Dehydration central…

26 Jan

Whilst the speed has not been as good as the team had wished for overnight, it was great to hear Simon in good form on this morning’s Heart breakfast show with Stuart and Natalie. To hear the reason why he was tied up and chucked over the boat and who he thinks he is in competition with for Rear of the Year  listen to the full interview here.

Mark shared both good and bad news with us in the 29th pod cast:×200.swf?callInView=99916&channelInView=&phlogId=41329&phonecastId=124825.

Good news is that there is only 800 miles left on the monitor and that good weather is predicted to benefit Sara G by coming night. The bad news is that the last few days have been some of the slowest yet, with little wind and swell. The guys are loosing significantly on the World Record daily and unfortunately the batteries on board are not being charged enough due to lack of sun and wind. The crew have had to make a hard decision to switch off the water purification machine and ration both their daily water and food intake as a result. The might of the Atlantic is massive and now is when your support is needed most. Leave your comments below this blog and we’ll make sure Aodhán will see them!


The art of ocean rowing

25 Jan

Impressive piece by Aodhán: Three of us here on Sara G (Simon, Ian and myself) consider ourselves to be rowers by trade and with a combined total of over 70 years involved in the sport there is plenty of experience to bring to the table.

Long before we pushed off into the ocean from Morocco we knew this was not going to be anything like river rowing but were confident that our strength as long serving oarsmen had to be of benefit to the speed of the boat. Now over 3 weeks into the crossing I can safely say there has been more to learn about ocean rowing than meets the eye. Our experience as river rowers has certainly helped the speed of the boat which allowed us to adapt quickly to the new requirements of movement. More importantly because we haven’t had much luck with following winds and swells so far we have been able to keep Sara G clipping along at a decent pace by rowing her like a river boat on the days and nights with flat seas – keeping us in contention for the record.

Surprise lesson number one came for us in the first few days of the trip – ocean rowing is in fact a contact sport. If there is one additional piece of personal kit I wish I had brought with me it would have to be shin guards. During those first few days we met some angry and unpredictable waves which threw us about like rag dolls. Every two hours on deck was horrendous with our oars hitting us like a couple of baseball bats from all angles or pinning limbs to the deck while the force of the wave tried to crush it. We looked a sorry state at the end of the first week with injured knees and hands and more bruises and gashes to the shins than anyone could count.

River rowing is often seen as the quest for the perfect stroke. In ocean rowing there is no such thing – just strokes, and a hell of a lot of them. There is no clear defined way to move the boat effectively – the river rowing handbook has to be thrown in the drink at this point. All those fundamental principles are quickly forgotten. No more long flowing strokes with quick catches and clean finishes – but rather better to just get whatever oar you can into the water and pull.

Depending on the conditions the best way to move the boat can be combinations of short strokes or rowing with one hand only. The sea has a funny way of toying with you out here – once you think you have established the best way to move the boat in certain types of conditions you suddenly find that it no longer works and have to find a new style again. There is more than one way to skin a cat and in ocean rowing there seems to be an infinite number of ways to move the boat – as a result the two separate teams of three have developed completely independent rowing styles and would find it hard to mix in with the other group at this stage.

One of the most enjoyable new skills we have learned out here has got to be the surfing. I never imagined that an 11 metre long boat weighing well over a tonne could ride breakwater the way Sara G does – when you catch a good wave it’s an amazing sensation and you watch the speed reading treble in a matter of seconds sometimes.  Our fastest surf so far has been 10 knots and I think it may go a lot faster still as I’ve been told that the boat has hit as high as 19 knots in the past. Moving around these big swells we have all developed an adept touch handling the boat while maintaining a fingertip light grip on the oar handles – something I would not have imagined beforehand.

It’s been a running joke on the boat asking each other what their old rowing coach would think if they saw them rowing out here – and it would certainly be funny to see if any of us brings some ocean rowing moves back to the river when it’s all over.

  • Fun update: Ian spoke in this mornings’ radio broadcast about male model and fellow rower Simon (see photo above). “Mark is regularly wanting to take photos, I think Simon had been out in the sun a bit too long and decided to strike some male modelling poses”. Radio DJ Natalie hinted that a calendar should be in the making!

Less than 1,000 miles and 11 days to go

24 Jan

Today must have been an amazing day. The guys have started the real count down to Barbados with less than 1,000 nautical miles on the clock. Mark did the maths in his latest blog update: “If things stay as they are in terms of weather conditions then that should mean about 11 more days rowing to go – or about 60 shifts at the oars. So only 120 hours each rowing left”. Put it that way and it almost sounds manageable.

The weather is still not really beneficial, but the guys are giving it their all and the result is that they are still neck-and-neck with the World Record pace. It’s going to be an exciting race to the finish line in Port St Charles, Barbados.

Mark was also the one talking to the Heart FM DJs this morning and talking about sore bottoms and stripping down due to the heat. If you want to see a sexy Simon in action, please click HERE – nice one!

In addition to striking sexy poses Simon also took the air with the 28th pod cast, talking about good weather forecasts and recuperating from smashed fingers and eye infections – luckily he’s back on track:×200.swf?callInView=99388&channelInView=&phlogId=41329&phonecastId=124232.

2,000 miles! Boom!

23 Jan

It’s official, the crew has passed the 2,000 miles this morning! Aodhán just rang and sounded good. The weather is improving, he doesn’t have any blisters on neither hands nor feet miraculously and he’s enjoying the great team effort.

His Irish skin is getting a beating though, especially in the afternoon when the temperature is continually in the high thirties and as a result he has developed a painful heat rash on both legs.

He told me that they are now around 10 nautical miles behind on the World Record scheme, but on the scale of 2,000 miles this is something they should be able to overcome when the improved weather conditions remain.

Some of you who listened to his Heart FM interview were surprised with Aodhán asking me if I was on my way to work. It still amazes me how he takes my lunch breaks at work into consideration to time his call. It’s mad that he’s able to place himself in my shoes while being at the middle of the Atlantic and never having slept for more than 2 hrs in one go.

He thanks everyone for their great support and was happy to hear that the Girl’s Night In fundraiser went well last Saturday. Please click here if you still want to donate to his charity, or click here if you want to sponsor a few of his strokes.

Bad weather and high spirits

22 Jan

After yesterday’s longer blog post, today’s one is going to be a bit shorter. The weather conditions haven’t improved and the guys are facing a real challenge in speeding up the boat. Check out the Live Updates to see where they are at.

Everyone is doing well though and spirits are still good. They have only dropped behind on the World Record scheme by a few miles. The heat is increasing and the exhaustion is setting on, but the humour is still on board.

Hurricane mayhem and flying fish

21 Jan

Atlantic Odyssey has started Day 20 today at 1 pm. After three days of great weather conditions and great rowing mileage, the crew faced the knock on effects of a hurricane which was active in the North Atlantic yesterday. They are still ahead of the World Record, but only with a minimal few nautical miles. The next days are going to be really important for the crew’s progress.

Aodhán wrote the following: We had a horrible day yesterday – a hurricane in the North Atlantic messed up our wind pattern and we hit a mid ocean current going the wrong way so our speed dropped massively. At the start of today we are only 5 miles ahead of world record pace and its going to probably be a very close and difficult call, which is starting to get to everyone.

I am having trouble with the 7 til 9am shift – the last of the dark ones each night – can’t seem to wake my body up. The 3 til 5pm shift is incredidly hot – around 35 degrees or more and I find that hard too. After the afternoon shift we practically rest in an oven of a cabin before going back out to the grill – not getting burned but feeling drained.

Have got hit in the head by a couple of whopper flying fish alright – lightens the mood watching the other guys trying to grab the bloody thing to throw back in the sea. They stink by the way. Will have my revenge in Barbados – flying fish sandwich is a speciality.

Getting some amazing views of the milky way at the moment as there is not much moonlight time. Right well I better get back to business. Love to all.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been sick, exhausted, blistered, burnt, battered and bruised by my boat and the Atlantic Ocean! I’ve passed my crisis point of questioning myself as to the reasons for me being here for a 4th year running and I had struggled to come up with the right answer until today!

The boat just took off, the weather was perfect, the crew (a tightly bonded group of men who I can now call friends) were all smiles and the energy here is almost electric! And it was while pushing myself as hard as ever today that it came to me; I do this every year because I truly love it and to do something you love as a part of your working life is a total privilege!

It’s a shame there is only 2 weeks of it left before I go back to the normal part of my life (as a gas engineer)!!

Keeping at it!

20 Jan

The crew is making great progress and have steadily increased their speed and the distance they are covering each day. Check the Live Updates to see for yourself. Simon recorded the 24th pod cast, in which he talks about his bodily deterioration, starting to dream about Barbados and lifted spirits due to the improved weather conditions. Listen to Simon here:×200.swf?callInView=98821&channelInView=&phlogId=41329&phonecastId=123593

Keep on at it guys and take good care of yourselves!

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