I first met Andrew Morris, ocean rower, entrepreneur, and dodgy Elvis impersonator, in 2005. We were both preparing to row the Atlantic Ocean as competitors in the Woodvale Events Atlantic Rowing Race (which recently ran again as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge).
Andrew’s shipping company, PA Freight, also happened to be the official supplier for getting rowboats shipped to the start line in the Canary Islands. I remember dropping off the still-maiden Sedna in Newark to go into the shipping container. I don’t recall now whether that was where I first met Andrew, but whenever or wherever that happened, I got a first impression of a Lamborghini-driving, medallion-wearing guy who seemed to be, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit flash. (Correction: apparently good luck charms, not medallions. 🙂
Andrew was to be one half of a two-man crew, alongside an enormous Frenchman called Stephan who consumed around 6,000 calories a day when on dry land, let alone while rowing an ocean. Unfortunately, their bid faltered early in the race. About 18 hours after setting out from San Sebastian, Andrew fell over on board the boat and cracked his head. They were towed back into port by Mick Dawson (who was then working for Woodvale, and whom I am now replacing) and Andrew was carted off to hospital with concussion.
A couple of days later he was out of hospital and ready to go row an ocean. But the enormous Frenchman was nowhere to be seen. He had assumed that with Andrew’s injury their bid was over, and had cleared off back to France.
Not to be deterred, Andrew sat in a bar with Mick to consider his options. He needed a replacement crewmate. His gaze settled on the man sitting opposite him. Aha! Mick was an experienced ocean rower, having rowed the Atlantic with his brother Steve in 2001, and having also made two subsequent attempts to row solo across the Pacific. By the third beer it was settled. Mick would step in and row with Andrew across the Atlantic.
A week after the rest of the fleet, they set out. I watched in dismay as they quickly eroded my head start and overtook me. They went on to finish sixth overall – a fantastic achievement and a tribute to their strength and determination.
This year’s North Atlantic row was to be a reunion of that 2005 dream team. But Mick, a former marine, has since embarked on a new career in maritime security, fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean. He has also got married, and having spent most of his first year of marriage rowing across the North Pacific with Chris Martin (also a veteran of that 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race) he would understandably like to spend more time with his wife. So between work commitments and wife commitments, another major row started to seem like one ocean too far. Cue yours truly as a late substitute.
As we’ll generally be rowing two hours on, two hours off, in alternating shifts, Andrew will barely notice the difference – or will he? Here’s how Mick and I compare:
|Height||6 foot 2 (guesstimate)||5 foot 3|
|Weight||210 pounds (guesstimate)||130 pounds|
|Previous career||Royal Marine||Management Consultant|
|Days at sea in rowboat||420 approx||520 approx|
|Experience of rowing in a double||70 days with Steve Dawson|
|61 days with Andrew Morris||None|
|189 days with Chris Martin|
So I’m hardly a convincing body double. But I do have oodles of experience, and so far it seems likely we will make a good team. Andrew (aka “Mos”) and I have started to discuss how we will share responsibilities onboard. Still to be finalised, but so far it looks like this:
|Repairs & maintenance||Navigation|
|Barnacle scrubbing||Satellite comms|
This is going to be quite a new situation for both of us. If successful, we will be the first male/female crew to row the North Atlantic route. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to row with a crewmate. My only wobbly moment so far was last Monday, during a big team dinner, when Mos uttered the worrying words: “I’m a bit accident prone….”
If we get his accident-prone-ness and my bad water maker karma, we might be in trouble. But there again, if I can fix him up and he’s good with electronics, we will be okay. This row is going to be all about complementary skills and teamwork.
If this blog has awakened your inner adventurer, check out the New Ocean Wave website to find out more about a rowing event from California to Hawaii, due for its inaugural run in 2014.
And you can follow the Olympic Atlantic Row online:
– at the website
– on Facebook
– and on Twitter.