Our ocean challenge was billed as ‘The Atlantic Odyssey’. We were 6 men brought together after an intensive 9 months of sea trials; some people dropped out, others could pay their way but looked unlikely to be able to row their way – there was a conflict between who had the funds to join the crew and who had the ability, physical and mental.
In the end, the crew, or so we thought – was selected on physical and mental merit – the one big gap in our testing being that we never tested the physical capability of all of the team; physical fitness comes from a simple willingness to train and train again. To train when we don’t feel like it, to train because we have our team-mates to support, to back ourselves and not least to have our eyes on the prize.
For our trip that prize was to become the first boat in history to row unsupported across the Atlantic from mainland Africa to the Caribbean in under 30 days and set a new world record in the process. 3,000 miles of open ocean in a 30 foot rowing boat. We knew it was going to be hard – we just did not know how hard and how quickly those who had not done the miles started to unravel. To an extent we all did, we all shed tears, shouted, had frustrations – but only one or two ducked their shifts and broke down to a point of endangering the whole crew.
It is a very personal thing when we look at what went on; each of the six of us will have a view. Mine was that half the crew were right up there, two thirds of us were there or thereabouts. Two were a massive let down. Despite that we were so close to the prize – a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
Stand out crew members for me were Simon Brown – simply relentless on the oars despite smashing his hand and the skin falling off his feet; relentless too with a sense of humour and endless support – kept me going for sure and from early on Simon and I had hit it off with our sense of humour – I suspect to the annoyance of other crew members which clearly made us worse! Second was Mark Beaumont; I didn’t like Mark and am pretty confident the feeling was mutual! We were on opposite sides of our personality profiles and it showed – I could not make him out and he could not make me out. It was very uncomfortable for me. After a week at sea it started to change. After two weeks we were sharing hopes and fears, childhood memories and future plans. We’d never be friends, but we pulled hard together and that is what counted.
Aodhan was in some ways a stranger on the boat – good lad but we hardly spoke because of the layout of the boat and the shift patterns – he was not on my shift. But a good lad, bit too chunky, but rowed the boat. Then there was Matt and Yaakov.
The video below aims to capture what it was like at sea – there were massive highs and lows – it was about simply being relentless, whether you were laughing, crying, shouting or screaming – just row the bloody boat!