Week 1 Update - The reality of ocean rowing
The Atlantic Ocean Rowing Race 2009 is now a week old, and what a week it has been. With the start delayed almost a month, the support yacht Aurora finally sounded the starting horn at 1330 hrs on Monday 04 January 2010. While conditions for the fleet were good for the first 24-36 hours, crews were told to expect South Westerly winds for the following 36 hours. True to the forecast, the winds swung round after 2 days at sea and much of the fleet were on para-anchors for 24 hours.
However, another 2 days later and the fleet were moving towards the finish again. By that time the lead had been shared around the fleet, and was for a time held by solo entrant Charlie Pitcher in his boat JJ – a remarkable performance. Following that there have been reports of close encounters with several cargo ships, for which the fleet are familiar with the procedure for collision avoidance.
Britannia III, an out of class record attempt crew have spent the week travelling predominantly South and South West hoping to pick up stronger trade winds to English Harbour, Antigua. The conditions across the Atlantic determine that the quickest route when rowing would be to travel south out of the Canaries. From the lower latitude crews should then pick up stronger winds to help push them to the finish. This naturally adds miles to the official distance but, with stronger prevailing conditions crews will make this extra distance up with increased speed.
The fleet have had to come to terms with their new gruelling regimes, pushing their bodies to the very limits. It has often been suggested that the first week of these ultra endurance events are the hardest. This is when the body hurts the most, after these punishing opening days your mind really does take over and dominate the outcome. While all competitors are undoubtedly tired, it is the mind that tells you to carry on and blocks out the physical pain. While every time a competitor sits down it may hurt, or the first few minutes holding the oar may send pulses through the hands and wrists, the brain will ultimately cut these feelings out and accept that this is the way it will be. The body is a remarkable machine, one whose limits are still unknown.
Today sees the birthdays of both members of Boogie Woogie; Ole Elmer and Brian Olsen and the solo entrant James Ketchell racing in his boat Speedo a very happy birthday. This truly is a unique experience, and one that all three should remember with great pride. The team at Woodvale Challenge wish you all a very happy birthday.
The only official retirement of the race is that of Limited Intelligence, however, they are continuing to row as a three and hope to make it to Antigua.
Over the last couple of days it has been the pairs crews of QBE Insurance Challenger, Karukera and fours crew Vivaldi (Rames Dames) that have lead the fleet, but with such a long race, and so far still to go anything could happen…