Bench Blog

Seven day countdown to the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Dec 08, 2015

Seven day countdown to the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge for our Bench Events supported rowers

It’s finally here! Our adopted team, Yorkshire Rows, have arrived in La Gomera for their final preparations before the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. In our last blog post, we introduced you to the Yorkshire Rows, Janette, Frances, Helen and Niki, four working mums who on 15 December will cross the Atlantic ocean, rowing 3,000 nautical miles from La Gomera to Antigua.

It’s been a whirlwind month for the Yorkshire Rows with appearances on BBC and ITV, switching on Christmas lights and wrapping up their day jobs. And, just as the ladies were about to fly out from Manchester Airport to the Canaries, gold medallist and all round nice chap James Cracknell appeared with words of support and advice.

Over the next week, the girls will be doing plenty of final preparation: packing food, applying race stickers (look out for the Bench Events logo proudly stating our support), testing out the sleeping compartments, last minute technical checks and even learning what antibiotics to use in what circumstances (there are going to be some serious blisters!).

“It got so hectic before we left,” Niki explained, “and it was sad to say goodbye to everybody; some of them we’re not going to see until we reach the other side like my mum.  But, it’s great as we can now just concentrate fully on the boat and the challenge.”

So as the ladies endure the final countdown, it’s time we did our prep too: just what exactly is the Talisker Whisky Challenge? What should we expect the teams will face?  And, how many will actually make it across?

In 1966, Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway battled hurricanes and 50 foot waves to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 92 days. Later Sir Blyth thought it would make an excellent race challenge and so began this somewhat crazy competition. The teams entering the race range from five people crews to solo rowers, with 26 boats taking part this year. Boats are about seven meters long and just under two metres wide, each with a small cabin to get some much needed rest. As part of the race rules, no team can receive any repair, help or food and water unless they choose to resign from the competition which unfortunately does happen every year due to storm damage, injury or technical failure.

Once you start You Tubing videos of previous races, it becomes an addiction. The raw emotion is hard to watch as the days at sea start to take their toll. The worst is watching grown men and women fear for their lives as they sit in the dark listening to waves slam into their boats. In 2013, the conditions were the worst in the race’s history with nearly every team experiencing a capsize. But, then there are the beautiful moments: seeing a blanket of stars above whilst rowing at night, hearing from family and friends on Christmas day or jumping into the sea for a quick shower and seeing Antigua for the first time knowing they’ve done it. It seems to be the belief in the charities they are doing it for and the belief in themselves which gets them through it.

You can watch the official documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3Ngc9uoCgo   It’s a fascinating insight into what the Yorkshire Rows are about to do and it’s been viewed by more than 20 million people worldwide especially as it’s been part of six airliners’ inflight entertainment packages!

In a week’s time, we’ll start reporting on how our ladies are doing, rooting for them every row of the way. The Rows said: "It has been an intense two years of planning and organising and it will be a doubly intense two months with no sleep and rowing continuously on an ocean that really scares me – but this challenge will have a huge impact and make a difference to so many people’s lives. We never expected this much support and we really just want to get in the boat and do it now.”

Suze Howell / hsuze@hotmail.com / 07814419260 / @_sightseer