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.
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:
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.
Andrew’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.