From Here to There

The sea is as near as we come to another world.
Anne Stevenson

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step.

It’s become a bit of a cliché, but it’s still true. Most clichés are. Every journey begins with a yearning of the heart and a step taken in the direction needed to fulfil that desire. It’s often the hardest step. Every physical journey also has a beginning. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge begins in the small town of San Sebastian de La Gomera. It’s the capital of La Gomera, one of the islands that make up the Spanish archipelago known as the Canary Islands. To say it’s small is an understatement. It’s only 15 miles across. With a thick, green, verdant cloud forest at its heart the island looks like the setting for the TV series, LOST. Meanwhile, the coast is a completely different world with deep canyons, date palms and desert.

From there, Columbus set sail to discover a route to the East Indies by sailing west. Instead, following in the footsteps of the legendary St Brendan and the Vikings, he landed in the New World. This time, 63 people, myself included, followed Columbus’ route and went west. Following the trade winds and being helped along somewhat by the currents, we trailed the sun to the Caribbean 2,800nm. The wind and currents dictated the final route taken by each team. The trick when rowing vast distances is to try and slip into a favourable current and get the best following winds. The route might be longer but you could get to the other side quicker than anybody else. Fair winds, favourable currents and an iPod with some good tunes, what more could a rower ask for?

The first western ship to enter English Harbour was apparently the Dover Castle, a yacht used by the Governor of the Leeward Islands in 1671 to chase pirates. Today, Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua is a cultural heritage site, marina and part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. It was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, not just because he was a great sailor, but because he actually lived in the Dockyard for three years. This historical and rather romantic location is the final destination of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. I didn’t chase pirates, unfortunately, but I did chase the adventure.

The Time it Takes

Fastest Solo Crossing: 35 days
Average Solo Crossing: 60 – 80 days
Longest Solo Crossing: 124 days But it was a different route

The Ages

Youngest Solo Atlantic Rower: 20, Callum Gathercole, 2015
Greg’s Age at Time of Row: 41, 2015
Oldest Solo Atlantic Rower: 65, Pavel Rezvoy, 2004

The Numbers

People Who’ve Rowed Solo Across the Atlantic: Less than 80
People Who Have Been To Space: 536
People Who’ve Climbed Everest: 4042

The Measurements

The Highest: Mt Everest: 8.85kms
Average Depth of the Atlantic: 4kms
The Deepest:Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean: 10.91kms

The Distances

Distance of the Longest Row: 17142kms – Jim Shekander – Ilo, Peru to N. Sradbroke, Australia
Distance from La Gomera to Antigua: 5000 kms.

Some of the Race Rules

 Route Directions

Start in San Sebastian de La Gomera, Canary Islands.
Head a little south and then turn west. Keep going and don’t stop till you hit land.
Try to get to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua before anyone else.


You. As well as the wind, the waves and the currents – when they aren’t working against you. No waving down a passing whale, or cruise ship, and hitching a ride.

No Littering on Route

Keep all your litter – packaging and refuse – on the boat. Marine animals can’t tell the difference between a plastic packet and a jellyfish. When you reach land arrange for your litter to be disposed of correctly.

Make a Plan

You can’t ask for help unless you’re in dire straits or giving up. So, as we say in South Africa, maak ‘n plan (make a plan)! Emergencies and urgent incidents, like a run-in with a shark and now you only have one arm, may warrant calling for help.  Anything less and you’re on your own.

Sebastian Spain

Location: 28°5′32″N17°6′36″W
Permanent Population: 8,668
Country: Spain
Most Famous Citizen: Pedro GarcíaCabrera .One of the greatest poets of the Canary Islands.

Talisker Atlantic Row

Location: The Atlantic
Permanent Population: 0
Country: None
Most Famous Person Associated with the Ocean: Christopher Columbus. First recorded crossing of the Atlantic in 1492

English Harbor

Location: 17°00′19″N61°45′54″W
Permanent Population: 759
Country: Antigua and Barbuda
Most Famous Citizen: Admiral Horatio Nelson. First Viscount of the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars

How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean.

Arthur C. Clarke