January 10, 2020
Ever since Norwegians George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen became the first people to row across the Atlantic in 1896, the feat has held a special allure for the adventurer. Today, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has become the world's premier ocean rowing race. It’s taking place in the Atlantic Ocean right now and we're proud to be the official travel partner of the challenge.
In early December, 35 rowing boats, comprising solo rowers as well as 2, 3, 4 and 5 person teams, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands. Next stop? Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua, on the other side of the ocean.
The first boats, the faster four and five-person teams, are due to start arriving in Antigua around the 13th of January, with the rest of the boats due before the end of February. Over the 3,000-mile race distance, each team will row over 1.5 million oar strokes, usually rowing for two hours followed by two hours sleep, constantly, 24 hours a day. The rowers will burn 5,000 calories and need to drink 10 litres of water each day. On average each rower will lose 12kgs over the course of the race. It’s a gruelling event and a feat of mental and physical endurance. More people have climbed Everest than rowed an ocean, and they’ll have to battle with exhaustion, salt sores and waves up to 20 feet tall. For all that, the race is life-changing in more ways than one. For the rowers, the camaraderie of the race and the chance to experience the ocean in this way is something they’ll never forget. The race also changes lives by raising a massive amount of money for charity (last year’s race raised over 3 million euros).
"We're so proud to be the official airline of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Along with their friends and families, I can't wait to welcome these amazing athletes to beautiful Antigua at the end of their epic adventure” Sean Edwards, our regional manager for business development in the Caribbean.
Many of the teams have pub quiz type puntastic names such as ‘Rowed less travelled’ or ‘Hell oar high water’. Onboard, as you’d expect, some real characters. Special mention this year to Sara Brewer who is crewing Row Off the Wall. At 64 years young she will be the oldest female to row the Atlantic when she gets into Antigua. The youngest rower this year is Kian Helm who is part of Force Atlantic and is 18 years old.
After weeks of battling the ocean, one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands awaits. We can only imagine how good it must feel to glimpse that first sight of land. The rowers will arrive to huge fanfare at Nelson’s Dockyard in the heart of Antigua’s yachting community. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2016, Nelson’s Dockyard is a collection of beautifully restored Georgian-era buildings and a marina, set in the picturesque surroundings of English Harbour. In operation since 1745, it was once commanded by Horatio Nelson and features a small Dockyard Museum with collections detailing Antigua history. No wonder it was named Best Caribbean Attraction in the USA Today readers’ choice awards last year.
If you’re flying to the Caribbean with us over the next few weeks, as you sit back in your comfy seat with a hot meal and a gin and tonic, spare a thought for the rowers down below. They might well be looking up enviously, but their reward will come. After all that training, planning and rowing, the moment they step out of their boats and onto land for the first time in weeks will be a very special moment indeed. We look forward to welcoming them ashore.