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June Update

Seems to be a reoccurring theme in these diary entries, but time is going rather quickly. It only feels like yesterday that Seamus and I thought it would be a good idea to set off on this crazy Saddle Sand Sea journey. Since then we have cycled 3000 miles across Europe, run 257km across the Sahara Desert, as well as had to put in an inordinate number of hours into training sessions and planning meetings/calls to just get us to the start line of each. With all this behind us, it really does feel like we are building to a huge crescendo of rowing across the Atlantic this December in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

We have managed to get another good weekend under our belt on the boat which was great. Every time we go down to Burnham on Crouch to take the boat out, our confidence builds slowly but surely. The boats are relatively simple, but there are a few, what seems like technical bits of kit, which help navigate us, provide drinking water, ensure we have power on the boat and so on. Each time we get to the boat and play around with these, it just helps us to get more familiar with it all and will hopefully mean we are very much prepared for December.

We were very fortunate the weekend we went out, as just so happened to coincide with the annual 3 days of amazing sun we typically only ever get each summer in the UK. It was brilliant to be out on the boat on a weekend like that, but wow it was hot. I feel like a proper English man saying this, but these boats have no shade on deck and the cabin can only be described as a make shift sauna. Having spoken with a number of crews who have done the row in the past, they all say this is a major struggle as you get closer to Antigua. Having already rowed the best part of the Atlantic, the heat can be extremely oppressive and make an already broken body more fatigued. The temptation for the rower in the cabin is to sit with latch open, to get a bit of breeze, but this can have serious consequences. Due to the random nature of the ocean, there is always a chance of freak wave getting on to the boat and flooding the cabin, which can mean game over for a lot of the electrics on board. It is safe to say that these are rather important bits of kit. We will have handheld GPS and our compass, so would be able to guide ourselves across the ocean, but it would mean we would be without a key piece of equipment our water maker. The electric water maker can churn out 30-40L in an hour where as if we are required to do this by hand, we would only get in the region of 3-4L in an hour. This would also mean we would need to pump during our breaks which is not ideal.

I have highlighted in the past that the key to the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, as well as other endurance events, is sticking to plan however uncomfortable you are and however much you want to stop, or take the easy path. You need to carry on! Having completed the other challenges, we feel confident in our ability to push on and do the right thing, but it is key to not get arrogant and just assume you will do the right thing. It takes a lot of mental will power to do this and will be something we need to build up over the coming months prior to departure.

We recently held our first big promotional day in London, with a 14 hour row (in typical Saddle Sand Sea fashion we decided 12 hours wasn’t quite enough), which was really successful. We were able to set up in Broadgate right next to one of the busiest exits of Liverpool Street train station, which meant we got a really a serious amount of people walking past us. On the day we got there at 6am and were all set to go by 6:30am. It was somewhat terrifying at first as we weren’t quite sure whether anyone would really care what we were doing or even give us some money. But slowly but surely the number of people coming past kept rising and interest grew, which helped motivate us on the rowing machine. People were coming up and asking if we were insane and more about Saddle Sand Sea, which was one of the main aims of the event. We were also keen to raise money for our amazing charities The Prostate Project and Shooting Star Chase, which was equally as successful, this started slowly, but over time it really made you see the good in a huge number of people, who are happy to donate to some really worthy causes. One of the fun things about being there so long was seeing people a few times throughout the day. Typically, the first time they walked past people were a little grumpy on their way to work, and each time they passed during the day, their interest grew and eventually they would come over for a chat and ask more questions, which was fun. Manging to pick one of the hottest days of the year meant it wasn’t much fun. It was unbelievably hot and uncomfortable at times, but I think it meant people really saw how determined we are to achieve what we have set out to do. You might think a rowing machine would be a bit easier than the real thing, but we both found it to be much harder going for so long when compared to the boat. The boat is continuously moving, whereas the rowing machine was perfect level, so was much more repetitive on the various muscle groups. Safe to say the bodies felt it the next day!

Not people for taking it easily, we decided that two days after doing our 14 hour row in London we should go and do a 24 hour row on the boat. This will be our first 24 hour outing which is extremely exciting and scary at the same time. It may seem counterintuitive but rowing at night is probably easier in the middle of the Atlantic compared to around the UK coastline, as you just need to point the boat in the right direction and row. Rowing around the coast of the UK, presents a number of different challenges and things you need to be mindful of such as the tide, other boats, wind turbines, buoys to name a few. Despite that we are both very much looking forward to it. We will be out on the boat whilst this goes to print, so be sure to get the next issue to see how we get on!

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.

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