The Atlantic Challenge comes to a glorious end

Torbay Weekly

The 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the World’s Toughest Row, organised by Atlantic Campaigns, has seen the final crew arrive in Antigua. The final boat to arrive was Prowject X, a crew of two young Swiss ladies.

Thirty-six crews originally 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 4 solos, 10 pairs, 6 trios, 15 fours and 1 five, and also included two crews from South Devon.

Dean Frost (52), who lives on the river Dart at Stoke Gabriel, and three friends from his school days, Phil Bigland (53), Lee McCarthy (51) and Jason Kerr (50) rowed ‘Elijah’s Star’. They crossed the Talisker Whiskey Atalantic Challenge 2021 finish line on January 22 at 09:41 Antigua time. Not only had they rowed the Atlantic Ocean in 41 days, 2 hours and 44 minutes but raised £306,000 for Action Medical Research.

The Salcombe Estuary pair of Guy Rigby (68) and David Murray (56), aboard ‘The Entrepreneur Ship’ crossed the finish line in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge on February 3 at 11:52 Antiguan Standard Time having rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 53 days, 3 hours and 42 minutes.

They also set a new world record for being the oldest pair to row any ocean with a combined age of 124 years and 301 days at race start. This record has been officially adjudicated by Ocean Rowing Stats. In addition, they have raised over £600,000 for the charity UnLtd – a charity that finds, funds and supports social entrepreneurs.

There was also another crew from Devon, ‘Emergensea Duo’, married couple Adam Baker and Charlie Fleury, who both work at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as A&E doctors. They finished on February 1 at 11:46 local time having crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 51 days, 3 hours and 48 minutes. They raised over £18,000 for RNLI, Devon Air Ambulance, Mind and RD&E.

The race winners, Swiss Raw, crossed the finish line at 06:55 local Antiguan time (10.55 a.m. 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 annual event known as ‘the world’s toughest row’ challenges its competitors to 3,000-mile rowing race across Atlantic Ocean. Rowers have spent days at sea rowing day and night, battling adverse weather, rolling waves of up to 20m, risk of capsize, and sea sickness.

CEO and Race Director, Carsten Heron Olsen concluded: “As I stand back to reflect on the 2021 cohort, the overwhelming feeling is family. It is said every year that the comradery in each fleet in incredible, but this year was even more special.

“There were so many moments that captured this community spirit. When set-back hit three teams in La Gomera with a delayed shipping, there were helping hands from the entire fleet, no matter what time of night or day.

“When one of our rowers had to terminate his row early, every team during calls with our Safety Officer asked after his well-being and ensuring his was okay. As race organisers, we were taken aback by the rallying of positivity, the determination when pressure was building and the overall heartfelt support. After the last two years of uncertainty, the attitude and determination of the 2021 fleet will remain a shining light on how humanity can deliver incredible community and kindness.

“To each family member, friend, supporter, sponsor and charity you’ve allowed our teams to rise to the challenge of a lifetime and in addition they have raised more than €3,000,000! Finally, my biggest thank-you goes out to every single one of our rowers. Your courage and tenacity, on a very small boat in a very big ocean, inspires not only me but people around world.”

In summing up the 2021 race Chief Safety Officer, Ian Couch, who lives in Stoke Gabriel, said: “Another great race ends and the build-up for the next Atlantic Race and our first Pacific Race grows in pace.

“The race is so much more than the time at sea. Having seen the rowers from their sign up - sometimes two or three years before they race - answering questions as they prepare, delivering the Ocean Rowing Course, inspecting boats and equipment before they ship, the time in Gomera and then the daily calls at sea, it is very special indeed to see them step ashore in Antigua. For me, the greatest part of this job is being part of the journey and seeing the life-changing impact in the eyes of the rowers.

“I would like to say a huge thank-you to the families and supporters, without whom so many crews would not even get to the start line (and who have lost so much sleep during the race checking the dots); to the wider and ever-growing Dot Watcher family and the familiar faces who come back every year; and to all those who are part of this, either at AC, in the fleet, sponsors and partners or those who work with the race making this what it is.

“There are lives changed, friendships forged and more adventures than ever imagined. See you all at the next one.”

The 2022 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge starts from San Sebastian de La Gomera on December 12. One known local entry to support, ‘In Our Element’, is a crew of four, two females and two males, representing Premier Marinas, who run Noss on Dart.

Final Positions:

Position   Crew name                                        Nationality              Crew      Finish Time

1    Swiss Raw (R)                                     Switzerland         Four         34d 23h 50m 31s

2    Atlantic Flyers (R)                                   GB                   Four        36d   0h  30m 12s

3    Five in a Row (R)                                    GB          Five        36d   3h  38m 50s

4    Shaw and Partners Atlantic (R)            Australia             Four        37d   4h  37m 48s

5    Anna Victorious (R)                                GB          Four        37d   9h   3m  24s 6    

6 The Bubbleheads (R)                               GB          Four        37d  12h 50m 18s

7    East Rows West (R)                                Hong Kong      Trio         37d   17h 47m 58s 8              

8 Team Peninsula (R)                                 GB          Trio        38d     0h 19m 23s

9    The Salty Sappers (R)                             GB          Four        39d    7h  24m 19s

10     Atlantic Nomads (R)                               GB          Trio         40d    0h 41m 47s

11     One Ocean Crew (R)                               GB          Four         40d   4h 14m  3s

12     Pacific Boys (R)                                      USA                Trio          40d   5h 34m 54s

13     The Mothership (R)                                 GB          Four         40d 11h 36m  2s

14     Wrekin Rowers (R)                                 GB          Four         40d 12h 40m 41s

15     Helvetic Waves (O)                                 Switzerland     Four         40d 13h 25m 55s

16      Force Atlantic (R)                                   GB          Four         41d   0h  2m 12s

17      Elijah's Star (R)                                      GB          Four         41d   2h 51m 40s

18      Two Rowing Finns (R)                          Finland             Pair          41d 11h  3m 41s

19      Foar Tomorrow (R)                                Denmark         Four     42d  3h 30m  5s

20      In Deep Ship (R)                                    GB          Four          42d  5h  2m 12s

21      ExtraOARdinary (R)                              GB          Trio          42d  7h 23m 23s

22      Row for IMPACT (R)                           Netherlands      Trio          43d  8h 34m 32s

23             Wild Waves (R)                                     GB          Pair           45d  7h 33m 43s

24      Row4Hope (R)                                       USA          Pair           50d  2h 56m   0s

25      Emergensea Duo (R)                              GB          Pair           51d  3h 59m 32s

26      Foar from Home (R)                              USA                 Four         51d 11h 52m 57s

27      The MindCraft (R)                                 GB          Pair          51d 15h   8m  0s

28      Tropical Blue Wave (R)                        GB          Pair          51d 17h 46m   0s

29      The Entrepreneur Ship (R)                     GB          Pair          53d   3h 51m 28s

30      Ocean Warrior (R)                                 Denmark          Solo         55d   1h 15m 21s

31      Team Migaloo (O)                                 Netherlands     Pair           58d  1h 11m   0s

32      Tideway Odyssey (R)                            GB          Pair          59d   2h 39m   0s

33      Owens Rowing (R)                                USA          Solo         70d 19h 29m   0s

34      Prowject X (O)                                      Switzerland      Pair          74d 15h   2m   0s

35      A Lung Journey (R)                              Switzerland      Solo          75d 10h   6m  0s

36      Atlantic Rower (R)                               GB          Solo   Retired after 45 miles

(R)   Race class boat.           (O)   Open class boat.