New, exciting updates from Nuts Over The Atlantic, this week focusing on their relationship with water, managing mental health and life in close quarters when there is nowhere to escape and thousands of miles of sea in every direction you look. Last time we checked on the official race tracker team Nuts had 661 miles to row until they reach Antigua (24/01/2018, 4 PM).
8th January – 21st days rowing
The last 21 days have really made us appreciate just how powerful the sea can be and how it needs to be treated with respect. We’ve been stuck between two currents unable to move for 12 hours despite constant rowing. We’ve been thrown about by waves as small as 1m in height simply because there is so much water behind them. The most daunting experience has been getting in the water to clean the boat though. We have picked calm days, where the water is only going 1knot, to jump in and do this. However, even at such low speeds, you end up being dragged behind the boat. It made us truly realise that if we went overboard, and weren’t tied on, it would be almost impossible to be recovered. It’s made us all make sure we’re constantly harnessed on to the boat!
However, although it can be unforgiving and will not take any prisoners, the ocean truly is incredible. When it’s flat on a full moon night, it looks like glass. You see the reflection of the moon and the stars and hear nothing but the sound of your oars entering the water. Rowing in these conditions has been truly incredible. When cleaning the boat and you look down, you see nothing but blue. It’s intimidating to think what could be down there, but as we’re yet to see anything other than flying fish, you realise just how big the ocean is and how lonely it could be if we were doing this challenge solo.
Although fighting choppy water, when it’s not going in your direction, is horrific, the rough conditions are also the most exciting and get you the quicker speeds. When you’re rowing, and you look up and see a wall of water larger than a two-storey house you think two things; a) please don’t flip the boat, b) I hope I catch this right so we can surf! There’s no getting around the first thought. However, timing the rowing stroke to perfection to ensure you maximise the length of time you’re surfing the wave is exhilarating. It’s an experience we’re unlikely to have again after this challenge, but riding down a 40ft wave in the middle of the night can’t be described; it’s better than any theme park ride.
Getting drinking water from the sea has been one of the easiest things on this challenge. We use an Osmosea watermaker supplied by one of our sponsors, Jim Cudd of Sailfish Marine. It sucks in sea water and then, under pressure, pushes the water through a filter and membrane to produce the purest water we’re ever going to have. The equipment has worked faultlessly since Day 1 and fingers crossed it continues that way!
15th January – 28th day rowing
This challenge has been one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. However, it has not been the row itself that has been difficult. It was ‘simply’ getting to the start line.
Aside from juggling full time jobs around the need to produce a website, run social media accounts, undertake special training, understand and source required equipment, manage a boat build, organise and attend PR events and then finally, seek corporate sponsorship, we have also had to manage some really bad luck with our boat.
We signed a contract and laid the deposit down for a new boat build in January 2017. The agreed completion date was the end of June 2017. As June approached, we were informed there would be a slight delay, but we could expect the boat in the middle of July.
When we went to collect the boat in July, she was nothing more than a shell. She had not been painted, hatches were not fitted, so she was not watertight, rowing gear hadn’t been installed, and there were no electronics.
This was our first major setback with the boat and one that caught us completely off guard. We had been given regular updates from the builder that turned out to be complete lies.
We needed the boat to be water ready for a few events we had lined up and paid to attend; TV interviews and the Bristol Harbourside festival. Consequently, we spent the next two weeks frantically contacting everyone involved in ocean rowing to try and borrow a boat. Understandably not many were willing to trust a team they had never met with a £60,000 boat. However, we managed to find one the night before our first event and so proceeded on a 13-hour round trip to collect the boat and bring it back to Bristol. We arrived at 06:00 and the event were due to start at 07:00; we had done it.
Those two weeks were incredibly stressful, and we had no desire to repeat them. Consequently, we decided to take our boat to a different builder.
A new contract was signed, and a completion date of the end of September was agreed. This would still allow us to complete the mandatory hours on the water in our boat to be allowed to enter the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
We had learnt our lesson and, despite the boat being in Scotland, made regular visits to the builder throughout August to monitor progress.
Everything seemed to be on track until we were informed that due to ‘staffing issues’ our boat would not be completed until the end of October. Our boat was due to be shipped from the UK to La Gomera on 28 October, so this new delay was devastating news.
After contacting every UK based shipping agent, we realised that our only option was to drive the boat down to the start line. This would give us four additional weeks in the UK to carry out the necessary hours on the water before departing for La Gomera.
Unfortunately, this second boat builder let us down again. To cut a long story short, the boat was not fully ready before we left the UK for the seven days drive down to La Gomera.
This new round of build delays ultimately meant we had to finish the build ourselves while in La Gomera and start our crossing three days after the rest of the race entrants.
The three-day delay to our crossing departure meant we were going to miss the favourable conditions the other entrants would receive. This meant our two aims for this race; to win the pure class and break the race record, would now be almost impossible to achieve.
Mentally this was incredibly tough to take. We had spent two years of our lives preparing for this challenge. We had geared ourselves up to be truly competitive. However, despite our best efforts, we had been let down by two separate recommended boat builders, and it felt like our dream had been stolen from us.
This was the hardest thing we have ever had to deal with mentally. Together we cried, got angry and frustrated. However, together we also helped each other and set ourselves new targets based on catching up as many boats in the race as possible. The messages of support we’ve received from friends, family and followers across our social media channels and our sponsors were more helpful than we can ever truly describe during this period.
This experience brought us together as a team and is the reason we have not struggled on the ocean. There have been dark moments during the row. There have been times when we have been annoyed with each other. However, we know how each of us reacts to different situations because the last six months have been so difficult. We also know when we need to leave each other alone for some quiet time or when we need to ask how we are all doing.
The rule on the boat is that if you go into your cabin in silence, you do not want to be disturbed and you want some time to yourself. This has worked for the 27 days on the water so far, and we don’t see it failing before we reach Antigua. This, and open and honest approach to discussing any grievances has meant our team spirit has stayed strong and allowed us to currently sit fourth out of 14 in the pure class race…not too bad, but we want to get the top three!
Clearly being on a 9m long boat for well over a month has its own issues. Toilet breaks, eating, showering, maintenance and boat cleaning jobs are never done in private. However, we haven’t found this an issue because of the cabin silence rule… besides, it’s not often you get to go for a number two while massaging the shoulders of a rower in front! However, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t looking forward to a night on a double bed with clean sheets!
Next time you hear from us Team Nuts would have completed the race! Are they going to be able to finish and beat the record for rowing across the Atlantic in the ‘pure’ boat category (35 days or less)? We, at Webgains, are keeping our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, you can show your support by donating to NOTA’s campaign and raise funds for Movember.