The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013/14 proved to be one of the toughest years yet with the Atlantic Ocean throwing everything it had at these intrepid rowers. The teams set off in good spirits on the 4th December with calm seas and blue skies ahead of them and their families cheering them on. Unfortunately, within two days Atlantic Trio encountered technical problems and had to return putting an end to their adventure.
The balmy weather did not stick around for long with dark, ominous clouds rapidly rolling in. The crews were beset with the one of the worst and most prolonged storms ever seen during the challenge. Amidst huge waves and heavy downpours, the teams were forced to put their anchors down and shelter in their cabins off the coast of La Gomera meaning little progress was made for many days. Subsequently, Team Atlantic Splash had to be rescued by helicopter when their aft compartments began to take on water.
By day 7 the weather took a turn for the better and the teams were able to make some rapid progress using the currents to speed on their way. However, on December 14th in the early hours of the morning Team AstroSweden’s boat flipped twice leading to rower Christer Kjellner losing key equipment, meaning rescue by the Spanish coastguard and a sad end to his journey. On December 17th Team Neas Energy had a similar experience and were rescued by a passing container ship.
Christmas Day marked an important milestone for the rowers with carols sung, presents opened and Christmas hats worn! From this point on the teams made fantastic progress.
On the 14th January, after 41 days at sea, Tom Salt and Mike Burton pulled into Antigua. Rowing in shifts of two hours the team had battled 40 foot waves, tropical storms, seasickness, sleep deprivation, excruciating body sores, a capsize and even an encounter with a six metre marlin (which left them a significant hole in their boat!).
On the 21st January Atlantic Polo rowed into the Antiguan port, coming second in the challenge. They, like the rest of the fleet, had faced severe conditions during the crossing and two men were thrown overboard whilst battling the waves.
Just a day later Row 2 Recovery arrived triumphant, followed by Will and Dan from Atlantic Row 2013 in the early hours of the 27th January and later that day by Two Boys in a Boat, Luke and Jamie.
Erik and Stefan, from team Nordic Endurance were the next to finish on the 30th January with solo rower Andrew Abrahams from Adventure4aCure arriving the next day having spent 57 days at sea alone and battling 40 foot waves, one of which capsized his boat.
Bolton Atlantic Challenge, completed their race on the 2nd February coming 8th overall followed closely by Team Prosecta in 9th position and two days later Atlantic Inspiration arrived in 10th position. Atlantic Quad were the final team to come in on the 5th February in 11th place.
Sadly, Team Inspirational Friends, the only all-female crew of Hannah Lawton and Lauren Morton, had to make the decision, after 96 days at sea, to end their race having encountered a broken rudder and being dragged too far away from Antigua by the current.
This meant that of the 16 teams that started out only 11 teams made it to the finish line truly making this the world’s toughest row.