Atlantic Ocean Row - Adventure Trilogy Part I

“Although I stay true to my word and admit that, I think in part, we failed, in that we were outside our original target, sitting here now back in England having crossed an ocean in a rowing boat, I feel we have achieved something more than we set out to."

”We overcame countless breakages of our water-makers, the violent breaking off of the rudder, twice, and some severe adverse conditions."

“We closely encountered ships and yachts, and were visited by whales, dolphins and sharks."

“We rode out electrical storms and squalls, and 40 ft waves."

“We saw the full cycle of the moon, the rotation of the planisphere, moon rises, moon sets, incredible shooting stars, rainbows and ‘moon-bows’, glorious sunrises and beautiful sunsets."

“We endured the last 300 miles on just a few chocolate bars and a couple of liters of hand pumped water, and still made the second fastest crossing of the Atlantic ever in a conventional rowing boat and the fastest crossing ever from Canaries to Antigua!”

If you, your company, your school or organisation would like to hear Ben's account of the Atlantic rowing record attempt, please contact us.


Synopsis

In 2007 Ben was asked to join Simon Chalk in a specially selected all British team in an attempt to break the longest standing and most sought after record in Ocean Rowing.

The record at the time for rowing across the Atlantic was set way back in 1992 by a 12 man French team called La Mondialle, who crossed the Atlantic from Canaries to Barbados in 35 days 8 hours and 30 minutes.

After an initial attempt that had to be aborted due to the injury of a six member of the team, the ‘Oyster Shack’ crew of Ben, Simon, Ian Couch, George Oliver and Michael Martin, set off again, one man down but undeterred from La Gomera just two days before Christmas.

After 37 days they successfully made port in Antigua, narrowly missing out on the original target of the open class Atlantic rowing record but having rowed across the Atlantic unsupported, setting other records in the process and having overcome almost constant adversity.

  • They rowed the fastest 1000 miles out of the Canaries ever in any class of rowing boat.
  • They were the first, and will probably be the only 5 five man crew ever to row across the Atlantic.
  • They made the 5th fastest crossing of the Atlantic ever (in any class of rowing boat, by any route) - 5th out of just over 200.
  • They made the 2nd fastest crossing of the Atlantic ever in a conventional rowing boat (by any route).
  • They made the fastest ever crossing from Canaries to Antigua. (In any class of rowing boat and done by the Great Circle route i.e. with no real currents or trade winds).

Synopsis of Events

If you, your company, school or organisation would like to hear Ben’s full account of the Atlantic crossing and World Record attempt, please contact info@adventurehub.com".

After months of preparation and training, nearly 100 miles out to sea, but only 22 hours after setting from La Gomera the team had to initially abandon the record attempt and return to port due to the injury to one member of the crew.

Just two days before Christmas, one man down, but undeterred, the remaining 5 man crew rowed out into the Atlantic again in pursuit of the World Record.

For the first four days each man rowed 15 hours per day to make up for the loss of one man and maintain 3 men on the oars at all time.

They made excellent progress despite encountering a large container vessel on Christmas day, sustaining some serious infections and having both water makers stop working in the first week! The team initially had to fix one water maker with a shoe!

Midnight on New Years Eve was spent at 24°30’ North, 27°37’ West (forever to be referred to from now as ‘Pony Club #10’!). On New Years they day hit 11.7 knots, but were unable to move south because of adverse conditions and had to commit to the tougher northern Great Circle route.

The rudder violently broke off for the first time an hour before sunrise one night when the crew were only 1/3 of the way across the Atlantic, it took 8 hours to fix.

One amazing day – The crew had to get out of the boat and swim underneath to clean the bottom of boat and were visited by dolphins. Later, they were forced to ride out an electrical storm with all power switched off in their carbon fibre boat, and at dawn saw one incredible shooting star.

They were visited by a shark and a whale, and they have rowed the fastest 1000 nautical miles out of the Canaries ever. Then the motor on one water maker grinds to a halt and can not be fixed.

Passed half way they picked up speed, after a period of slow progress they made over 80 nautical miles in a day through two enormous squalls which flattened the sea and blew through on the edge of a weather front.

The second water maker stopped working! It had to be disassembled and a fix improvised, it becomes a manual process to feed from then on.

There were serious concerns about not getting south enough due to conditions. However, hopes and calculations suggest that they could finish within the original World Record time of 35 days 8 hours and 30 minutes.

They were visited by the whale again, which smiled at the crew, and at night the crew saw a moonbow (night rainbow)! Coincidently at this time the crew was not getting enough water to drink!

They make slow progress for two days into adverse conditions, and a lack of power generated meant not enough water, not enough food, and not enough energy. The crew was working their hardest yet but making the least miles per day for their effort. Then all power was lost for the first time, meaning no steering, no GPS, no Sea Me, no VHF radio, no lights, and no radar, and they were left with just a boat and five men on it.

Then the wind and conditions come in from north east and crew make 102 miles in 24 hours, the first time this class of boat has made over 100 since 2004, and only the second time ever, and power is generated again.

Then the rudder broke off violently for the second time! The crew have to sit out the night on the para-anchor, and had a close encounter with a large passing ship which despite the crew setting off numerous flares did not answer its VHF radio until the last minute.

The crew were left without the necessary spare parts to fix the rudder having already used them the first time the rudder broke off, but after some thought they come up with an ingenious improvisation and 17 hours later get set off again and are straight back to making great progress.

The crew feared that the time lost fixing the rudder may have halted their progress enough to make beating the original 35 days target, somewhat impossible but they worked hard and made three excellent days progress, leaving them well within 500 miles of Antigua, and in with a chance of taking the sculling record.

Without warning the conditions turned against them against them again and slowed progress. The crew begin to run short of food and rationing had to be introduced.

The crew started to make the last push for Antigua and dug deep to row into headwinds. Again they have power problems and have to decide between using the auto helm and going fast or running the one remaining inefficient water maker.

The crew created a hand-pump-able water maker from the remains of the first broken water maker, and drive on towards Antigua.

They were very tired, massively dehydrated, and dangerously hypoglycaemic and with the heat of the day were working at a rate that could not have been sustained. Then during the night, and in the early hours of the morning land was sighted for the first time in 37 days.

The crew rowed into English harbour Antigua, to a heroes welcome, after making the 2nd fastest crossing of the Atlantic in a conventional rowing boat and the fastest ever crossing from Canaries to Antigua in any class of rowing boat.


Video Diary

If you, your company, school or organisation would like to hear Ben’s full account of the Atlantic crossing and World Record attempt, please contact Catherine Hall at Pony Club #10 Media.

"Here are a few excerpts from my Adventure Trilogy Part I video diary.

I've purposely not edited anything out, or cut anything together and I will be publishing the whole diary from start to finish on You Tube - It is the only video diary of it's kind available for viewing on the web, and it’s a good insight into not only what an Ocean Rower sees but it’s also an ongoing dialog of our World Record attempt and the fastest ever unsupported row from Canaries to Antigua".

This will be cut into a really good documentary someday, but I'm just too busy to do it, and having said that I hope you can appreciate it for what it is. It’s a raw and unedited video diary from an ocean row and the story of the first part of my Adventure Trilogy." (I.e. I can’t apologise for bad sound or lighting!!) See the whole unedited diary here.

Enjoy the excerpts…


I can leave my hat on! (Squall Part 2)

The Squall is passed (Squall part 3)

Been for a swim!

New Years Eve.

Rowing the Atlantic.

At ‘least’ one sunrise and one sunset per day.

Sun is setting on our time on the Atlantic.

Rowing the wrong way?

Hand-pumping water!

Sunrise….Antigua!

“Welcome to Antigua”

First steps on dry land!