The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, The World’s Toughest Row
3000 nautical miles across the world’s second largest ocean – alone
Thank goodness for GPS. It’s the easiest way of knowing if you’re actually moving forward
Why does the race, which takes anywhere up to 90 days, start ten days before Christmas?
Simple. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 across the Atlantic Ocean, and it averages ten storms a year with as many as six developing into hurricanes. But that’s the average and as much as it would be immensely helpful if they did, hurricanes can’t be relied upon to stick to a time frame. When one is in a rowing boat, bad weather is unpleasant and hurricanes are about as bad as it gets.
It’s to avoid these blustery conditions that the race starts in mid December each year. Like the men in sailing ships who ploughed these waters before the advent of steam we want to follow the balmy Trade Winds. As it turned out, I met the edges of Hurricane Alex and that made for a rough few days!
It’s the 2nd largest ocean and the saltiest. At nearly 41,105,000 square miles it covers 20% of the earth’s surface and its currents help regulate the Earth’s climate. It’s home to the Sargasso Sea and the singing Humpbacked Whales and for a brief moment in time was my home as well.
There were 5 other solo rowers trying to get across the Atlantic faster than me. After Day 3, we were so spread out, I didn’t know where they were. I had nothing against which to judge how I was doing, other than daily updates from my wife.
I had to carry all the food, cooking gas, medical aid kit, safety equipment that I needed, plus some extra just in case. No outside support was allowed for the duration of the race. I was on my own the entire time, except for the odd pod of dolphins.
I kissed my wife and kids goodbye in South Africa after an early Christmas celebration and then flew to San Sebastian de La Gomera. That’s where the race began. From there, I headed west until I saw my family once more – waving hello in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua.
It was one of the hardest challenges I’ve attempted, and that includes climbing Everest, because this time, I was alone. But I stayed in touch thanks to the satellite phone I had – my only link to the world beyond that wet and very distant horizon.
The first row across the Atlantic was done by Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo, Norwegian-born Americans. They did it in an open, wooden rowing boat. Incomprehensible.
Which is a really good thing as I didn’t plan on shaving again once I’d left San Sebastian de La Gomera. It was quite a healthy specimen by the time I reached Nelson’s Dockyard. Amazingly, the wife and kids still recognised me! The Talisker Atlantic Row attracts a select group of people; men and women who hanker after the impossible. In 2015, the teams were made up of a number of solo rowers like myself, some teams of two and teams of four. We had come from all over the globe; Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. My goal was getting across in one piece, preferably first. As it turned out I pulled in third. It was a great race between the me, Stuart Connacher and Matteo Perucchini. Well done guys! And as for the beard…I’ve become quite attached it, so to speak, so for now I’m bearing the mien of Victorian Explorer Deluxe!
It’s not an open wooden rowing boat that’s for sure. But it is based on the boat used by John Fairfax, the first man to row solo across the Atlantic and the Pacific. My boat, The Dog House, is made of fibre-glass and has all the electronic gadgets considered necessary, by the race organisers and especially by my wife!
I’ll be burning about 8000 calories a day. That’s a lot of dehydrated food, snack bars and trail mix. And chocolate. Please God, let there be chocolate! According to others who’ve done the trip before, food becomes an obsession. In South Africa, one of our favourite snacks is biltong. I’ll be taking a fair amount of that with me.
Navigation lights, towing eye, life raft, EPRIB, para/sea anchor, life jacket and harness, jackstay, fire extinguisher or blanket, flares, AIS, VHF, satellite phone, yellowbrick GPS tracking device, ipad, hatches, rudder, oars, water maker, fresh water supply, ballast, rowing gates and seat, waterproof bag, cooker and fuel, solar panels, bilge pumps, grab lines, publication manuals, plus 31 other items not including food. Did I mention the boat’s only 7.12m long?
Because the boat’s not exactly the QE2 I can’t carry all the water I’ll need – I’ll be drinking anywhere between 6 to 8 litres a day – so I’ll have to manufacture drinking water. Drinking salt water’s not good for you; you end up dying of dehydration. Even mild dehydration alters a person’s mood, energy levels and mental function.
Greg is Sponsored by the ELB Group:
Innovation and capability are two of ELB’s greatest assets. Greg will need to demonstrate those characteristics for his row which is why we are proud to be partnering with and sponsoring him in the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Operating in Africa and Australia the ELB Group is a total solutions provider to the mining, minerals, power, port, construction and industrial sectors in the field of materials handling and appropriate modular process plants.
Greg is Sponsored by Investec:
Because we believe that education brings growth, not just in individuals but in communities and in South Africa we are proud to be sponsoring Greg Maud in his Atlantic Row. Especially as he’s doing it for such a worthy cause – Streetlight Schools. Investec is an international specialist banking and asset management group, providing a range of financial products and services to clients in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.