It was three years ago when our youngest son Jack divulged at the breakfast table, that he intended to row the Atlantic, and I remember questioning his sanity and whether he truly appreciated how difficult this was going to be. Quite frankly I doubted whether he would actually get to the start line in the first place. How wrong we were and how utterly dazed and astonished we were as parents when Jack and his friend Freddie Wright undertook and completed the World’s Toughest Row, arriving in Nelson’s Harbour in Antigua 47 days after starting.
I think, on reflection, we did not really appreciate the enormity of this undertaking until we arrived in La Gomera to witness the start of the Race. There we saw the boats of the 30 or so competitors bobbing around in the harbour against the backdrop of the mighty and unforgiving Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic Campaigns, the organisers of the whole Race, could not have been more reassuring and helpful to us nervous parents and families and it did not take us long to appreciate that we were committing Jack and Fred into very competent and safe hands.
Once the Race got underway, and we had gone home, it was so reassuring to know that we could always ring Nikki Holter, the events co-ordinator who is based in Newton Abbot in Devon. She was very forthcoming with reassurance and calming words when the hurricane hit the competitors in early January and we were quite rightly exceptionally nervous and fearful, but again we knew that professional rescue boats were always on hand and that the Race organisers were constantly in touch by radio with each of the competitors. Only at the end of the Race did we all suddenly realise how critical the situation had been during the hurricane and how calmly and professionally everyone had behaved – including the competitors.
It was also fascinating to be able to follow the course of each of the competitors on a computer, thanks to the App we were advised to download. At times it did seem a bit like watching paint dry, but each morning of the 3,000 nautical mile race we were able to note the relative performance of each competitor, their position and their course. This too was reassuring and made us feel definitely “in touch”.
When finally the first competitors began to approach Antigua, Atlantic Campaigns helpfully gave us the ‘heads up’ about making timely bookings for our flights out and back as well as accommodation at Nelson’s Harbour. Once we had arrived there we were completely captivated by the atmosphere of excitement as the boats began to arrive. Flares, ship sirens and horns, countless people spectating and a wonderful sense of excitement which at times seemed almost feverish.
Finally, when Jack and Freddie arrived at about 9.00 pm in the evening, this had to be one of the most emotional moments of our lives. It really was an astonishing achievement and Jack and Freddie were rightly named as the youngest pair ever to have rowed across the Atlantic and completed the world’s toughest rowing race. Quite rightly they earned their position with a Guinness Book of Records Certificate and warmest congratulations and welcome by the Race organisers themselves. I am quite certain that the 47 days which it took Jack and Fred, both aged 21, to complete the Race changed all our lives and certainly enabled Jack and Fred to hold up their heads in pride.
Our gratitude also goes to Atlantic Campaigns for their professionalism and for the way in which competitors’ families were kept well informed. What a herculean achievement!