Celebrating the New Year in the middle of The Atlantic
Team Status Row are busy crossing the Atlantic as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. They left La Gomera, off Tenerife, in mid-December and have now been at sea almost a month.
Jess Rego, Caroline Wilson and MCS Trustee, Susan Ronaldson, have, between strokes, been interviewed on national radio, celebrated Christmas and New Year, been whacked a few times by Winston and Derek and found time to write a few blogs!
December 18, 2018
Current position: N2526’14.5 W02050’43.5
Seven Days at Sea By Team Status Row
What a fantastic end to our first week at sea- a surprise visit from Skye the support yacht, skippered by the wonderful Mani. When you haven’t seen another object let alone person for days, it’s quite a euphoric feeling. We’ve just waved goodbye and the ocean is looking beautiful in the early evening- we’re one happy crew. Despite the challenges…
Wow, a week! It’s gone so quickly and was nothing like we’d expected. We’d been told to prepare for a very difficult first week - sea sickness, sleep deprivation, the physical adjustment of hours rowing, and the possible fear and anxiety at being out in the ocean. But rather than just getting through we all loved it from the beginning. Not even sea sick! Which is not to say that rowing 12 hours a day isn’t tough- it’s so tough!!
We were pleased with our push to get out of the canaries, each rowing 2 in 3 hours for nearly a day before switching to our planned 3 hours on / 3 off. But we quickly learned that we became inefficient in our 3rd hour, especially at night, so we’ve changed to less hours at night and more in the day. The waves picked up around day 3 - it’s like white water rafting on a whole other scale! Huge rolling waves that pick you up and carry you - 6.1 knots is our record- even more exciting at night when you can’t see them. Big ‘ol rollers but they’re probably not half the size they will be…
We also learnt quickly that everything onboard other than rowing or sleeping is a faff! Things are generally uncomfortable and we’re covered in bruises - mainly thanks to Winston and Derek our misbehaving oars who take any chance to give you a whack.
The ocean is utterly beautiful and awe inspiring. Jess was lucky enough to spot some dolphins the first night, but apart from a couple of birds and some dead flying fish there hasn’t been much wildlife yet. But the sunsets and rises, the light, the waves and oh the stars!!!
But we’ve had challenges too. In choosing a classic rowing boat - one that doesn’t catch the wind as much, we knew we’d be near the back of the fleet. Our competition is not the concept boats with their 28 day world record- but challenging against the 60 odd days it took this design last year. However that may be in doubt as quite literally- the wheels have come off!
On day two one of the wheels broke on the stroke sliding seat- rowing is about pushing with your legs so being able to slide is crucial. And that seat is vital for us as we steer her with our feet from this seat. We replaced the wheel but shortly after the replacement broke too! We’re currently on fix number 8 and since then, another wheel on this seat has come off, and as of last night, another wheel on the other seat… So we’ve lost what must be days to repairs and being only able to row with one person not two. We don’t know if we have a permanent solution but just hope we can keep patching things up with glue and tape daily.
It’s taken a while to get into a routine but now we are we are catching up not only on chores but with nicer things like all the lovely messages from friends and family. That includes the Atlantic Ladies who took poppy across last year, and the wonderful Rowettes who have written us a message for each day.
After getting really close to other teams it’s strange to have no news of them. We were pleased to catch up with Men of Oar over VHF as they caught us up, after a delayed start. Don’t worry, we didn’t let them pass us by easily!
We will get to Antigua! We don’t know how long or quite how, but we remain up beat and totally determined. Our story was never about speed, it was about showing how anyone can do something extraordinary and we’re feeling lucky and happy to be living our dream.
January 4, 2019
By Jess Rego
Celebrating the New Year in the middle of The Atlantic
Another week down and oh what a roller coaster it has been. Following our Christmas cheer we were hit with a few hard slow days of rowing. Safety officer Ian had told us to keep heading south but every day in that direction brought us despair. Fighting choppy waves and unhelpful winds for less than a knot of speed was disheartening and with more seat issues the team were feeling less than great. Singing slowed to a halt and there were mutinous murmurs of abandoning the southerly route and making a break for it westward. What’s the worst that could happen right?
As morale hit an all time low I sent an emotional SOS email home. But as though Poseidon himself knew we needed a break, the next morning we woke to a whole new world. The ocean was flat and the air windless. For most boats this might sound like terrible news but getting our oars in completely we were finally making progress with a roaring 3.5 knots. With each stroke the mood on the boat lifted.
Ian rang and gave us even more good news… we could now go west! Turning the boat away from the rising sun we cheered as every mile counted towards that finish line in Antigua. Never doubted you for a minute, Ian!
We were then gifted news from home; Christian on our ground crew sent us some of the lovely responses to our last blog and messages from Facebook. Tears all around as we felt overwhelmed with support. My sister, aunts and godfather all heard the SOS and sent back needed updates from home and such lovely words of love and pride that I started to cry all over again. All happy tears for a much needed reminder that although we are just three girls in a boat we have the most incredible people in our corner, rooting us on.
I was also just completely beside myself to hear that the family had gone on a beach clean and watched Blue Planet in our honour. Every time we hear that anyone has joined a cleanup, cut their plastic or has gotten educated on the issue is such a massive win for our campaign. Really looking forward to continuing to work with the MCS on this in 2019.
Our good vibes didn’t stop there though! As I settled into bed for a luxury 3 hours of sleep I heard yelling from deck. Dolphins! Dolphins!! And sure enough there was a gorgeous pod of dolphins surrounding us. They sped around Poppy, darting under oars and jumping out for some playful belly flops. Incredible.
Later that evening Susan had a slightly less magical wildlife experience when a little seabird dive bombed straight into the bucket shed just finished with! But a dunk in the ocean to rinse the poor fellow off and he was back on his way. He’s come to visit since so don’t think he holds it against us.
The next day was NYE so we halted the boat at midday for our weekly boat clean and ocean cool down. I even joined this time, facing a lifelong fear of open water. I know, an ocean rower who is afraid of the ocean… but I think it’s healthy to respect the potential dangers of the deep blue. But as I kept an eye out for danger I was faced with nothing more than a few adorably teeny fish who were quite curious about our GoPro and boat cleaning.
Had we stayed in a bit longer we would have had a much larger neighbour as, shortly after reboarding poppy, there was another yell. This time… a whale! Not 100 meters away, doing a slow zigzag, checking us out before moseying on its way. A truly beautiful experience to end 2018 on.
At midnight we stopped for one last team treat of 2018. A can of frizzante (we are so classy) each and a chunk of stollen cake to toast the new year with. As we milled over a busy and surreal 2018 we also look forward to the next year. New adventures, charity work, career opportunities, travel plans and personal goals. But first, Antigua.
Suze had had a particularly frustrating session with #seatgate so retired early, missing my rousing dramatic lip sync of I Dreamed A Dream with Caroline, but I doubt she sees that as a bad thing!
This morning we started the new year with a lovely interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, surreal to hear the news and weather from home for the first time in weeks and exciting to get the opportunity to talk about the campaign while sitting in the middle of the Atlantic.
Thank you to everyone for your continued support, we couldn’t have gotten this far without you. Happiest of New Years to everyone and we look forward to reuniting shortly.
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