Duo break record for fastest pair to row across Atlantic

The ‘Row4Cancer’ crew of Kai Weedmer (left) and Mark Slats who won the race and the open class

The ‘Row4Cancer’ crew of Kai Weedmer (left) and Mark Slats who won the race and the open class - Credit: Hilary Bastone

The leading crews in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, organised by Atlantic Campaigns, have started to arrive at English Harbour, Antiqua.

Billed the ‘world’s toughest rowing race’, the crews set out on the 3,000-mile row from San Sebastian de La Gomera on December 12. 

The ‘Row4Cancer’ crew of Kai Weedmer (left) and Mark Slats who won the race and the open class celebrating by waving...

The ‘Row4Cancer’ crew of Kai Weedmer (left) and Mark Slats who won the race and the open class - Credit: Hilary Bastone

It’s been a rough journey for some of the backmarkers who were being driven backwards by strong winds and heavy seas.

However, after a few days on para-anchor the winds changed in favour of the crews who have made good speed. 

As always the race has been full of incident including a broken autohelm, a proposal of marriage with an exchange of rings mid-Atlantic, watermaker issues, a broken oar and three boats suffering marlin strikes.

'Latitude 35’ finishing third with the bowman holding their 'prize' of a marlin beak!

'Latitude 35’ finishing third with the bowman holding their 'prize' of a marlin beak! - Credit: Hilary Bastone

A marlin strike is when a marlin attacks a boat piercing the bottom of the boat with its beak.

In the first strike, the beak came up through the cabin where one of the rowers was resting between rowing sessions.

Most Read

The rower was laid back in the cabin and the beak came up between his legs.

A strike of this nature then requires someone to go over the side to remove the beak which will have snapped off in the hull and make subsequent repairs.

The broken-off marlin beak in the hull of the boat

The broken-off marlin beak in the hull of the boat - Credit: Hilary Bastone

Jumping over the side is a fairly regular occurrence, often to scrape off barnacles from the bottom to keep the speed through the water. 

In my pre-race article, I mentioned that one crew to watch out for was the Dutch pair ‘Row4Cancer’ of Mark Slats and Kai Weedmer. Mark having rowed solo in 2017/18 setting the solo crossing record of 30 days, seven hours and 49 minutes.

Mark assured me at the time that he was going for the pairs’ record this time.

Well, that was how it turned out to be.

They were first to arrive in Antigua and broke the record for the fastest pair to row across the Atlantic ocean taking just 32 days, 22 hours, 13 minutes! 

Mark and Kai received the Skye Trophy from the title partner Talisker for winning the open class race. 

They will also each be awarded an MBII watch by the official timekeeper Bremont Watches for winning the race. 

Their crew name, Row4Cancer, indicates the charity they support from raising sponsorship. Races in the past have raised as much as a million euros.

Second crew into Antigua were ‘On Shoulders of Giants’ and were the winners of the race class! 

Rauri, Mark, Justin and Daniel completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 35 days, six hours, 42 minutes and were awarded the MacAskill Trophy from the title sponsor Talisker for winning the race class. 

Crew member Rauri Hadlington from Plymouth was the only Devonian in this year’s race.

The winning ladies crew ‘Atlantic Duchesses’ who were seventh overall

The winning ladies crew ‘Atlantic Duchesses’ who were seventh overall. - Credit: Submitted

As of Sunday, seven crews had arrived including the first all ladies, the Dutch crew ‘Atlantic Duchesses’ to win the ladies class. Iris, Melissa, Renate and Marieke finished with a time of 43 days, four hours, 56 minutes to become the first all-Dutch female team to row any ocean.

The crew received the Murden Trophy for winning the female class.

The remaining 14 competing crews continue to make good progress.

‘Rudderly Mad’ rowed by solo rower Jasmin Harrison brings up the rear and as of Sunday was some 1,400 miles from the finish and predicted take 95 days and arrive in Antigua on March 18.

Each crew has its motives for taking on the challenge such as 70 year-old Frank Rothwell, solo aboard ‘Never too Old’, raising funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Frank is the oldest participant to have ever taken part in the race and as of Sunday was 750 miles from the finish and predicted to take 61 days and arrive in Antigua on February 12.