We are aiming to row individually, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, around the clock for the duration of the crossing. Whilst this is undoubtedly going to be a huge challenge, the theory is that 2 hours is just long enough to accommodate a 90-minute sleep cycle (although in practice this is likely to be much less), whilst short enough to maintain a good rowing pace. We plan to stop for just one hour per week to perform boat maintenance, including diving into the deep blue sea (in some places it is over five miles deep!) and cleaning our boat's bottom. Whales, dolphins and sharks are commonplace, so we hope there won't be any predators around when we do!
Health & Sickness
We will obviously face a host of health challenges. In the early days, these are likely to come in the form of seasickness and sleep deprivation. Anyone who has suffered from the former will know how debilitating it is. The latter will be a new experience which we will need to learn to cope with. Hopefully, we will be able to overcome these early challenges. Other health hazards include general illnesses or bugs, coping with atmospheric changes, including rain, storms, wind and sun. The freeboard on a Rannoch 25 is very low so we will expect to be wet for much of the time. In addition, we are likely to have to endure pressure and salt sores, blisters etc. The biggest worry and the greatest pain is likely to come from our rear-ends, where constant pressure is obviously unavoidable. It will be hugely important to keep both ourselves and the boat clean and to ensure that we are properly "fed and watered".
Food & Drink
The average rower loses 10-15kg during the course of the row. This is despite trying to eat for England and keeping fluid levels up. In terms of water, the boat will have a solar-powered, electronic water-maker which will be capable of converting enough saltwater into drinking water to meet our needs each day. If this breaks down, we will have a back-up water maker that is manually operated with a hand pump. We understand that the latter is a particularly inefficient process and, after two hours of rowing, we hope that we will be able to avoid having to pump for 30 minutes to get a few sips of fresh water. In the case of real emergency, where our water supply dries up and we literally have no alternative, the ballast in the bottom of the boat consists of fresh water. This can be used as emergency drinking water but, if we are forced to break the seals and use it, we will be disqualified from the race.
On the food front, in preparation for the crossing, we will need an extensive food calorie plan which will specify the number of calories required per day for each of us. We will probably need around 6,000 calories per person per day which we will mostly get from freeze dried meal packs that we will be taking on board. Alongside these, we will have daily snack packs of high calorie foods such as nuts, pork scratchings, protein bars, protein shakes, chocolate etc.
Although we will try to make the crossing in under 50 days, we will take enough food to last us for much longer. We will also be taking a quantity of “wet-rations” – food which doesn’t require rehydration – in case our water-making equipment fails.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has an excellent safety record. Safety requirements include, inter alia:
- All boats must be of a design that is proven to self-right.
- All boats are subject to an advisory inspection prior to shipping to La Gomera and a rigorous compliance inspection before the race.
- All boats carry mandatory equipment. Apart from navigation equipment and essential food supplies, this includes a race tracking unit which is switched on for the duration of the race, two satellite phones, a comprehensive medical kit and a variety of other items.
- Each boat must carry an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and each rower must wear a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon).
- Each rower must have a Short-Range Radio Licence, an RYA Sea Survival course completion certificate, an RYA First Aid at Sea certificate, an RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship certificate and a certificate of completion of an accepted Ocean Rowing Course.
- Each rower must be signed off as medically fit prior to the start of the race.
- When at sea any rower who is not in the cabin must be attached to the boat using an approved harness and safety line.
- The race organisers employ a Safety Officer who is on standby and contactable by satellite phone 24/7.