Rain brings rainbows

"The ultimate test of a man, is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy."  Martin Luther King

 

Towards the best possible row

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My admiration for the four men in this team grows day by day; through the setbacks and through every one of their triumphs. 

I've been told by ocean rowers that crossing the Atlantic ocean in a tiny rowing boat, standing against tempestuous Mother Nature and overcoming unimaginable physical and mental tests, is something that can be taken on by anyone. 

But I really don't believe this is true.  It takes a special kind of person to take on this extreme journey. 

For starters, you need courage in every strand of your DNA, super-heroism rooted in your heart chambers and, the ambition to do it, so strong in you, that every neural pathway sings with the will to achieve this seemingly-impossible goal.

These are the qualities that I'm starting to see in the team, and my respect for this charming, crazy and endearing bunch of guys is growing steadily.

 

Teaching isaac to row

This weekend, Mother Nature played a little trick on my boys - the first of many - I'm quite sure!

On Friday, Ben, Isaac and Jack flew to Switzerland to stay with Cameron on the banks of Lake Zurich.  Their mission for the training session was to row a wide riverboat - kindly lent to them by the RGZ Rowing Club - 60 km around the heart of the largest city in the country, while coaching Isaac on the finer points of rowing.  Photographer and drone expert Daniel Williams joined the team to record their progress on the iconic alpine waters.

On Saturday, Mother Nature woke up in a bad mood.  The team, unperturbed by her cloudy brow,  launched at 8am.

(Now, we all know that ignoring a moody woman is not always the best course of action...ho hum!)

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The rain...

While the more seasoned rowers schooled Isaac, Mother Nature dialled down the temperature and lowered her head.  Atlantic Discovery were 10 km into their row when they began to realise that the boat was taking on a great deal of water. 

Too much, according to Jack (in water up to his knees from the stroke position)

It was fine, according to Ben (only seeing two inches of water from the bow)

What about my photographic equipment?, panicked Dan. 

It was a tense interlude until, as one, they entered survival mode and pulled towards the shore with all their might, just making it before the boat went under and they were dumped unceremoniously into the shallows, the echoes of distant laughter ringing across the dull skies. 

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Cold and wet, the guys salvaged the boat, their pride, and their indomitable high spirits; they were laughing when they messaged me to say they had "sunk", "they were trying again tomorrow when the weather improved" and their agenda had been"rejigged". 

 Oh why not have a swim while we're here?

Oh why not have a swim while we're here?

 Warm and dry, wide smiles as they charm a young lady handing out soap samples in Zurich Old Town.

Warm and dry, wide smiles as they charm a young lady handing out soap samples in Zurich Old Town.

 

A glance back in time

STÄMPFLI Racing Boats, established since 1861, are the Bugatti Veyron of the rowing world.  They are the only company that still build wooden boats in the traditional way and are committed to the ongoing improvement of rowing boat design and production; the team were in for a treat.

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"STÄMPFLI has generously sponsored Atlantic Discovery two pairs of brand new ocean rowing Croker skulls," explained Cameron.  "I was so pleased when they offered to support us.  Everyone I have spoken to in the business is friendly, welcoming and genuine.  They really go out of their way to be helpful too.  I have a great deal of respect for the company and we had a wonderful time visiting the workshop and being talked through what they do by Dani.  We are deeply grateful to be associated with this premium brand."

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#girlpower for the boys

Back to the flat and a chat with Sophie Stabell, captain of the record breaking four-women Rowegians rowing team from Norway (they rowed Ellida across the Atlantic in 2017).  Sophie shared invaluable advice on preparation, the row, food and managing Ellida.

Ben said afterwards: "The ocean rowing community is such a special group of people.  Always so willing to help and offer advice.  I loved hearing all the inside information and Sophie is inspirational in the way she answered all our questions - thanks Sophie!"

 

Then the rainbow...

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From the drone flying above the skiff, Sunday looked like a tropical island far below.  The water like glass, the early autumnal colours bright, the skulls scooping rhythmically, the kilometres falling away with ease. 

Atlantic Discovery completed the circumnavigation, foot steering the whole way and achieving a top speed of 11.23 knots.  Dan was able to get some amazing drone footage of the rowing, you can see his short film on our social media channels.  (Amazingly, he was able to launch and land the drone on the rowing boat - I'm sure there are not many photographers who would attempt that - skillz Dan!)

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Jack-bot has also got to be mentioned here - in the rainbow section - because this weekend he gained the respect of his team mates for setting the pace and putting welly into the row, despite feeling very ill (I'm not going to say anything about man-flu because he never even mentioned feeling poorly!).  Go Jack-bot, love your stoicism.

 

Focus, precision and timing

The highlight of the weekend?  Isaac said it was the discovery of how important it is to focus on precision and timing when you're on the oars.  "Concentration is key to synchronising effort with your team mates to maximise forward propulsion.  I was really surprised at the difference this makes.  Chatting or looking around isn't really an option: while you're rowing you've got to work hard.  Thanks guys for the coaching, I feel like a really solid part of the team now."

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Credit for all images in this blog to Daniel Gregg Williams @ Dwailiw Photography

Watch this space @virtualstowaway  Penny Bird is a professional photographer and writer documenting Atlantic Discovery's incredible journey.

Rowing through time

Rowing through time

Ah, Ben, Cam, Isaac and Jack always seem to do things a little differently - that's what's so special about my modern-day-adventurer-heroes.  I love this team.  So, why not join in a 100-kilometer run along the coast, erm, with a boat?

On Saturday 21 July 2018, Atlantic Discovery will be taking part in the Jurassic Coast Challenge.  Instead of walking, running or jogging the route like the other 2,000 participants, they will be racing the lovely boat Ellida 60 km in the sea below the stunning 185-million-year-old-cliffs to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis charities.  How cool is that!

The power of giving

The power of giving

The Stowaway Club

From the start, the Atlantic Discovery team impressed me with their commitment to building relationships with everyone involved in their 3,000 mile row.  They wanted to create a community of supporters: somewhere to show their gratitude and share regular inside-story updates on their progress. 

Raising the stakes

Raising the stakes

Partner with us

Sponsoring Atlantic Discovery's crossing will showcase your brand and core values to more than 3 billion people worldwide.  Stakeholder engagement will rocket as your staff and clients connect with this incredible story of human endeavour. 

After last year's race Andrew Redmayne, CEO NRL Group said: “We’re privileged to have been able to sponsor the Four Oarsmen (winners) and share their journey, and see the unbelievable amount of money they have raised for their charities. Everyone at NRL is extremely proud of their tremendous, well-earned achievement.” 

Rough water

Rough water

There is something, almost primal, about watching a rowing boat, powered simply with hearts and minds, harness the energy of the seemingly relentless sea.

This weekend I was invited to join Atlantic Discovery for their second two-day training session.  I was honoured to meet Ellida for the first time, the most important member of the team.  She is a beauty; with long clean lines, grace and strength, and a backbone of experience:  2018/19 will be her fifth Atlantic crossing.

Starting out

Starting out

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."  Nelson Mandela

Have you ever done anything right out there?  On the borderline of crazy and inspirational?  Space travel?  Extreme endurance sports or a super-tough mental challenge? 

A team of four, Atlantic Discovery, are launching themselves into the unknown, risking all, leaping out of their comfort zones... and, there's no going back.  They are going to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.  Their boat needs to be fully equipped for 60 days at sea on departure - as they aren't able to accept any help of rescue, repair, food or water during the race...