everything on this boat is interrelated. Making water is the most important task each morning, but the batteries are so knackered that this normally uses all the power we have until around three o'clock in the afternoon. We have a backup fuel cell to make any extra power we need, but the screen has read 'Please Return Unit To Manufacturer For Servicing' since day 2.
Once we have made around 36 Litres of water, we try to build up enough power for the auto-helm, which we need in order to row 3-up when the time arrives so that one can rest for 40 minutes in every 160 minutes. This, again, requires hours of uninterrupted sun, switching between solar panels depending on the angle of the boat. Any cloud cover and these effectively bottom out and we start again from scratch.
Ultimately, we are not able to put any pressure on the boat or row 3-up until late afternoon, all of which explains our slow progress over the last week or so. We have the manpower to get this boat moving quickly again, but we are simply unable to if we are to continue making enough water or use the auto-helm and sleep at night.
All hugely frustrating, nonetheless spirits are still high and we hope to be more competitive now that we have made some adjustments.
The days are beginning to pile up, bringing different conditions and sea states each time, but the one constant throughout have been the stars and moon, who play out a double act each night. The stars this deep into the ocean are like nothing any of us have seen - they fill the sky from horizon to horizon, so low down on each side that many look like boats heading in our direction. Trying to keep three rowers in time is hard enough, but when all three spend most of the night staring upwards it feels impossible. Every evening at about 9pm all light from the sun has disappeared, and it's like a who's who of constellations. Orion's belt and the rest of the gang turn up and although we aren't able to charge Harry's iPad to work out what they are named, we do recognise certain groups from those long nights hand-steering where we use them to maintain a bearing.
We saw our first whale on Boxing Day, an Orca coming up for a breather and met with huge excitement, and ever since this sighting we can't seem to shake them. One Orca swam silently beneath us one evening, taking an interest in our auto-helm as it whirrs along. More recently, Sam and Toby were seeing out a night shift accompanied by another whale who just seemed content to come along for the ride for an hour or so.
Our bodies are beginning to feel the effects of not having walked for 20 days. The short walk up from the stern cabin to the bow, once a bit of a catwalk, is now more of a tightrope and we have lost all balance. On top of this, we spend most of the day looking to our starboard side, the direction that the waves and weather hit us from, and so have all developed a strange lopsided view of the world, staring one way oblivious to anything that may have happened to the other. It goes without saying that Boris chooses the starboard side each day for his most daring displays.
Importantly, our beards are coming along nicely, and we are each developing our individual style as the days go by. Harry is definitely leading the way with his plumage, whilst Toby has developed a wispy Samurai number, Sam's has unearthed a surprise Celtic hue and mine has been compared to a wire-haired dog (or deck-hound).
A quick hallucination update:
- Harry convinced that there was a hamburger on the boat at 0400am ("Toby, please don't mess me about mate, is there a burger on board or not?")
- Sam thought we were drifting aboard an abandoned ocean rowing boat that we had found
- Toby needed reminding of a French journalist's name that he was about to interview with
- On being woken up for my shift by Toby, I am constantly convinced that I am on the outside of the boat and he is on the inside
Still kicking on nevertheless - next milestone will be 1500 miles!
One of us reads your emails aloud each day from the front of the boat, and with each message read you can hear the oars pulling ever so slightly harder through the water, so please keep them coming and thank you so much for all of the support so far.
Lots of love, Rory, Harry, Sam and Toby
To send the boys messages of support, please email email@example.com. To donate and help them reach their target of 500,000 click here
30 Dec 2016
AN UPDATE FROM THE BOYS TWO WEEKS IN
The boys chosen writer, Rory, is back with this week's update
The week following my last post was a pretty successful one. We are becoming more and more comfortable with handling all equipment as the days go by, meaning that we can row more efficiently. So whenever we are hit with the inevitable bad weather, it only needs two rather than four headless chickens running around on deck.
Bad weather has become pretty frequent on the Atlantic but you can normally see it coming. We seem to be surrounded by clouds yet have clear weather directly above. From time to time a rain cloud breaks formation and heads directly for us but as long as it is spotted early enough you can tie everything down in time.
Unfortunately, what this doesn't mean is that we have a greater chance of staying dry. Rain falls so hard and so fast it is suffocating. Last week we were having a big day on the oars with a strong following wind, surfing the waves, watching on as a pod of dolphins tumbled through the waves chasing a tuna. It was such a surreal scene that we were oblivious to the rain about to hit us from our bow side. The driving rain hits you horizontally, face on, with such force that you can't open your eyes to see where the next wave is coming from. And once this is all over it turns off like a tap and we are left to survey the damage both to us and the boat.
Continuing power issues mean that we are forced to hand steer most nights, which is certainly the toughest part of this row so far. Last night, we towed solidly with no wind at all, for 14 agonising hours through the night and only managed three hours sleep each. This leaves you so exhausted by the time the sun rises, that the mornings are normally a pretty frosty affair.
On the bright side, these nights bring along some of the funniest moments we have had so far. Hallucinations are frequent and here are a few of the ongoing episodes:
- Harry and I believe that there is a third cabin where a mysterious fifth rower is sleeping.
- Sam spent most of Friday night believing that we were navigating through a forest.
- Toby was awoken and then preceded to get himself ready for a taxi he believed was waiting outside.
- Harry refused to believe that we were rowing the Atlantic, to the extent that we had to explain what the oars were and where to find them.
Continuing on the bright side, the great advantage I have of sharing a cabin with Toby, is that every change of shift I get to witness the ongoing change over saga between Harry and Sam. Every two hours at the change of positions, one 6"6 bloke leaves the stern cabin and tries to make it down the 3 foot wide corridor. He passes two life harnesses lying along the floor, steering ropes running from side to side, Toby lying on the ground hand steering and a set of sheepskins that act as banana skins, and tries to switch places with another six-foot six bloke at the other end. Rather than wait for each other, they are so gripped with exhaustion that it becomes a mad struggle as they inevitably meet right in the middle. To add a bit of drama to the occasion, Harry is almost definitely sleepwalking.
All I can do is sit back and enjoy the scene. I'm pretty sure this is the only reason I bother to stay awake during those long shifts.
We have had some incredibly horrific weather recently. The most notable being a storm last week that we managed to out run briefly, only to be hit by another one travelling in the other direction about five minutes later. Pretty difficult to make up any kind of ground in those conditions but then again we always remind ourselves of Boris the bird who has followed us from day two. Two weeks have gone by and despite his best and most elaborate efforts is yet to catch a single fish. I doubt we could ever have as rough a time as Boris is having.
Amongst some of the toughest days any of us have ever had to endure, we are still keeping spirits high. Washing the underside of the boat which becomes inundated with barnacles after only handful of days and We' ve even come across a sailing boat destined to Antigua. Although very exciting after two weeks of isolation as I'm sure you can imagine, it was also a very strange experience nonetheless as we watch the family finishing their Christmas cake on the deck. Back to the chicken in black bean sauce for us, or as we now affectionately call it, The Curse of the Black Bean
Christmas was another odd experience. We loved calling back home and speaking to family but truthfully none of us felt at all festive. After a really tough night on the oars, we were still very much recovering. The sun was blistering and the lack of wind meant that we made little progress and no more than a dent in the mince pies that came along with us. Calling back on Sunday left us feeling very emotional but reinforced exactly why we're doing this. Once better weather returns, we will be able to use those feelings to our advantage as we grind on over to Antigua.
Since then the weather has taken a turn for the worse, as I'm sure you can tell by the tracker. 2 knot winds, 35° heat, is a pretty nasty cocktail and we are making very slow progress although hope better times welcome.
Our next blog post will go more into these tough times but for now sorry again for the lack of blogs and videos so far. The power on this boat again took a turn for the worse over the last few days leaving us with only enough power for water - no music for the last seven days!!
Sending all our love, Rory, Harry, Sam & Toby
To send the boys messages of support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate and help them reach their target of 500,000 click here
21 Dec 2016
A MESSAGE FROM THE BOYS ONE WEEK IN
Today's blog post comes directly from Rory
Leaving La Gomera harbour for the last time on Wednesday morning, there was quite an odd feeling amongst all four of us. After fourteen months of relentless campaigning and physical exhaustion, the whole occasion should have seemed far more real. As we departed, the local school children had turned up amongst hundreds of other locals, and were singing James' name from the minute we arrived on the pontoon to the minute we were out of sight, rowing into the Atlantic. There were quite a few emotions amongst us, but the locals and other teams had really taken our campaign to heart, to the point that a group of local artists had started their own mini-fundraiser for us, so the tears that flowed have been more attributable to the departure, rather than for what was to come.
And that was it. We began to curve around the south of the island leaving the harbour behind, and with it went the sight of any other boats.
A pod of dolphins joined us along with (what could have been) a whale as we took the bend, almost eerie as they floated motionless on the surface of the water, but they didn't hang around for many photos.
Darkness moved in and with it our first taste of the Atlantic at night, which provided one of the most spectacular events any of us have seen. As the sun descended into the sea to the West of us, the moon suddenly appeared from the waves to the East, so bright that once it reached its full height above us it was even possible to read the writing on the back of our food packets. A truly amazing sight that forced us all to stop and watch.
Over the following days we made a lot of ground, at nighttime in particular as we came to work out that the boat is more stable when hitting waves straight on rather than attempting to steer around them. We have learnt a huge amount about the boat and its capabilities, all which we aim to send back to you in short video form over the coming weeks.
We are sorry for the lack of contact over the last week - we have a power issue whereby our batteries will not store energy, so we have to ration for the time being. Auto-helm and water desalination are at the top of the list of priorities each day as cloud cover could appear at any moment rendering them useless, and with that music and cameras are placed firmly on hold for the moment, although with a quick glance at Sam's iPod library before we left, this may be a blessing in disguise.
We have had some incredibly tough nights so far, none more so than on Sunday night where with two rowing 2 hours, then hand-steering for an hour through driving rain and waves using nothing but a handheld compass, to be left with under an hours rest before beginning the cycle again, we are keen to avoid a repeat as you can imagine.
But despite this, the incredible moments we have shared have been far more frequent.
Blasting through 25knot tailwinds in a completely straight line for hours on end, two rowing, two looking straight up at the stars which must have been in their millions, with no need to do anything else but keep the stern of the boat in line with a row of stars - something that we can truly say we will never experience again.
We are close to finding a real rhythm on the boat - sleep, food, stretching, electrical power, cleaning amongst tens of other tiny tasks that on land seem effortless but when on an ocean in a tiny rowing boat, are the only difference between a good day and a bad day.
The next few weeks will be very exciting as we turn westerly for the Trade Winds and start the long grind Westwards, so will be sending more and more written and video blogs back as we go. We have heard through Tania that there is an army of followers glued to our YB Tracker - I don't know if you all quite understand how much this means to us four and there is yet to be a message of support that has not shed a tear or two so please keep them coming!!
All our love, Rory, Harry, Sam and Toby
To send them messages of support please email - email@example.com and to donate
16 Dec 2106
2 DAYS IN TO THEIR ATLANTIC CHALLENGE
11:40am on Wednesday 14th December 2016, the Row For James boys left San Sebastian, La Gomera and headed for Antigua. Their first day brought them sunshine, a pod of dolphins and potentially a whale, although the boys are unsure (we should have sent them off with a book of wildlife to help them identify!). When their first night came about the winds picked up a bit, which was a welcome relief to the boys as they were all tiring although still buzzing they were finally on the Atlantic. They mentioned the nights are quite bright but during the hours when it does get dark it is pretty surreal because all you hear is the stroke of the oars and you can just feel how big the waves are.
On their second day, they had a good tailwind of around 10-12 knots, the waves were about 10ft and decent weather. Their focus was to really settle into a routine, get the last bits of the boat sorted and get their bodies to start adjusting to what is a very strange and short sleeping pattern. They definitely started to find it a bit harder during the day, bodies starting to react to the constant rowing and lack of sleep. Their shins are particularly painful from where the oars occasionally hit them so they are sharing one pair of shin pads they cleverly thought to bring on the boat, although they now say 4 pairs would have been more useful! Not much other activity happened during the day, to quote Toby 'I've just been looking at sea' although they have managed to pick up 2 companions in the shape of birds who are apparently following their boat. Again the boys are not entirely sure what type of birds these are, said they look like something between a swallow and a sparrow. During the day they have been playing music to keep spirits high, Rory's particular choice of opera seems to have had an interesting reaction. They then change and listen to an audio book at night for something a little different. With regards to food, it sounds like they are trying to get as much sleep as possible, so they haven't always managed to heat their water - cold potato & leek soup and porridge have been on the menu.
The nights sound like they have been the toughest part for them so far, however, they say watching the sunrise when you are on your rowing shift drastically changes your mood and spurs you on again. All in all they sound in good spirits, just trying to adjust to this new rigorous routine and keep up the incredible pace they have been going at. The first week is crucial to establish your position within the race,
Any support for the boys please do send through to firstname.lastname@example.org - a daily email is sent to them collating any messages, quotes or anecdotes. They love hearing from you and knowing that we're all behind them.
13 Dec 2016
WHAT ARE WE TAKING ON OUR BOAT?
What is the total amount of weight (excluding you) that you take on the boat?
Hard to say exactly but what we can tell you is, if we are slowed down by 0.1 knot throughout the duration of the crossing, by having more weight than we need or a rope dragging in the water, that equates to an entire days rowing over the 40-60 days
How much food do you have? What is it? Any treats?
- 1.2 million calories on board, enough for 5000 cal per person, per day, for 60 days
- 4 dehydrated meals a day per person (av. cal. count: 900 cal per meal). Food we have on board: mac and cheese, spag bol, chicken tikka and chicken in black bean sauce. Basically, each day each team member generally has; 1 breakfast (porridge or granola) and then a mix of Asian, Indian and Italian foods - sounds glamorous... trust us they're not!!
- 1 mass gain shake per day as a quick meal replacement. Predominantly used for night shift when saving time on cooking, to maximise sleep is a big bonus
- Snack packs are around 1400 cal each. One per person per day these include chocolate bars, nut bars, nutri bars, biltong
- If needed we have an emergency supply of wet rations equivalent to 20% of dry rations. This is in case the electric water maker breaks and the hand water pump takes too long to make enough cooking water, on top of the drinking water we need
- Drinking water: 12 litres per person for 24hrs. With our electric water maker, we can generate 30 litres an hour, if it is working properly. We also carry a hand pump as back up but this only generates around 9 litres an hour and is hard work in the heat
Clothes – how many pairs of shorts, tops, socks, trainers will you take and what about wet weather kit?
Weight is a key issue, so clothes are fairly minimal, especially as we will rowing naked in order to reduce chaffing where possible. Current packing list is. 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of lycra shorts, 1 pair of leggings/ tracksuit bottoms, 2 T-Shirts and a jumper and beanie per person
Bedding – do you have any blanket, sheets, sleeping bags, pillows
We each have a 'sea-to-summit' silk sleeping bag liner. The cabins will get so hot due to the doors having to be shut, in case of a capsize, that we will tend to sleep on top of it. We also have light sleeping bags if we were to get cold but this is unlikely especially in the latter stages. The bed itself is a 2 inch thick piece of foam that lies directly on the hull of the boat
Treats/ luxuries – have you all got a luxury item?
We all have a luxury item each, but these seem to be more in the form of presents from family for Christmas. Lea & Perrins, tabasco and wasabi sauce are definitely up there!
What’s in your wash kit?
Tooth brush, tooth paste and 8 wet wipes per man per day. These are for all washing, which has to be done every time we finish a shift but also used as loo paper. Once we have used the wet wipes to wash, we dry them on deck and use them later as loo paper!!!
How much sun cream?
A lot of P20, although we fear we may need more!
What does your safety kit include?
This is the most important equipment we have on the boat. We have a life raft and a series of locator beacons for each individual and also the boat. We have an extensive medical kit and a 'grab bag' that is always easily accessible in case of an emergency. We wear harnesses at all times whilst on deck and have the ability to wear life jackets when the weather picks up. We also have a healthy quantity of flares
What electronics will you have on board?
We have a good amount of electronics, however, these create their own problems. All our navigation is done on a specialist marine GPS, which links to auto steering (known as auto helm). Our automatic identification system (AIS) allows us to see other ships locations but also warns other ships of where we are. We also have a VHF radio and charging points for us to charge are back up systems but also our iPods and speakers. We create all our electricity via solar panels and have to keep a close eye on how much power we use. Choosing what is the most important and what can be left uncharged is key because the water maker and navigational equipment have to take priority
12 Dec 2016
LIFE IN LA GOMERA
The last 12 days have been spent in La Gomera conducting final race preparations alongside all the other teams in the race and the organisers. We have been staying in an apartment, which when booked looked quite close to the port, however, we can assure you it was not. Our fitness has definitely been tested, having to walk up and down a very steep hill every morning and evening (often with a whole lot of rowing gear too!). Our time has mainly been spent with our boat and going through many stages of preparation - it takes a lot longer than you would think, Preparation has included;
- Taking all moving parts of the boat apart, cleaning them and then rebuilding the boat again. This was to ensure they work faultlessly for up to 60 days
- Checking each piece of equipment works
- Conducting race scrutineering – this is a check to make sure we are fit to cross the ocean in terms of equipment we have on board
- Learning how to mend all equipment we have on the boat
- Packing the boat with everything from our food, to clothes and safety equipment
- Making the boat as comfortable and well organised as possible, so it can fit us 6-foot lot in!
- Final training sessions on the ocean, getting to know a little part of the Atlantic
We have also got to the know the other teams in the race pretty well, which has been the best part. Finally, we have also spent quite a lot of time with the Talisker team filming content for the race and the campaign...
8 Dec 2016
ROW FOR JAMES - 4 FRIENDS. 4 JAMES. 4 SUICIDE PREVENTION
On 14th December 2016, four friends will be taking on the biggest challenge of their lives, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean unassisted, with just each other as company. This feat will be taken on in aid of the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund to raise awareness for depression, anxiety and suicide in young people and in particular young men.
The captain of the team, Harry Wentworth-Stanley, lost his brother James to suicide at the tender age of 21. Ever since he has been on the lookout for a challenge to mark the tenth anniversary of James’s death and one which would live up to his brother’s outgoing and adventurous side. The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a test of mental and physical endurance, where teams from around the world compete to cross the North Atlantic in the fastest time.
However, the challenge didn't just start with the row. Over the last year the Row For James team, Harry Wentworth-Stanley, Rory Buchanan, Sam Greenly and Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, have embarked on an intense physical training schedule, juggling their day-to-day jobs with morning and evening sessions to prepare their bodies for over a month of relentless rowing. Added to the physical are the more technical aspects of their preparations, including rowing technique, navigation and safety.
Row For James originally aimed to raise in excess of £300,000 for the charity, which equates to £100 for every mile rowed, however have been overwhelmed at the response to date and have set a new target of half a million pounds. This significant amount, through the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund, will be put towards setting up the first in a series of non-clinical crisis centres for those at high risk of suicide, to be known as "James’ Place" – a service that does not currently exist in the UK.
Meet the Team
Harry Wentworth-Stanley – Captain, Motivator:
“If James was still alive he would have been top of my list of people to row an ocean with. He had an amazing thirst for adventure and would always push himself to new limits – rowing the Atlantic has his name written all over it! In the weeks and months before he died I had no idea that, behind his cheery grin, James was hurting. I also had no idea that suicide is the biggest killer of young men in this country. James is my inspiration for taking on this challenge – both to do him proud and to raise money in his name to help prevent others from suicide. When times are tough during our crossing he will inspire me to push on and keep going.”
Rory Buchanan – Technician, DJ:
“Until now, I have never physically nor mentally put myself through anything close to the extremes that we will be forced to endure during this row. As someone who has watched my own sister battle with depression for so long, I was drawn to a challenge that would embrace the link between this kind of mental suffering, which is at the core of the charity, and the mental resolve which we will have to show during the row – this will be my motivation when rowing across the Atlantic.”
Sam Greenly – Navigator, Weatherman:
“I am always looking to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself where possible, and what could be more challenging than 40-60 days at sea, especially when I get uneasy swimming in open water! The opportunity to take part in such a demanding and arduous event in the company of three great friends was just too good to miss. It then gets even better knowing the focus is on raising awareness and money for such an important and worthy cause, one that is extremely important to me having been exposed to young men and women in the army who have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Toby Fenwicke-Clennell – The Engine Room, Physio:
“In society today there is still a level of stigma attached to the subject of mental health. This makes it hard to talk about openly, which is something I have personally experienced. I am passionate that the success of this campaign will ultimately raise awareness for this sensitive subject, and hopefully
help many for whom an exit from that spiral of depression can seem impossible. It is with this in mind that I will find extra strength at particularly tough times during the row.”