Improved conditions for 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge boats

Torbay Weekly

The second week has seen the remaining 35 ocean rowing boats, including two crews from South Devon, settle into their task in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the World’s Toughest Row organised by Atlantic Campaigns.

Rowing conditions have now improved for the 106 ocean rowers representing 13 nations.

Thirty-six crews left San Sebastian de La Gomera on December 12 in the 3,000-mile unsupported rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean west from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands (280N 180W) to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda (170N 610W).

The 36 competing crews included four solos, 10 pairs, six trios, 15 fours and one five.

Leading crews have progressed over 1,000 nautical miles from the start and the two South Devon crews have put in an incredible performance to improve their positions over the past week.

Team ‘Elijah’s Star’ made up of Dean Frost (52) who lives on the river Dart at Stoke Gabriel and his three friends from school days, Phil Bigland (53), Jason Kerr (50) and Lee McCarthy (51), have rowed over 900 nautical miles and have moved up from 20th to 17th.

The Salcombe Estuary pair of Guy Rigby (68) and David Murray (56), aboard ‘The Entrepreneur Ship’ have rowed over 750 nautical miles and have moved from 30th to 26th.

Like most crews, both South Devon crews took advantage of calm water to clean the boat hull and both had visits from pods of dolphins and other sea creatures.

‘The Entrepreneur Ship’ had a sail-by by a 125ft super yacht out of Dartmouth on its way to Antigua. It turned out to be Peter Broughton aboard 'State of Grace'.

It's most definitely very tough being away at Christmas, and it's definitely very emotional but this unique connection with nature will perhaps help to ease that pain.

The crew of ‘Elijah’s Star’ settled down to eating rehydrated turkey.

Their treat was a mini Christmas cake to share and a Ferrero Roche each, the ultimate luxury. A storm petrel also popped in to say ‘hello’!

There is a third Devon crew in the race, ‘Emergensea Duo’, married couple Adam Baker and Charlie Fleury, who both work at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

The pair, who are both 31 and A&E doctors, are raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance, the RD&E charity, which supports the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, the RNLI and Mind.

At the end of the second week they had covered over 700 miles and were 24th.

Atlantic Campaigns safety officer Ian Couch, who lives in Stoke Gabriel, said: “Since the last update five days ago, a lot has changed for the fleet - most significantly the weather.

"After days of no winds and even headwinds the whole fleet has some degree of favourable conditions.

"Those who were pushed back and were on para anchor are now making their way towards Antigua again.

"The speeds of those crews who have taken the more southerly route are noticeably higher and with this we’ve seen the competition amongst the fleet hotting up.

“Over the next few days the winds will fluctuate, but steadily improve from an ENE and NE direction and be with the crews for at least another seven days.

"Looking further ahead is never accurate, but it seems as though if there will be lighter conditions in the North.

"As well as wind, the waves and swell make a significant difference to how the rowers feel and how fast they go. In the far North Atlantic there is a significant storm.

"Though it will never reach our rowers, the swell, though much reduced, will give a N and NW swell.

"The weather is hot - one rower said he 'is melting like a cheap candle' and that alone is exhausting. In the case of the fleet they have been having to earn every mile by hard rowing, so the heat is even tougher.”

Ian, an ocean rower of repute, added: “One of the good things about such flat conditions is that the wildlife is much more visible.

"There have been many amazing encounters with dolphin, whale, orca, shark and more turtles than we have ever seen. The footage is truly staggering and more will follow.

"This is one of the true privileges of this event. As a rower you are not just observing the natural world but you are in it.

"Whales and dolphin are intelligent and curious, and come to interact with you. The rowers will have sights, sounds and smells that will live with them forever as life-changing memories.

"The race is unlike any we have seen. Within our fleet there are teams who have been highly competitive from the start, but as the days go by we receive more and more questions on our duty calls about who the next boat in front is to see if they can catch them.

"There are three particular groups - the first, led by Swiss Raw, pushing to the front of the fleet, the second very closely packed group who will be speeding up over the next few days and then a third group in a very straight line chasing them down.

"Beyond that there are many small battles going on right throughout the fleet.

"It is important to realise though that not everyone is racing and that the 65-day crossing is just as good and just as important as the 30-day.

"They will be very different experiences with differing demands, but one is no easier than the other.

"The most important thing, apart from a safe crossing, is that each rower steps off having had the crossing they wanted and that they know that they did all the could to achieve that goal.

"Morale across the fleet is generally high. There is some soreness, some fatigue, but just as everyone expected. To date we have made just under 400 calls with the fleet. Some crews are more talkative than others but across the whole fleet, things are going well.

"In terms of technical issues, there have been some power management problems. Lessons have been learnt and the crews are now good for power.

"We've seen a broken water maker motor, which has been repaired, a lost oar, a broken gate, and some wheel bearings replaced.

"Looking ahead, we should see conditions improving, with crews turning more westward and daily mileages increasing.

"It's a tough life out there, it is what they signed up for. All the effort, the testing and brutal honesty, but it is amazing, beautiful and awe inspiring too."

Crews can be tracked at

Positions after two weeks at sea:-

Position, crew name, nationality, crew, distance to finish (nautical miles)

1 Swiss Raw (Race class boat) Switzerland Four 1595

2 Shaw and Partners Atlantic (R) Australia Four 1646

3 Pacific Boys (R) USA Trio 1691

4 Atlantic Flyers (R) GB Four 1709

5 East Rows West (R) Hong Kong Trio 1722

6 Five in a Row (R) GB Five 1727

7 The Bubbleheads (R) GB Four 1730

8 Anna Victorious (R) GB Four 1737

9 The Salty Sappers (R) GB Four 1740

10 Helvetic Waves (Open class boat) Switzerland Four 1801

11 Atlantic Nomads (R) GB Trio 1803

12 Team Peninsula (R) GB Trio 1803

13 Wrekin Rowers (R) GB Four 1808

14 Force Atlantic (R) GB Four 1816

15 One Ocean Crew (R) GB Four 1826

16 The Mothership (R) GB Four 1828

17 Elijah's Star (R) GB Four 1836

18 Foar Tomorrow (R) Denmark Four 1841

19 Two Rowing Finns (R) Finland Pair 1849

20 Row for IMPACT (R) Netherlands Trio 1882

21 ExtraOARdinary (R) GB Trio 1900

22 In Deep Ship (R) GB Four 1907

23 Wild Waves (R) GB Pair 1967

24 Emergensea Duo (R) GB Pair 1977

25 The MindCraft (R) GB Pair 2015

26 The Entrepreneur Ship (R) GB Pair 2022

27 Team Migaloo (O) Netherlands Pair 2046

28 Row4Hope (R) USA Pair 2052

29 Tropical Blue Wave (R) GB Pair 2076

30 Foar from Home (R) USA Four 2086

31 Ocean Warrior (R) Denmark Solo 2140

32 Tideway Odyssey (R) GB Pair 2144

33 Prowject X (O) Switzerland Pair 2242

34 Owens Rowing (R) USA Solo 2343

35 A Lung Journey (R) Switzerland Solo 2358

36 Atlantic Rower (R) GB Solo Retired