What were you doing 6 weeks ago?

Six weeks ago the Atlantic Rowing Race crews rowed out of the harbour – two boats have now finished and the race for 3rd place is getting tighter and tighter as the solo boat of Gav Hennigan is getting reeled in by the American Oarsmen trio.

A week ago Gav was ahead of the Americans by around 80 miles – that lead is now under 14 miles with 477 to go – it will be a tough call to stay ahead. Imagine the facts of that – 42 days at sea, 2,062 miles rowed and you are just 14 miles apart and less than 500 to go – that will be brutal and exciting for the next 10 days or so!

Comparatively speaking only a few miles further back the race is also on between the Brits on board Fresh Dental Challenge and the Saffers of Facing It who lead them by just 30 miles with 546 to go.

Next up is the British trio of A-Adventures and the lads on board must be looking over their shoulders with the four British girls on board Atlantic Endeavour only 63 miles behind and 607 to the finish – anything is possible.

There is a step out to the female solo of Elaine Hopley with under a 1,000 miles remaining – that is still one. thousand. miles. who is 260 miles ahead of American pair 32 Degrees North.

Then we are into the back marker solos who amazingly keep battling away and are being hammered by the weather showing boat speed of just 0.5knots for Rossiters and 0.8 knots for Rowers Ark who remarkably have just 2.9 miles between them for distance to finish.

It will be incredible if they go get in as at that rate of progress they are still looking at being out there for another 70 days….compared to Elaine Hopley’s and Gav Hennigan’s solo efforts it makes you think they must have had some serious issues as that pace is not much more than drifting. Food must become an issue at the very least…



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 update – 22 days at sea…

The lead boat, Latitude 35 will enter the last 1,000 miles today – just 60 miles behind them are the Row4James crew who still have every chance of catching them – but that chance dwindles with ever hour that goes by. At present speed Latitude 35 are still two weeks from home. 

However, at the other end of the spectrum is the solo boat Rowers Ark with Daryl Farmer who still has 2,081 miles ahead of him – potentially another 80 – 90 days at sea which has to make finishing a marginal option with rations on board etc. The fastest solo boat is more than 600 miles ahead of him and has less than 1500 miles to go.

This report below was published by Duty Officer Lee Fudge for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Race Day 22, 4th of January:

As the crews approach the start of their 4th week at sea, most have been struggling through almost a week of light, confused winds. This weather has had a different effect on the rowers depending on boat design, crew size and geographical location with the boats at the front of the race experiencing more helpful conditions and those at the back being frustrated by low wind speed and unwanted wind direction. On top of that, all of the boats have been experiencing waves from the north resulting in difficult rowing conditions with the sea on the boats’ beam. These light winds have also been the reason for most of the fleet having been enveloped in the surreal haze brought about when the Saharan sand carried in the Calima winds was dropped over most of the boats. This has meant that many boats were unable to get a full charge from their solar panels to top up their batteries, which has prolonged power problems across almost all of the fleet.

The continuing power issues mean that many boats are having to steer by hand, which is slowing them down. Additionally, they are concerned about making water – the biggest drain on power of any system on the boat. Most crews are manging power very carefully and considering what systems to sacrifice to best manage battery charge while some are considering hand-pumping their water with the back-up watermaker. As well as this, there are problems with autohelms and GPS systems forcing rowers to work with their back-up systems and some satellite phones have started to malfunction. Fortunately for the crews, back-up and redundant systems and equipment are a mandatory requirement so every boat is managing.

They are starting to see the winds become more easterly and increase in strength and the Calima sand haze has now been left behind but pressure systems approaching boats in the north may see them challenged by strong headwinds while boats that have avoided this are having to maintain a delicate navigation plan to avoid being pushed too far south. With higher winds forecast, recent fixes to rudder and steering systems will be tested and proactive solutions to potential problems are being worked on by crews, Atlantic Campaigns, Support Vessels and suppliers and boat builders in the UK and US.

We will see where they all are in another few days once they have been at sea for 4 weeks, 28 days at sea…

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:


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:

ThamesRow2016 – personal insight from Simon Draper, novice rower, ocean boat rower.


Coaching……’OK, row’.

I went to a charity do at a brewery and ended up rowing an ocean going boat down the River Thames. Strange how a Friday evening in the company of Ian Rowe can turn out.

I was so enthused by Ian’s inspirational speech that I bid a tidy sum in the charity auction to join the crew on Lisa Too for a day on the Thames. I would like to say it was purely Ian’s motivation but I think it also had something to do with the Charlie Wells craft lager I drank during the evening.

Julia, who was also equally inspired to bid and win, and I next met Ian and Lisa Too at the beginning of August to go over the proposed details of our row. My immediate thought that evening was does Ian ever stop talking. We eventually got some questions in and it transpired that the plan was for the two of us to join Ian and another able rower for the first day of the 2016 Thame Rowe with the option of a night on the river bank in a bivvy bag and a bit more rowing in the morning. Of course under Ian’s magic spell on that warm early August evening we both thought this a great idea. Unfortunately! Come the weekend to start the row towards the end of August the weather was not being kind and Ian hurriedly recalculated and rescheduled his plans and now we were to set off from Abingdon on Sunday 21st no bivvy required for me.

Now the rowing bit, talk about being dropped in at the deep end or in Lisa Too the stroke seat was where I found myself when we pushed off from Abingdon Marina. Ian was looking down at me from his steering position and behind me sat the Bedford Modern School Director of Rowing, Mark Bavington so I was expecting expert tuition. What I got was, “ok row”.

Ian’s inspirational phrase is “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” and he truly believes and expects it. Here was an ordinary 60+ guy rowing a boat that had crossed the Atlantic, down the river Thames with a real oarsman following my stroke. Brilliant.

Steering is far more pressured and difficult than you might think - and you really, really do not want to get it wrong!

Steering is far more pressured and difficult than you might think – and you really, really do not want to get it wrong! Note the refreshments!

We made good progress to the first lock where Julia took over Bav’s seat and us novices propelled Lisa Too down the river at a fair rate according to my GPS device of 3mph. The real rowers were by this time drinking beer and telling stories that can never be retold off board! The names Max and Sebastian come to mind. (Read their story on board here)

When the beer had been drunk the two professionals took over and under my rudder control manage a mile in eleven minutes which made Julia and my twenty minute miles look quite ordinary. Steering the boat is another task that you are expected to master instantly. I must have been doing a good job because I got lots of encouragement about straight lines, keeping to the windward side and avoiding overhanging obstruction.

The steering position is the best seat on the boat. You get to see all that is ahead of you down the beautiful river, have a feeling of control and get to hear the views of real rowers on their cox spelt with an X.

All too soon we were nearing our destination but not before Prosecco and cake on the river bank with a lovely family and heavy rain for the last mile.

The crew joined Sean (Read Sean’s account by clicking here) who had been supporting us down the river for a couple of rewarding beers before it was time for me to leave the party and make my way home.

It was a unique day I will not forget. My thanks to  Julia for sharing the experience with me, her boundless enthusiasm makes any time in her company a pleasure. Sean for his support and the biggest smile in Bedfordshire. Mark Bavington for his patience and humour and most of all to Ian Rowe who really can make ordinary people do extraordinary things. I rowed a boat that has crossed the Atlantic down the Thames.

For the full story, start to finish, of this year’s ThamesRow, click here.

Below, Lisa Too in her previous guise – rowed across the Atlantic by double Olympic rowign champion James Cracknell and TV adventurer Ben Fogle:


Check out the video below for more on the boat and James’ and Ben’s epic trip:


Lisa Too – formerly Spirit of EDF Energy


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.


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!


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:





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