I have just waved goodbye to the competitors in this year’s Atlantic Rowing Challenge. I had wondered how I might feel, being the one standing on the dock for a change, instead of being the one in the boat. Would I feel a pang of envy? Or relief?
I’m happy to say that my main emotion was a vicarious excitement for the crews. I am so happy for them that they have made it this far. They have worked hard to acquire their boats, get their qualifications, raise sponsorship and plan their logistics. Many may dream of rowing an ocean, but only a small percentage make it even this far. They have already achieved more than most.
Conditions were fine for the start, but if I have learned anything from my years at sea, it is that the ocean (in fact, life in general) is full of surprises. I can only hope that most of them are good surprises. Now we must entrust the crews to Neptune, and wish them a bon voyage. Be safe, be happy, and be fulfilled. I wish each and every rower the very best for the weeks and months ahead.
I am writing this blog on the ferry from La Gomera back to Tenerife. As we pulled out of the harbour, I strained my eyes trying to spot any rowboats still within sight. I could see a couple of masts – was that the escort vessel Aurora? Maybe. I recalled the video of my own departure on 2005 as a novice ocean rower, feeling the flutter of nervous excitement, trepidatious yet eagerly anticipating the adventure ahead. I have come a long way since then – in every sense.
But the complete absence of envy today confirmed to me that for now at least, hanging up my oars is the right thing to do. I know that some of you are awaiting to hear an announcement of my next move – an expedition, a campaign, a foundation or some other project. Trust me – you know that I am not sitting idly by while our world rushes ever faster towards crisis. There is much (possibly too much!) in the pipeline, but nothing that is yet ready to be announced. My feet have barely touched the ground since I made landfall two months ago, but an opportunity for quiet contemplation and strategising is coming up soon. Watch this space.
Meanwhile, some exciting news about my visit to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace this coming Sunday. I have been invited to an afternoon press event as well as the evening reception. Also present in the afternoon will be: Sir David Attenborough (legendary naturalist and BBC TV presenter), Sir Ranulph Fiennes (Britain’s most distinguished explorer), Sir Chris Bonnington (legendary mountaineer), Dr Alice Roberts, Michael Palin (ex-Python, TV explorer/presenter, and President of the Royal Geographic Society), Andrew Eavis, and Ed Stafford (first person to walk the length of the Amazon, and fellow National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010). Distinguished company indeed!