Finish line in sight….almost!

I think we all know that moment when we have taken on a physical task, a training session or a race when we feel like it will never end, it always happens in the last three quarters, that point where doubt creeps in. We have gone through the excitement of getting to halfway and then the realisation arrives that all that means is we have the same amount to do all again!

We have gone through the excitement of getting to halfway and then the realisation arrives that all that means is we have the same amount to do all again – and then we start to have that internal battle between stopping and keeping going.

It takes a bit of time and the fear/courage battle to get through that and then it can be like the sun comes out – all of a sudden the finish line has miraculously come into sight (literally or figurately) and we realise that there is enough petrol in the tank to make it – in fact, there can be enough petrol in the tank, mentally and physically, to raise our game once more and smash it into the finish.

That is happening out on the ocean right now; after 34 days at sea any records might have passed them by but the lads onboard Latitude 35 must all but be able to smell Antigua as it is only 134 miles away. It is still worth reflecting on that number – any race of 134 miles is a long, long way – but having rowed over 2,400 already that seems nothing.

Add in to that the weather gods have started to smile and the boat is smashing along at an incredible 4.1 knots so a day and a half and they could be in – a couple more sunrises to go.

Ocean rowing like ‘normal’ life is all about contrasts and the contrast here is still the lads at the back of the fleet who have also passed a milestone – in the last few days they rowed through the 2,000 miles to go point…..so 1,806 miles behind the lead boat.

I think numbers like that bring home the sheer enormity of what rowing the ocean means – Daryl Farmer has so far rowed just over 600 miles in 34 days, with 1,941 miles remaining he could be out there until the end of April……that is a big, seemingly now impossible, challenge. He needs the weather gods to get a massive smile on their faces and yet the weather forecast does not look great.

Row4James have secured 2nd place and are now 200 miles behind the leaders after their neck and neck tussle early on; a further 600 miles back is a ‘pack’ of 6 boats albeit spread over 200 miles and all of these will soon be under the 1,000 miles to go. A thousand miles to go!

300 miles further back again is the solo boat of Elaine Hopley, plugging away and keeping ahead of a men’s pair and two of the men’s solos. Awesome.

So keep watching as these ordinary people complete their extra-ordinary challenge….

Oh, and if you ever think that ocean rowing is something for you then get in touch to come and have a go on our boat on a river or lake or take part in a Thames Row or Coast to Coast.

If that lights a fire I can introduce you to Charlie at Rannoch Adventure who can support you getting out onto the ocean for a trial or even the ‘main event’ the lads pictured above, Tom and James, are seen having an experience session on Rutland Water – 18 months later they rowed the Atlantic – that could be you!

Use the contact form below..

 

28 days at sea!

A picture of us at sea – a few days before we were swimming instead of rowing!

The Atlantic Rowing Race fleet has been at sea for 28 days – the same time our challenge was rowing for. The lead boat has continued to be Latitude 35 after their early tussle with Row4James they have stretched out a lead of 117 miles, ahave rowed just over 2,000 miles and have just 547 miles remaining until they row into the harbour in Antigua in a week or so’s time.

To put that in perspective they are around the same distance to the finish as we had on our fateful day after the same amount of time at sea – we had however started from Tarfaya in mainland Africa, something like 415km/258miles further east!

Adding further perspective to the ocean rowing challenge are the boats at the other end of the field – the solo  Daryl Farmer has now covered, wait for it….461 miles so has an enormous 2,092 miles still to go; 99 miles ahead of him is another solo of Dmytro Rezvoy who has just under the 2,000 to go. It is worth pointing out that from 5 January up until yesterday it appears that Daryl had been blown backwards some 20 miles….imagine what that must feel like…! (Check this out using the slider at the bottom of the Race Tracker on the Talisker site – click here) At their current rate of progress, therefore, both men are looking at well over another 100 days at sea. That seems insurmountable if nothing else due to the rations they will have on board their boats.

Next up are 32 Degrees North, a pair with 1735 days to go and the female solo rower, Elaine Hopley with 1656 to go – both have a monumental challenge ahead with potentially at least another 50+ days at sea.

There is then a pack of crews, albeit spread over 200 miles with the all girls crew Atlantic Endeavour with 1421 miles to go and the remarkable boat of this years race, Soulo Gav in overall third place with 1218 miles to go – and that is a solo boat rowed by endurance athlete Gavan Hennigan. Check out Gavan’s website to see more of his remarkable story – including his comeback from drugs and alcohol addiction, genuinely extra-ordinary.

Below are the positions today – this is a screen shot – another week to go and the first crew could well be popping the champagne – keep watching….!

 

Atlantic Rowing Race 2016 – 30 day barrier to be broken at last…?

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As I write this there are less than 20 hours until the start of this year’s Atlantic Rowing Race – now an annual event rather than every two years.

It is a little different from our trip in that the crews start together from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, roughly 400 kilometres west of where we started from in Tarfaya, mainland Africa. There are 12 teams scheduled to depart with four solos, two pairs, three trios and 3 fours, one of which is the all female crew and they will have at sea with them a safety/support yacht should anyone need assistance – another difference to our trip! The yacht is not there to lend outside assistance and is purely there for emergencies although it may well swing by to say hello to crews as and when.

Looking at the boats in the fleet, the clear favourite to win must be Latitude 35 with Jason Caldwell, Angus Collins and Alex Simpson on board, seasoned ocean rowers plus top flight rower Matthew Brown.

Without doubt they have to be contenders to become the first boat in history to row the Atlantic in under 30 days.

The women’s record could well come under threat too with the Atlantic Endeavour Team and you can see more on their website by clicking here

You can follow the progress of all the crews on the website by clicking here – pick one, adopt it, support them, be part of rowing the ocean!

You can also download the racetracker on your phone, look out for the Yellowbrick app and download the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Race 2016.

 

Ever thought of sailing on a tall ship….out where the magic happens!

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What a privilege to speak at the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the maiden voyage of Lord Nelson – one of two tall ships run by the Trust and specifically designed for use by less able bodied people.

There were approximately 300 guests at The Grand Harbour Hotel and it was great to have my ocean boat, Lisa Too, on display immediately outside the main entrance to The Mayflower Suite where the dinner was held.

She prompted a lot of interest even amongst so many seasoned sailors, with a good number of transatlantic sailors in amongst the attendees too; the general view seemed to be one of ‘you must be mad rowing that, what is wrong with sails?!’ I agree, now!

The work of the charity is amazing and they are currently looking at other fund-raising opportunities to support them – and that is where we come in with Atlantic Experience and our ThamesRow. Next year we are planning to run a ThamesRow for JST which could include less able bodied crew, sponsors coming on board, a garden party along the way and even people following along the Thames path on foot or bike. There may even be a small flotilla of boats that join us along the way to help raise money and not least raise awareness for the great work of the charity.

On the night it was fantastic to meet so may passionate and driven people, all there pulling together to make something extra-ordinary happen. They ranged from the lady who worked in the engine room of Lord Nelson (yes, she does have to have an engine as well as sails), to the founder of the Charity, Jacquetta Cator; from volunteer Chrissie to ‘ordinary’ Pete, born with no legs and arms to the elbow – yet a three times paralympic Gold medal winner. What a great bloke, telling us amusing and inspirational stories from being shaved down by the girls in the team to streamline his body to the Korean journalist asking how exactly did he use his ears to swim with….!

It was a real pleasure and an honour to speak for the Trust, the them being taking on big challenges and delivering them one small step at a time and that the most important thing is that whilst we need the equipment to make things happen from Pete’s wheelchair, to Lord Nelson – it is the people that deliver it, ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. Great work!

Click here to see more on the Jubilee Sailing Trust, including how you can go on board for a day sail or a multi day voyage….

 

Fear, excitement, change – be prepared, it’s coming for you!

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I am speaking at the Cambridge launch of the HubSpot User Group – HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers – so it will be something that I will be using in due course! I was asked to write a blog for them ahead of the event in November with a theme around change and how quickly things can divert from expectation and the plan we had carefully formulated…..this is it below:

We join Ian’s story as they leave the African coast behind…

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Big ocean, big challenge – the Atlantic Odyssey where it all began

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.

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Looking for challenge, excitement and something extra-ordinary?

852430e9-7f36-45fc-b623-9dcf9479d2b1-300x229We are looking at running three ThamesRow events next year; one will be for the Jubilee Sailing Trust  who in their own words take both disabled and able-bodied men and women to sea, to not only teach them how to crew a tall ship, but to promote equality, sharing, and to celebrate  individual differences by working together to achieve greater things.’ That sort of thing is right up my street and exactly what we aim to do with trips on board Lisa Too.

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Sean Usher – ThamesRower2016

Not smiling so much anymore - yet this is where we earn our acheivement

It’s not easy to sum up two days on the Thames onboard Lisa Too with Ian Rowe and his team. Inspiring , challenging , educational , physical and fun all easily spring to mind however the experience is much more than that.

Offered the chance by Ian when an experienced rower had to pull out with an injury I jumped at the chance without really knowing what I was letting myself in for.  A  look at the (very detailed and planned) route showed Henley (home of rowing) , Windsor (home of a big castle) , Marlow (home of a big suspension bridge) and Boulters Lock (where I’d taken part in a sponsored walk previously) , These were all places I’d seen before but only from dry land.

At 5.30 in the morning on Day 2 of this years Thames Row I climbed on board with two very experienced rowers not knowing what the next two days would bring. We set off to the first lock , only a five minute row away but five minutes later I realised the reality of my “of course I’ll step in’ decision. I really wanted to pull my weight whilst onboard but very quickly knew that that would mean trying to learn a lot very fast.

Ian and Mark were brilliant , teaching, encouraging and pointing out improvements I could make and I was very determined to learn from both of them. I know they were being kind, I know my steering wasn’t particularly straight and it offered little encouragement knowing Julia and Simon (Read Simon’s account by clicking here) who’d rowed the day before were equally keen to see ALL of the river. At a lock somewhere before Henley things got even more serious with David joining us. Ian and Mark had spent the first couple of hours letting me know about ’the machine’ and he certainly lived up to the description. I really wanted to row Henley Straight and after a brief stop for coffee just under Henley Bridge, a cabin sleep for Mark (which gave us one of my favourite pictures) and a welcoming smile from Julia  the team were kind enough to give me the oars.

14080036_1146334592079737_3937758275970301686_nTeaming up with David we powered down the straight and to me rowing this bit of water in a boat that was rowed across the Atlantic whilst listening to Ian talk about his own amazing experience on the same ocean and being coached by Mark and David is something I’ll never forget. Many hours later , tired and in need of a beer with me on the oars we rowed into the Oakley Court Hotel moorings to more smiles and chance of a well earned rest.
Highlight of the evening had to be when I explained to the waitress about our challenge and the fact that I was sitting next to a man that had ‘rowed the Atlantic” . Very calmly and matter of fact she simply said ‘That’s great , my dad and grandad have done it too!’ This allowed us the opportunity for a great evening of gentle ribbing and constant wondering if we could find anyone else who’d done it too ,
needless to say we didn’t .
droneovercourseDay 3 (and my day 2) again saw us up at 5.30. The Thames was absolutely beautiful , misty but calm and bathed in the rising sunshine which by the end of the day we’d be cursing. We pushed on hard today, following Ian’s detailed timescale which he told us he’d written with a special antique river abacus.  I tried to keep the pace but also knew that the experienced amongst us were moving the boat much quicker (and straighter). I
have to say a huge thank you to Ian , Mark and David here. It would have been easier , quicker and more direct to only put me in the important seats when they had to but to their credit I was allowed to take my turn and again this allowed me to row up to the finishing line.

img_4903Rowing is hard , you use your legs a lot , you need to keep your arms straight ( no Sean STRAIGHT !!!), locks are narrower than extended oars , the seat moves backwards and forwards , experienced rowers like to row the shortest route ( no Sean STRAIGHT) and steering in a straight line is hard but wow it really is an experience I will never forget and one I haven’t stopped talking about since.

The whole experience with Ian and Lisa Too was an honour ,  it is almost impossible to begin to understand the physical and truly amazing challenge Ian set himself on the Atlantic but after a couple of days of being onboard you come away thinking what your next challenge could be.

Huge thanks to everyone , please invite me back next year.

Read the story of the whole trip by clicking here.

Below, Lisa Too in her original guise – being rowed across the Atlantic by double Olympic Rowing Champion James cracknell and TV adventurer Ben Fogle:

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Gallery pics from the trip:

If you would like to be considered for part of all of a trip next year, let us know with the form below:

Lisa Too – formerly Spirit of EDF Energy

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Spirit of EDF Energy was famously rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 2005 by double Olympic Rowing Champion James Cracknell and TV presenter/adventurer Ben Fogle; they won the pairs race that year in 49 days 19 hours and 8 minutes.

It is a never ending job to keep the boat ‘seaworthy’ – she is comparatively old, made of plywood and had sat outside for the best part of a decade so had made good friends with wood rot and water – the former turned plywood to dust and the latter delaminated it so it was useless.

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It was a significant job to turn that around – especially as an amateur learning as I went along; a lot of people helped – both with practical work such as Daniel Lewis and LWS Group, materials with Tony Stevens of AES Construction and Woodfines Solicitors with funding. The latter continue to help and without them and everyone else who helps we would not be able to do all of the charity events we do and give Spirit of EDF Energy a new life as Lisa Too, helping others ‘cross their oceans’.

Ben_JamesIf you get chance to look at the boat take a moment to consider that – 7 weeks on board, totally self-sufficient, no outside help, the on board toilet facilities, rowing 2 hours on and 2 hours off day and night. There was a lot of naked rowing too! James and Ben encountered some of the worst weather conditions for an ocean rowing race and at one point were capsized, the boat being tipped over end to end with Ben ending up in the water – they were very lucky to survive and be able to continue their row.

I acquired ‘Spirit’ in 2014. She was in a very sorry state with the plywood completely ‘shot’ in large areas of the boat. After 18 months she was back on the water being used for my professional speaking work, charity events, corporate team building, and not least, just going rowing!

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I was given the boat by Will North and Dan Howie who in turn had been given her by James Cracknell; Dan and Will won the pairs race in the Atlantic Rowing Race and attributed some of that win to my coaching whilst they were at sea – offering insights into the marginal gains that over time make all the difference be it rowing the ocean or in business!

I renamed the boat ‘Lisa Too’ after his wife although the boat still carries the original name, Spirit of EDF Energy.

Where I can I take the boat with me for speaking events as I believe experiences will always add to simply just hearing about something; our Atlantic story is very powerful, it takes audiences through highs and lows, laughter and tears. To then see a real ocean rowing boat up close and personal can have a significant impact. Wait until you see her – better still come for a row on her.

I have also used her for three charity rows to date and you can read more about each of these below:

Thames Row 2015

B2Sea 2015

Thames Row 2016

If you would like to book me as a speaker for you corporate or school event, or would like to join one of our ThamesRow crews then please get in touch below: