Time seems to be flying at the moment! The countdown clock has just passed 200 days to go, which sounds like a lot of time, but with the number of things we need to cram into those days, I am sure will go by even quicker.
Since our last update we have been super productive; having had our first outing on the boat, launched our 250 club, booked some upcoming promotional events, as well as found time to get to the gym a few times. The first time we went out on the boat was exceptionally exciting but also terrifying. They are relatively simple bits of kit, but when you have no idea how to use any of the equipment, they can be somewhat daunting. Thankfully Dan, one of the team we bought the boat off, came down and gave us a helping hand around the basics. One thing that quickly comes apparent is how small the boats are (23ft long and 5ft wide), so you need to make sure you use all the space as efficiently as possible and keep the place in working order. Having spent a good couple of hours, going over all the various nooks and crannies of the boat, Dan left us and we headed out on to the water.
Was great to finally be out on the boat, especially having watched numerous teams in the past, was good to finally be our turn. We were very lucky with the weather, it was a beautiful day and the wind was relatively gentle, which was great. We spent a good 6 hours or so going up and down the estuary, near to where it is stored. We were able to test out some of the various bits of kit, which only helped build our confidence. One issue we did find was overall steering. Giving the tide and other boats on the water, we were having to constantly alter our course to make sure we remained a safe distance from the shore and other boats and buoys. In the middle of the Atlantic, this will be much less of an issue, as there is a small chance we will see many other boats and also there is bit more leeway in the direction we need to go. We will also have an autohelm, which when the seas are not too rough, will ensure we remain on the right course.
Despite the steering issues, it was a great first outing and filled us both with confidence on the boat and our general ability to power her in the right direction. Once we got back to dry land we went to have a thoroughly delightful and well earned beer in the sun and grab some much needed food. Is safe to say we slept like babies that night. It was a real eye opener into how tired we are going to get on our crossing, given we will be rowing 2 hours on/2 hours off. So when I am trying to get some shut eye, Seamus will be rowing and vica versa. 2 hours is not a very long time, and will quickly become very monotonous. We have however had some experience of this in the past when we completed the Race Across Europe (a 3000 mile cycle race across Europe) where we were in shifts of 4 hours on, 4 hours off. After a few days your body does get used to the relative lack of sleep, but the key thing to get over is the relentless nature of having to get up, after such a short period of sleep.
When we got up the next day, we were rather sore in places we hadn’t felt before, but were excited to get back out there. The weather was rather different but we were determined to get out on the water and get some miles under our belt. In hindsight rowing against the tide in 20-25 knot winds was not the best idea. We took 20 minutes to where we had decided to turn around and another 3 hours to get back to where we started. This at times was seriously tough, fighting the wind and tide but also our inability to steer as well. From the side of the estuary this must have been rather amusing to watch, but was not much fun at the time on the boat. That being said, was a great lesson on taking the weather into account. There are times when stepping up and putting in a good fight is necessary and there are times to think smart and preserve some energy for later. That being said was great to see we both stuck it out and eventually got back to the marina. That is the one thing I am supremely confident in both of us, is our ability to really dig deep when things aren’t going well and looking at the bigger picture. This will be especially critical when we are early on in the race and our adrenaline is wearing off, and the realisation of how much further we have to go really hits us. But we just need to remain calm and determined that we will eventually get to Antigua if we put the work in and we will also raise a huge amount of money for our amazing charities, The Prostate Project and Shooting Star Chase.
Off the water things have also been going well. As mentioned we launched our 250 club, and have already received a significant amount of support, which has been great. The idea for the 250 club, is to get local companies and individuals to help support us in crossing the Atlantic, so for £250 people will be able to get their name or company logo on our website as well as on our boat, so they too will be part of our crossing. We have had a number of people and companies kindly donate to this already, which has really helped us tick over in the various bits of kit we need for our training. For example, £250 can get us either two life jackets, two cooking stoves, a weekend training session or the cost of some of the required qualifications. So even though in the grand scheme of how much we need to raise for the whole challenge, £250 can go a long way, and definitely does help us get to the start line. If you or your company are interested in joining our 250 club, please do feel free to get in touch via our email SaddleSandSea@gmail.com
One of the courses we went to recently was a great Ocean Rowing Course put together by Ian Couch who is the main man ensuring we are all safe as we cross the Atlantic. A lot of it was very reassuring as it was already things we had considered and thought about, but there were a couple of real gems. It tips and tricks like these which are invaluable and not only will it make us safer but our overall crossing much more enjoyable as well. The one overriding things I think we picked up, was just making sure you stick to your routine even when things aren’t going well. Something as simple as not cleaning yourself after every session can lead to an infected sore and your life becoming a general misery for the rest of the crossing. We are working on a critical checklist of tasks we need to do each time we come off the oars as well as during the day, and as long as we stick to this, hopefully we should be able to keep ourselves and the boat in good working order.
We are also busy working on events to get us out there, so we can raise our profile, not only to help us attract sponsors, but also to raise awareness about what we are doing and our two amazing charities. We have a few booked around London as well as near to where we grew up, which we are excited about. Will be great to tell more people about our challenge and hopefully they will keep track of us whilst we are out on the water. One of our main aims is to raise as much money for our charities, but if along the way we can inspire some people to get out there and attempt a challenge of their own, however big or small, that would be great as well.
The next few months won’t be any more relaxing. We have loads of big sessions booked in to get out on the water and really get to grips with all our equipment and systems. We will also be doing a lot of desk based work to make sure we have everything we need and all the relevant forms so we can officially start. Sponsorship remains one of the biggest hurdles to cross, but we need to keep trying and trying and trying and eventually we will get there! Hopefully by our next update we will have some positive news on that front.
You can keep track of how we are doing in future editions, where we will be writing about the build up to the final event of our Saddle Sand Sea Series, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We hope that you have enjoyed the journey so far and keep track of us in the final push to the finish.