Today’s guest post is from Tom Barnes, the brother of a personal trainer I’ve got to know here in Berkshire. In 2009, Tom rowed the Atlantic in a 7-metre boat with just one other person (the boat is now for sale, if you know anyone who’s interested!) Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in sea water, but rowing the Atlantic is a feat I can’t quite wrap my head around. Particularly the bit about spending so much time in the middle of nowhere with just one other person, with only 7-metres of boat to share between you. I asked Tom to tell you about his Atlantic row and the story building up to it. I hope you enjoy it.
In June 2007, I received an email from an old University friend that changed my life. The email was sent to around 15 people and it read along the lines of, “I’m entered to Row the Atlantic in December 2009 and my rowing partner has pulled out. Does anyone fancy it?”
I immediately emailed back and said that I’d always wanted to row the Atlantic; could we meet up? I didn’t hear back from Rich and I thought he’d been inundated with people biting his arm off for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I rang him a week later to find out how he was going to select his new partner. He said, “You’re in – you were the only one who replied!” I guess he’d been holding out for a better offer!
The “Red Arrow” team was formed for the 2009 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race which is the race that James Cracknell and Ben Fogle won in 2005. The race is billed as “The World’s Toughest Rowing Race”. It starts in the La Gomera (Canary Islands) and finishes in Antigua with 2,500 miles of Ocean to cross in between. The race is run every 2 years and is open to solo, pairs or fours boats. We were a pairs boat, competing against 20 other pairs teams.
To my mind, there are 2 races we had to complete. The first is to get to the start line. The second is to actually row the Atlantic Ocean. Many teams fail to get to the start line, and I knew this. We had just over 2 years to raise the necessary £75k to cover all our costs, as well as pass the mandatory courses, get our bodies as physically and mentally prepared as we could, do our research and buy all the required equipment and food. All this whilst working full time. The preparation was relentless and exhausting.
I’ve always loved a sporting challenge, but this was going to take me way out of my comfort zone as I’d never rowed or even been to sea before!
With an enormous amount of help and support from our friends and family (and gaining television coverage from Trans World Sport, which helped us attract various corporate sponsors), Red Arrow was shipped to La Gomera. We passed out scrutineering but the race was delayed by over a month because of bad weather.
Finally, on the 4th January 2009, the race started. Our shift pattern was as follows: 2 hours rowing, 2 hours rest, 2 hours rowing…and so on. On a normal day, Rich and I would row for 12 hours each and probably sleep for a total of 4-5 hours maximum, but not all in one go of course. There were many challenges – cramped living conditions, soaring temperature, mental battles, exhaustion, onboard arguments, endless wildlife, huge waves, near misses with huge tankers and constant rowing – but they all made it an amazing experience.
We arrived into Nelsons Dockyard in Antigua on March 17th to a hero’s welcome after 72 days, 8 hours and 43 minutes at sea. We had been utterly self-sufficient that whole time. We came 8th overall in the race and 6th in our class. You can read more about our experience at Row The Atlantic and watch a TransWorldSport video about the race here on YouTube.
Our boat, Red Arrow, is currently in Woking and available for sale. She’s already crossed the Atlantic 4 times. If anyone reading is thinking of entering a Woodvale race, you can be sure Red Arrow will get you across safely! Thanks for reading, Tom Barnes.
Thanks Tom, what an amazing story. I take my (swimming) hat off to you!
Guest post: Tom Barnes on rowing the Atlantic (and boat for sale!) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.