Crossing the Atlantic is never an easy undertaking, but people have been making the journey for hundreds of years. The very first crossings were made to discover and explore new lands. Today, most crossings are made by huge cargo ships exporting essential commodities across the ocean.
But some daring people choose to cross the Atlantic to test the limit of their physical and mental strength; to achieve something unthinkable.
The idea of the Atlantic Challenge race came to Sir Chay Blyth whilst he was rowing the Atlantic Ocean in 1966 with John Ridgeway. It was a 92 day battle against hurricanes, 50 foot waves and near starvation.
It’s no surprise then that more people have been into space, or climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic. It takes a certain kind of person to keep going when faced with blisters, salt rash, sharks and sleep deprivation.
That’s why the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the world’s toughest row.
The teams will row more than 3000 nautical miles across the world’s second largest ocean, the Atlantic. Heading west from San Sebastian in La Gomera to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua. Once they leave the safety of the harbour they’ll be on their own on the vast ocean and at the mercy of the elements, until the race comes into its final stretch.
The boats are approximately 7.5 meters long and 1.8 meters wide, which means competitors won’t be able to walk about freely on board. The boats are built of wood, fibre glass, carbon fibre and Kevlar. Each one will have a small cabin, which is the only protection teams have against the might of the ocean and powerful sun rays. If the weather proves too much for the boat and it capsizes, all the vessels are able to self-right.
All the boats come equipped with watermakers which change the sea water into drinking water. They also have solar panels which will power GPS and other vital electrical equipment. Rowers will be equipped with 90 days’ worth of rations, first aid kits and a few small luxuries and reminders of home. As the rules state – if they run out of rations and have to ask for extras, they will be disqualified.
We’ve come a long way since the first Atlantic crossing in 1966. Nowadays all rowing boats are fitted with the latest technology: an ‘AIS’ which lets the crews communicate with passing vessels. They also have satellite telephones and specially designed laptops called ‘tough books’. This means that the crews can communicate with the outside world even when they’re 1,500 miles from dry land. Prior to leaving all rowing boats will be equipped with a YB tracking beacon that will signal the boats location, distance rowed and direction at predetermined times.
This not only provides the organisers with the exact location of the boat should they need urgent assistance, but also provides a way for friends, family and all race supporters to easily follow either just one team or the whole fleets progess.