Rowing crews settle into task in 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

New Year celebrations in fancy dress

New Year celebrations in fancy dress - Credit: Hilary Bastone

The third 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.   

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 and Barbuda (170N 610W).

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

Leading crews have progressed over 1,500 nautical miles from the start and the two South Devon crews have put in a magnificent performance to consolidate 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 1,300 nautical miles from the start but have slipped from 17th to 19th despite rowing 60 nautical miles a day.

Dean repairing the broken gate

Dean repairing the broken gate - Credit: Hilary Bastone

Working hard through the heat the crew are doing well and the only issue they have had to deal with has been a broken gate.

Phil and Jason on Elijah's Star with the cooked dorado

Phil and Jason on Elijah's Star with the cooked dorado - Credit: Hilary Bastone

On New Year’s Eve the crew undertook some fishing catching a dorado which they promptly cooked and ate.

Dean in his fancy dress

Dean in his fancy dress - Credit: Hilary Bastone

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Later, they dressed in fancy dress to celebrate the New Year enjoying a selection of Ferror Rocher. 

David Murray at the oars of the Entrepreneur Ship

David Murray at the oars of the Entrepreneur Ship - Credit: Hilary Bastone

The Salcombe Estuary pair of Guy Rigby (68) and David Murray (56), aboard ‘The Entrepreneur Ship’ have rowed over 1,100 nautical miles and have moved up from 26th to 25th, also now averaging 60 nautical miles a day.

Fuelled by Status Quo tracks, the pair are having a great row and loving the experience.

The enormity of the task is not lost on them but they push on with good humour and determination.

Having taken advice and made south early on, the decision has paid off and now that they have turned west they are getting the best of the conditions. 

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 third week they had covered over 1,100 miles and were 24th. 

Atlantic Campaigns chief safety officer, Ian Couch, who also lives in Stoke Gabriel, said: “We are now three weeks in and with 26 crews having rowed over 1,000 miles each and of those 11 having rowed over 1,200 we can say that for some the halfway point has been reached.

"In reality, halfway is a vague term for such a race as there are various ways of measuring it – one: halfway in a direct line Gomera to Antigua 2,700 miles but nobody rows a straight line, two: halfway in a predicted course but this changes almost daily and three: halfway in terms of estimated time at sea – but that is an estimate and though crews tend to be faster in the last 1500 miles nothing is guaranteed.

"The key milestones for the rowers will be 1,500 miles left, 1,000 miles left, 500 miles left, 300 miles left and 100 miles. 

“At sea during such an extended race and adventure it is important to focus on the immediate situation, looking ahead can be demoralising and unhelpful so short-term goals are key.

"Simple goals like today I will eat all my food, today I will be quick at my changeovers.

"Time can feel very odd in such an environment and weeks can go past in a blink of an eye and a two-hour watch last an eternity.

"Over 700 calls and messages have been made and received and safety yacht Suntiki has visited six crews and is on its way to the seventh capturing great images from the ocean as it goes.

"The first safety yacht will aim to travel through the fleet and arrive in Antigua while the second yacht will follow later joining the rear of the fleet in due course.

"Since the last report, some of the most repeated words and phrases from crews are ‘frustrating,’ ‘glass-like,’ ‘baking,’ ‘sweltering,’ ’rowing through treacle’.

"The last few days have been slow going with little wind or assistance from the sea.

"Compared to some years this means fewer injuries, fewer capsizes and knockdowns but the hard work to move the boats day in, day out, is immense and gruelling.

"Better winds are expected to come in from the E and ENE until the around January 5 when there is another lull for a day.

"The crews who opted for a northern route have been hit pretty badly by light conditions and headwinds causing the mileages to drop and some drastic course changes. 

"Fortunately, the issues so far remain relatively minor. There have been no new technical issues and the repairs made by crews are holding.

"The gentler conditions have reduced the pressure on auto-tillers and the often-cloudless skies have meant crews have been able to maintain good charge levels in their batteries. 

“Nutrition is key to perform and maintain health and some crews are still struggling to eat the amount required amount of food, some have eaten more snacks than main meals and some are eating everything and are still hungry.

"All crews start with a set number of days of food depending on crew size and each rower must plan to have 60kcal per kilo of starting body weight per day in order to reduce weight loss and remain healthy.  This means a 100kg rower will need a minimum of 6,000kcal a day. 

“Aches and pains are expected and are increasing in frequency, skin rashes from sweat and salt exposure are starting to appear and there are the usual spotty bums and sore hands.” 

Crews can be tracked at https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/ 

Positions after three weeks at sea

1 Swiss Raw (Race class) Switzerland Four crew 1,069 nautical miles to finish

2 Atlantic Flyers (R) GB Four 1,176 

3 Five in a Row (R) GB Five 1,189 

4 Shaw and Partners Atlantic (R) Australia Four 1,224 

5 The Bubbleheads (R) GB Four 1,240 

6 East Rows West (R) Hong Kong Trio 1,245 

7 Anna Victorious (R) GB Four 1,259     

8 Team Peninsula (R) GB Trio 1,296 

9 The Salty Sappers (R) GB Four 1,335 

10 Atlantic Nomads (R) GB Trio 1,337 

11 Wrekin Rowers (R) GB Four 1,344 

12 Helvetic Waves (Open class) Switzerland Four 1,349 

13 Pacific Boys (R) USA Trio 1,361 

14 Force Atlantic (R) GB Four 1,364 

15 The Mothership (R) GB Four 1,379 

16 One Ocean Crew (R) GB Four 1,394 

17 Two Rowing Finns (R) Finland Pair 1,408 

18 Foar Tomorrow (R) Denmark Four 1,413 

19 Elijah's Star (R) GB Four 1,427 

20 In Deep Ship (R) GB Four 1,470 

21 ExtraOARdinary (R) GB Trio 1,472     

22 Row for IMPACT (R) Netherlands Trio 1,485      

23 Wild Waves (R) GB Pair 1,593 

24 Emergensea Duo (R) GB Pair 1,656 

25 The Entrepreneur Ship (R) GB Pair 1,672 

26 Row4Hope (R) USA Pair 1,683 

27 The MindCraft (R) GB Pair 1,689 

28 Team Migaloo (O) Netherlands Pair 1,709 

29 Foar from Home (R) USA Four 1,733     

30 Tropical Blue Wave (R) GB Pair 1,734 

31 Ocean Warrior (R) Denmark Solo 1,807 

32 Tideway Odyssey (R) GB Pair 1,841 

33 Owens Rowing (R) USA Solo 1,952 

34 Prowject X (O) Switzerland Pair 1,982 

35 A Lung Journey (R) Switzerland Solo 2,132  

36 Atlantic Rower (R) GB Solo Retired