History

1896

Two Norwegian immigrants, George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen became the first people ever to row across an ocean, rowing the Atlantic W-E from New York to England. Their time recorded for rowing the North Atlantic Ocean was not broken for 114 years.

1966

Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgway were the first pair to row across the Atlantic in the twentieth century, crossing from Cape Cod to Ireland in a time of 92 days.

1997

Inspired by his row in 1966 Sir Chay Blyth with his company ’The Challenge Business’ organised the first Atlantic Race, named the Port St. Charles Rowing Race, starting from Playa San Juan, Tenerife and only allowing teams of pairs. The race finished in Port St. Charles, Barbados 3,000 miles away. 30 teams started and 24 teams finished. After 41 days, 2 hours, and 55 minutes ‘Team Kiwi Challenge’ from New Zealand with Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs on board arrived in Barbados.

2001

Now named the Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Race it was once again a boat from New Zealand – ‘Team Telecom Challenge’ rowed by Matt Goodman and Steve Westlake – that finished first in Barbados after 42 days, 4 hours, and 3 minutes. 36 boats started the race and 33 finished.

2003

Named the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race the race changed its departure port to San Sebastian de la Gomera, an island just south of Tenerife – the same port and island where Christopher Columbus started his journey towards the new world. The first boat to arrive in Port St. Charles, Barbados was ‘Team Holiday Shoppe Challenge’ – with the winning team once again hailing from New Zealand. James Fitzgerald and Kevin Biggar arrived after a record breaking time of 40 days, 4 hours, and 3 minutes, closely followed by ‘Team CRC’ who came in just 9 hours later.

2005

This year the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race combined with the ORS Atlantic Rowing Regatta. The race was now also open for other classes and therefore it was possible for Team Atlantic-4 with David Martin, Neil Wightwick, Glynn Coupland and George Simpson from the UK to step on land in the new finishing port of English Harbour in Antigua after 49 days, 14 hours, and 21 minutes. 26 boats started the race and 20 finished in Antigua. This was also the year where the double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell and the TV presenter Ben Fogle participated, resulting in the Royal Television Society award winning programme, ‘Through Hell and High Water’ produced for BBC.

2007

Once again named the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race, the race moved the start date to the now traditional month of December. After 48 days, 2 hours, and 52 minutes the British ‘Team Pura Vida’ represented by John Cecil- Wright, Robbie Grant, Tom Harvey & Carl Theakston victoriously stepped on land in sunny Antigua.

2009

With a delayed race start due to bad weather the race started in January 2010. Englishman Charlie Pitcher won as a solo rower on board ‘JJ (Insure & Go)’ after 52 days, 6 hours, and 47 minutes. The brother of Atlantic Campaigns CEO, Carsten Heron Olsen, participated in this race and the seed was planted for what would become a new era within the world of ocean rowing.

2011

Talisker Whisky signed their first one-year contract with previous race organisers Woodvale Challenge. The 2011 race departed with a fleet of 17 boats, including the now legendary Row2Recovery. Only 11 teams made it to the finish line in Barbados, with the winning team ‘Box no 8’ completing the race in 40 days, 9 hours, and 15 minutes.

May 2013

Talisker Whisky brings the first rowing-machine powered cinema to London! A 30-foot screen by Tower Bridge shows the epic BBC documentary, ‘Through Hell and High Water’ featuring double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell and TV presenter Ben Fogle crossing the Atlantic in 2005. The event is a teaser for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013 and get recognised by Guinness World Records for generating the most electricity within an hour using rowing machines.

2013

After purchasing the rights to the race in 2012, the 2013 edition was the first organised by Atlantic Campaigns. The race was won by Team Locura who arrived into Antigua after 41 days, 2 hours, and 38 minutes with a blue marlin beak pierced through their hull. Virgin Atlantic signed as the Official Travel Partner of TWAC. 2 Boys in a Boat raised £360k to set a new record for the largest amount of money raised for charity in the race’s history.

2015

New developments and safety procedures introduced by Atlantic Campaigns bear fruit as 26 teams leave La Gomera on December 20th in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – and 26 teams arrive safely in Antigua. This was also the year where Team Ocean Reunion, consisting of Angus Collins, Gus Barton, Joe Barnett, and Jack Mayhew, set the new race record of 37 days, 9 hours, and 12 minutes. TWAC 2015 also set records the youngest (Callum Gathercole) and the oldest (Peter Smith) ocean rowers. Atlantic Campaigns decides to run the race annually, signing a three-year title sponsorship deal with Talisker Whisky and ensuring the upcoming editions of the race will be named the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

2016

The new race record didn’t last long as the Anglo-American Team Latitude 35, manned by Jason Caldwell, Angus Collins, Matthew Brown and Alex Simpson, took almost two days off the previous record with a winning time of 35 days, 14 hours, and 3 minutes. The first onboard Inmarsat system sends back live footage of the race in real time. Team Row 4 James raised £650k to break the record for the largest amount for money raised for charity.

2017

Atlantic Campaigns develop the official #TWAC merchandise brand ‘3000 miles’. This race is remembered as one of the fastest and most changeable in history. This led to two rescues and two abandonments but also some of the most prestigious world records in history. The Four Oarsmen (UK) won the race with a time of 29 days, 13 hours, and 34 minutes and Mark Slats (NL) achieved the fastest solo crossing in history with a time of 30 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes.

2018

A total contrast to the conditions of the previous race, this year was relatively calm and slow. There were some headwinds and times of frustrating calm. Though conditions were not as volatile as previous editions, crews had to dig deep for every mile and face the challenge of slow, hard rowing with no surfing and no significant helping conditions. World records were still achieved with the youngest ever male solo (Lukas Haitzmann), the oldest ever pair (Grandads of the Atlantic) and the fastest female pair (Whale of a Time) to name but a few.

2019

The biggest fleet to date! 35 boats left La Gomera on December 12th, and 87 days later the race completed. The winners of the 2019 race were Fortitude IV. All 35 teams arrived safely into Antigua with 8 solo rowers, 6 pairs, 4 trios, 15 fours and 2 five-man teams all accounted for. Another two-year title sponsorship deal was signed between Atlantic Campaigns and Talisker Whisky, and a momentous 5 year deal was signed between Atlantic Campaigns and the Antigua & Barbuda Government.

2020

COVID-19 brought huge global change and presented enormous challenges to crews and the race organisation. Isolation, restrictions and economic hardship meant that the fleet was only 21 boats strong and very strict health precautions were in place throughout. This year saw the youngest ever female solo rower (Jasmine Harrison) and the oldest solo (Frank Rothwell) within the race and the race was won by a pair, Row4Cancer in a record setting 32 days, 22 hours and 13 minutes. This year was a first in race history with every boat and rower making it to the finish despite an unprecedented four marlin strikes.