On the 1st March 2017 I will finally, weather permitting, set off to row the Atlantic Ocean. Now I know what some of you will be thinking - "Didn't Niall do something like this before?". The answer is "No, but Yes". In 2012 I sailed across the Pacific Ocean as part of Clipper Round the World yacht race. In a crew of 15 we sailed from China to San Francisco on board a 68 foot racing yacht. We covered around 10,000km in total in 29 days. We sailed in 4hrs on/4hrs off shifts day and night through whatever conditions Mother Nature threw at us. It was long, it was hard but it was incredibly fun.
But this time, in a 25ft rowing boat, 4 of us will attempt to row nearly 6,000km from Portugal to French Guiana in a 2hrs on/2hrs off watch pattern day and night. It will take us around 50 days. Sounds similar? Maybe. But it's a bit like the difference between driving 1000 miles and running 1000 miles. If you've ever rowed on a rowing machine before - try doing an hour non stop. If you've never rowed on a rowing machine before, try it just once for 10 minutes. That's what we'll be doing every 2 hours for 2 hours, for 50 days. We'll row through storms, at night, in the searing heat, in the freezing cold, when exhausted, when in pain, whatever. As one of the current world record (50 days, 10 hours) crew said - "You can give up as many times as you want as long as you keep on rowing". It's going to be hard.
The adventure for me started around this time last year when I tried to form a 4 man team to enter the Talisker Atlantic Challenge in December 2017. It was hard to find good people, but we managed. It was even harder to find sponsorship, financing etc. In Nov 2016 we finally abandoned our attempt to form a crew. 2 days later I saw a post on an Ocean Rowing site advertising a seat on a row departing in March 2017. I contacted the expedition leader - Ralph Tiujn and signed up the next day. Ralph is a remarkable character and one of the most experienced ocean rowers in history having covered over 500 days at sea in rowing boats. We are joined by Clement Mas - a young Frenchman with a huge amount of solo cycling experience, and Colin Blears - a fellow Clipper sailor and ultra runner. I like the crew we have formed and believe, weather permitting, we have the potential to break the current Mainland to Mainland Atlantic record of 50 days and 10 hours. It will certainly be our target.
We'll depart Portugal around the 1st March heading south west towards the Canaries - from there we'll turn right (technical terms!) and head straight for French Guiana, just north of Brazil. Leaving Portugal we'll face the coldest and perhaps least predictable weather/seas of our crossing. Once we clear the Canaries it will be warm and we should enjoy the East-West trade winds behind us all the way across.
You'll be able to follow our progress in 2 places - Helen will be updating this Blog every few days with summaries of communications from the boat. There'll also be a live tracker which updates twice daily on the expedition website: http://www.oceanrower.eu/4nationteam/
I hope you enjoy following the adventure. I'm sure your warm words of encouragement before and during the row will keep me going throughout - oh wait, I've just remembered my friends don't do "warm" or "encouraging" - oh well!