The end of the fifth week of the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest row, organised by Atlantic Campaigns, was marked with the arrival of the race winners, Swiss Raw, who crossed the finish line at 06:55 local Antiguan time (10.55am GMT) on January 16.
The crew of Roman Möckli, Ingvar Groza, Jan Hurni, and Samuel Widmer completed the crossing in 34 days, 23 hours and 42 minutes to become the first team from an inland country to win the Atlantic Challenge!
The 35 ocean rowing boats, including two crews from South Devon, have spent the past week going through the day to day routines with an eye on the finish in their task of completing the race.
Particular emphasis has been on setting the course line for the finish.
Thirty-six crews left San Sebastian de La Gomera on December 12 in the 3,000-mile unsupported rowing race across the Atlantic 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.
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), are less than 500 nautical miles from the finish but have moved up from 18th to 17th rowing an average 65 nautical miles a day.
Their predicted arrival is January 24 in a creditable time of 42 days.
During the week Dean Frost described what he called the ‘Apollo 13’ moment.
“We have two lithium rechargeable batteries on board, which are powered by the solar panels on the boat - front panel, rear and a third ‘roving panel’. Three days ago we found that ‘battery one’ had completely discharged and was not recharging.
"Not a disaster, but clearly sub-optimal. We can run off one but it means careful power management from here on, if we can’t fix the situation, especially on the back of the lack of sunlight the last few days’ stormier weather has brought. So, to work!
“We were c.800nm from Antigua when we discovered the battery situation, so we quickly calculated we could ration the 50l ballast water and 40l stored from the water maker alongside using the hand water pump, should it come to it, and still make it even without any electrical/solar power at all.
"Immediate pressure off but not a comfortable position to be in, and a position that could change on a six-pence should we get headed by a westerly wind or current.
“We moved to essential power systems only, for systems reliant on the boat’s solar panels, by switching off anything that drew power from the batteries.
"We were prioritising the water maker, auto-helm - not essential as we can steer manually but this fixes a person who could be better used to row - and then the chart plotter - again, not essential and we actually switched it off and used the stars, our innate mariner skills and, ehem, our handheld GPS that we could recharge separately...
"But it did mean our automatic identification system (AIS) beacon to alert shipping to our presence and theirs to us, was shut down and, even though we hadn’t seen a single vessel for weeks, we were then popping up and down like meerkats on full alert for the colony, especially at night!
“Concurrently, we made sure 'battery two' was fully charged by isolating all solar panels to it.
“We have two brilliant individual solar chargers on board so they were immediately put to work to top up our satellite phones, GPS watches etc - very efficient indeed, which was great.
“The next step was to determine if this were a battery issue or something else like a faulty cable, solar panel, fuse or temperature issue.
"We disconnected the batteries, cleaned and re-greased the electrodes and then eventually changed over both batteries, which, ultimately, told us it was indeed a battery issue.
"How had it discharged so far, we were asking ourselves - likely the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) platform for video content upload that we had run for the previous two nights.
“So, we are now trying to kickstart the dead battery by isolating all solar charging devices to it.
"It is lithium, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t kick into action eventually. We have sun today - 41 degrees of it - so the best conditions for doing this.
"We have also by-passed the shunt box for 'battery one' on the boat’s electrical ring main to give it an initial ‘belt’ of power to start with - the solar panels on our bow and stern each carry up to 22V to do this but the shunt is a safety device that constrains to a trickle charge only.
"We just need to monitor this and then switch back through the shunt once the battery begins to charge. And, it seems to be charging now! Fingers crossed it will charge by over the next few days and continue to do so under load going forward.
“If we can’t kick it into action and return it to routine trickle, we can go on one battery from here of course.
"We might, however, not be able to use our Bose 100W surround sound and sub-woofer system on full volume and our neon underfloor lighting will need to be used sparingly, but needs must!”
The Salcombe Estuary pair of Guy Rigby (68) and David Murray (56), aboard ‘The Entrepreneur Ship’ still have 900 nautical miles to the finish and have slipped from 26th to 28th, averaging 50 nautical miles a day.
Their predicted arrival is February 6 in a time of 55 days.
The 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 as A&E doctors, have over 800 miles to the finish and remain in 24th.
Their predicted arrival is February 4 in a creditable time of 53 days.
Crews can be tracked at https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com
Positions after five weeks at sea:
1 Swiss Raw (Race class) Switzerland Four zero miles to finish
2 Five in a Row (R) GB Five 63
3 Atlantic Flyers (R) GB Four 63
4 Shaw and Partners Atlantic (R) Australia Four 147
5 Anna Victorious (R) GB Four 160
6 The Bubbleheads (R) GB Four 170
7 East Rows West (R) Hong Kong Trio 180
8 Team Peninsula (R) GB Trio 206
9 The Salty Sappers (R) GB Four 302
10 Atlantic Nomads (R) GB Trio 344
11 Helvetic Waves (O) Switzerland Four 360
12 One Ocean Crew (R) GB Four 366
13 Pacific Boys (R) USA Trio 369
14 The Mothership (R) GB Four 369
15 Wrekin Rowers (R) GB Four 371
16 Force Atlantic (R) GB Four 399
17 Elijah's Star (R) GB Four 438
18 Two Rowing Finns (R) Finland Pair 438
19 Foar Tomorrow (R) Denmark Four 484
20 In Deep Ship (R) GB Four 507
21 ExtraOARdinary (R) GB Trio 523
22 Row for IMPACT (R) Netherlands Trio 526
23 Wild Waves (R) GB Pair 657
24 Emergensea Duo (R) GB Pair 884
25 Row4Hope (R) USA Pair 886
26 Foar from Home (R) USA Four 927
27 Tropical Blue Wave (R) GB Pair 933
28 The Entrepreneur Ship (R) GB Pair 933
29 The MindCraft (R) GB Pair 974
30 Team Migaloo (Open class) Netherlands Pair 1033
31 Ocean Warrior (R) Denmark Solo 1049
32 Tideway Odyssey (R) GB Pair 1185
33 Owens Rowing (R) USA Solo 1390
34 Prowject X (O) Switzerland Pair 1521
35 A Lung Journey (R) Switzerland Solo 1740
36 Atlantic Rower (R) GB Solo Retired
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