You recall that last October I retired from ocean rowing? But I did also say that I WASN’T saying “never again” – just “enough is enough – for now”. Well, it seems that “for now” didn’t last very long….
A Bolt From The Blue
About 10 days ago I got an email out of the blue concerning the OAR project: to row the North Atlantic, arriving in Britain in time for the Olympics. I have known both Mick and Andrew since 2005, having competed in the same Atlantic Rowing Race when they first rowed together, and having seen Mick again more recently after his successful row from Japan to San Francisco with Chris Martin in 2009.
I was aware of their plans – as indeed, at one stage I had a similar plan to row the North Atlantic this year to mark the Olympics, until my boat started falling apart around my ears on the Indian Ocean and I cancelled on the grounds of not enough money to make the necessary renovations in the time available, amongst other things (as explained in my blog at the time).
It was Andrew who wrote the email last week, saying that Mick was probably going to have to pull out of the project due to time pressures and would I be interested in stepping in. I wasn’t sure. My gut reaction was “yes”, but it seemed incompatible with my TrashMobs plans (human-powered trip around Britain doing beach and riverside cleanups en route), and I felt a sense of obligation to my team due to the amount of hard work they had already committed to the project.
Revised TrashMobs Plan
But then I started thinking that rowing the North Atlantic could have beneficial effects for TrashMobs. I was particularly interested to hear that the crew intended to make landfall in Bristol on the west side of England, and then row through rivers and canals to London on the other side of the country, popping out there just in time for the London Olympics. This seemed like an unmissable opportunity to start getting TrashMobs into the public consciousness.
And so…. my plan is to push TrashMobs back to next year. While I am disappointed not to be starting TrashMobs this year, an extra year of preparation will be no bad thing. It gives me and my team extra time to strengthen our alliances with NGOs, get the website completed, finalise our documents, raise funding, and much more besides. I have informed all my TrashMobs team members and all others who expressed an interest in the project. So far the response has been unanimously supportive, to my great relief.
And I am really excited to be working with the great team that has already formed around the OAR project. Team members on both sides of the Atlantic are putting together a terrific campaign with a goal of raising funds to get more young people – both able-bodied and disabled – on the water.
Rationale For Cancelled Retirement
Looking back at my reasons for “retiring”, there is a kind of spooky serendipity in the way that this new opportunity sidesteps them all:
1. Mission Accomplished: well, it never really is, is it? If I’d done it all, what would be the point of living?!
2. Sedna Solo (retd): Sedna was falling apart, and it was time she was pensioned off. But this year we will be rowing in the eminently seaworthy Bojangles (of which more below).
3. Immovable Deadline: much more likely to arrive in the UK in time for the Olympics with two of us in the boat, over the shorter course from St John’s (about 1,700 miles rather than 3,270 from New York.
4. A Pearl In The Storm: Bojangles has already proved herself on the North Pacific, from Japan to San Francisco. I have great confidence in her for the North Atlantic crossing, and hope to avoid the multiple capsizes suffered by Tori Murden.
5. Time Out: the opportunity cost of a 2-month crossing is much less than that of last year’s 154 day epic across the Indian Ocean.
6. Time for a Change: in many ways this is going to be a whole new adventure. I’ve never had a crewmate before. The two biggest corollaries of this are a) having to be a team player 24/7, and b) sleep deprivation, as we will alternate shifts around the clock, 2 hours on, 2 hours off. Being nice while being sleep-deprived is going to be the biggest challenge of all!
It was a difficult decision to make. Even though I wasn’t sure about doing it, when I asked myself how I would feel if I DIDN’T do it, the answer became clear. I would always have looked back and wondered if I had missed a golden opportunity. So here I go again. In at the deep end, pushing my boundaries – but that’s what I’m all about.
Upcoming OAR Events
For those in the Bay Area, there is an event at REI Berkeley next week: details on the OAR website.
Bojangles is currently a “live exhibit” at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s Hyde Street Pier until March 7.
And Finally – Mum’s Reaction
Well, she wasn’t exactly ecstatic. Having read Tori Murden’s “A Pearl in the Storm”, she was most concerned about the likelihood of capsize. But she was there in La Gomera when I was just a novice ocean rower, and witnessed Mick Dawson scrutineering my boat and pointing out all manner of things that should be done to improve boat safety. So she knows that any boat designed, built, and fitted out by Mick will be seaworthy.
So she is still speaking to me….. just about!