The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge was due to start just over an hour from now, but has been postponed until tomorrow due to high winds. This seems like a sensible decision by Woodvale. There isn’t much you can control about rowing across an ocean – but when you set out is one of those things that you can.

A sea leg: Row2Recovery crew

I am sure that several of the crews are relieved, and not only because calmer conditions will give them a better chance to get their sea legs. A few last-minute technical problems have arisen. One of the crews is battling with a broken water maker, another crew is still fitting their autopilot, and my roommate from the Row For Freedom crew got back from the boat at 1am last night, suggesting that they might also be grateful for a few extra hours.

A few people have asked me if I am jealous of the competitors. Would I prefer to be in one of the boats rather than waving them off from the harbour wall tomorrow? No, absolutely, definitely, undoubtedly not. They are welcome to it. I wish them all well, of course, but it is only 2 months since I got off the ocean myself. You couldn’t pay me enough to get back in a boat right now. Well, maybe you could, but it would have to be a LOT.

But I will be following this year’s race with great interest – from the comfort of a nice warm house. Here are the crews I will especially be watching:


Helena Smalman-Smith on board the Tiger Team boat

Tiger Team: I go back a long way with Helena and Richard Smalman-Smith. Helena was the shore manager for Chris and Clint, the winners of my race in 2005. She and I have stayed in touch over the years, particularly collaborating on my book proposals, as she used to work in publishing. Her husband, Richard, and I both rowed for the Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club in 1989, when he was stroke of the men’s crew and I was stroke of the women’s. He went to the same school as my ex-husband, and used to be a teacher at the same school as my good friend Julian. And one of their shore support team members is Chris Martin, the other solo entry from my 2005 race. So we have many, many points of connection. They are a fantastic couple, and their fun tiger-striped boat certainly stands out from the crowd!

Box Number 8: Remember when I climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo last year? My companion on that trip was Nick Moore, who I first met in 2005 when we were jumping in and out of a swimming pool in Tower Hamlets doing our Sea Survival course together. He was preparing for the Clipper Round The World Yacht Challenge and I, of course, was preparing for the Atlantic Rowing Race. Nick is teaming up with Toby to row for Shelterbox, one of my favourite humanitarian charities.

Row2Recovery: They might be missing a few legs (only 7 legs out of 12 are present and correct), but they’re certainly not short on courage. Surely one of the most inspiring crews in this year’s race.

Dream It Do ItAndrew’s Atlantic Challenge: Andrew will be rowing the controversial boat used to such winning effect by Charlie Pitcher in the 2009 race. A huge forward cabin to increase windage, along with immaculate preparation and a high level of fitness, enabled Charlie Pitcher to win not only the solos class, but the overall race. It will be interesting to see if this radical design is equally effective in Andrew’s hands.

Row For Freedom: The girls have had more than their fair share of problems, not least of which was a boat delivered late and ridden with leaks. Even before this morning’s postponement was announced, they had decided to push their departure back by 24 hours. With a relatively young and mostly inexperienced crew drawn from several different countries, they will have their work cut out, but it is all for a great cause. I wish them all the best!

Do please check out the race website, and pick your own crews to follow. I am sure that in the weeks and months ahead, they will very much appreciate messages of support and encouragement – as indeed I have done. I wish all the crews a safe and satisfying voyage to Barbados.


    • Wow, how exciting! Thanks for the link, Aimee.

      Roz Savage
      Ocean Rower and Environmental Campaigner
      First Woman to Row Three Oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian
      National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010
      Author of “Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean”

  • Thanks for the play-by-play, Roz. You’ve piqued my interest. All that I know about rowing is from you, and I see it more as a inner personal journey of the hero, a la Joseph Campbell, of hardship, discovery, and returning back, transformed. You made it much more than a purple boat on the water. 

    So looking at it from a competitive standpoint will be new and interesting experience. And the sleek boats ARE beautiful. 

    I have mixed feelings about competition. I dropped tennis because of the competition. It had a lot to do with following you while rowing. I did a LOT of thinking while you were rowing. I love athleticism and the physics of motion and digging deep for that extra bit of resolve. What I most certainly did not like was the fact that my gain was invariably the other person’s loss. When I felt good they felt bad, and vice versa. I often felt some sort of loss after beating my opponent. And of course after losing to my opponent I felt some sort of loss! I rejected this model and stopped playing. Now I spend my time writing, with family, and planning for the next backpacking trip. 

    Keep on blogging! 

  • I imagine that stirred a few memories Roz.
     I think I can understand you not wanting to get in and row again just now!…but I bet there were some mixed feelings. Little did I know our walk past a boatyard in Totnes a few weeks ago was the home of Woodvale 🙂 It looked like a rest home for ocean rowboats:)
    Thanks for continuing to keep us so very well informed….

  • Thanks for bringing us the world’s toughest rowing race. I will be watching this year’s 17 contenders in the world’s toughest rowing race at

  • I am keeping an eye on the rowers but have not, as yet, developed any favorites.  If I had to name one just this moment it would be Race for Freedom.  Those girls definitely have moxie! 

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