We’ve seen them on Social Media. We have heard about them through friends, but who really are the people behind Atlantic R2R? Superyacht Content interviewed the 5 gentlemen embarking on a unique and life-changing expedition. They will row 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
Competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is not just a 3000-mile row across the Atlantic. This challenge will take painstaking planning and preparation. The team will have to undergo 3 years of physical and mental preparation. It will task them with hundreds of hours of fundraising and logistical planning. They will also have to prepare the boat and all necessary safety equipment to make their crossing fast and safe!
Superyacht Content has been given the opportunity to speak with the team of Atlantic R2R and answer all the need to know questions on the buildup to their race in 2 years.
What is Atlantic R2R?
Atlantic-R2R is an Ocean Rowing Team founded to race in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2023. We are rowing to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health and funds for the veterans’ mental health charity Rock2Recovery.
What Are The Main Goals/Objectives for Atlantic R2R?
Our ultimate aims are twofold: winning the race and raise as much as possible for Rock2Recovery.
Who came up with the crazy idea to row across the Atlantic? And what inspired you all to sign up for this?
The idea of putting together an Ocean Rowing Team to take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge was originally just a crazy idea two of our team members discussed over social media after watching teams finish the 2020 TWAC. Through mentioning it to family and a few onward chats a month later, the “Atlantic R2R” team was formed.
All the Atlantic-R2R team members have completed various endurance events and challenges over the years. They have also followed the TWAC for years and see this as the safest way to push ourselves both mentally and physically!
Gym Marine has kindly provided you with a rowing machine to prepare for this venture. You’re not currently departing for another two years. What is your current training programme, and is there someone advising you on how to prepare?
Yes, Gym Marine source a rowing machine for one of the team members currently working onboard a 75-meter motor yacht. This had allowed him to train while at work. Once they found out what he was training for, they were interested in getting involved and became one of the first members of our 500 Club.
Our training is in its early stages at the moment. Although we are all physically fit, we are trying to get into a good state of general physical preparedness before specialising. We have contacted a top ocean rowing coach and hope to sign up with him for physical training in early 2022.
We have also benefitted from the help of ex-Olympian coaching the team on the water. Although being in top condition will help the cause, rowing technique and time on the water will be of utmost importance. Natasha Howard has been taking Atlantic-R2R team members out on the waters of the Isle of Skye twice a week over the summer. The progress that has been seen in the team members technique has been excellent!
Although clearly a physical endeavour, rowing across an ocean is very much a mental challenge! We are doing as much research as possible into past ocean rowing crossings to understand the mental challenges that we may face. We regularly share books and podcasts amongst the crew and regular zoom calls with Atlantic Campaigns (who organise the race) and other teams involved in the 2021, 2022 and 2023 races.
Will you have a support vessel to follow you across?
Two support yachts shadow the race organised by Atlantic Campaigns, but their job is to assist the crews to prevent problems becoming emergencies. They are not rescue vessels. As sailing vessels, it could take up to a week for them to reach any particular boat taking part in the race. The support yachts have limited capabilities and cannot solve all problems, which is why every entry into the race must undergo strict training and meet stringent equipment checks. Our experience as professional seafarers will also be invaluable!
What made you choose December 2023 as your departure date?
It is a simple fact that when we decided to sign up for the race (February 2021), both the 2021 TWAC and the 2022 TWAC were fully booked. It was perhaps naivety that we believed we would be ready for any race earlier than 2023, as we quickly realised what a mammoth task just getting the boat and the team ready at the start line will be!
How quickly do you think Atlantic R2R get across the Atlantic?
I would love to say that we will break the 5 man world record and cross in 34 days, or even 28 and take the overall record. Truth be told, no matter how much preparation we do, we will be at the mercy of the ocean and the weather.
As a 5 man team, we hope to cross somewhere between 30-50 days (we will carry enough rations for a 55-day crossing). We should be able to push through a little more of a headwind than teams with fewer people than ours, but there may still be days where we sit on a para-anchor, as rowing into the wind is not worth it.
On the flip side, we could be lucky and encounter a steady tailwind the entire way – we will not know until December 2023.
Where are you departing from? And where do you plan on arriving? Who is in charge of navigation?
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge departs from San Sebastian, La Gomera, Canary Islands, and arrives in Nelsons Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua.
Navigation will be the responsibility of every crew member. As we will row 24hrs a day in shifts of roughly 2 hours on and 2 hours off, team members will always be sleeping. All crew members have to undergo navigation training before the race. We are lucky to have 2 professional yacht crew members on board who will use their experience wisely. One of the team members is also currently studying for his Master <3000gt (Yachts) ticket, which he plans on finishing before the race.
Who designed the vessel you are rowing across, and what amenities do you have onboard?
We are currently talking with Rannoch about purchasing a new build boat from them and a new design. Once confirmed, we will give a lot more information – However, there are few ‘amenities’ onboard.
The Rannoch R45 has 3 rowing positions and 2 small cabins. We will have a range of navigation equipment, including a chart plotter, AIS, VHF, paper charts and emergency items such as EPIRBs, SARTS, flares and a life raft, but it will be very basic. Compared to what is carried onboard a superyacht!
One of the most important pieces of equipment is the water maker! If that breaks, emergency water is stored as ballast, but you start to receive time penalties once that is broken into, meaning it could be the end of the race for you!
In terms of amenities–there will be a basic mattress each and a bucket–for you know what!
Below are some basic details of the vessel:
- No. of Rowing Positions – Three
- No. of Berths – Three/Four/Five
- Length Overall – 28.35ft
- Load Waterline Length – 25.43ft
- Beam (canoe body) – 5.71ft
- Load Waterline Breadth – 5.02ft
- Hull Draught – 1.05ft
- Displacement (loaded) – 2072.34lb
- Overall Height (keel to cabin roof of canoe body) – 5.12ft
- Construction – Carbon or Fiberglass
Can you tell us what R2R is?
Rock2Recovery is a veterans’ mental health charity founded by Jamie Sanderson RM and Jason Fox RM following long careers as senior ranking Royal Marines, which resulted in medical discharges after diagnoses of stress illness and brain injury. R2R provides support for veterans and their families that are affected by things such as PTSD.
R2R strive to create positive change when it is needed most. They recognize the need for rapid preventative interventions, specific coaching and assistance, including the provision of short and long-term refocusing support for veterans leaving the service with brain injuries and mental health issues because of their period of service. R2R provide coaching sessions, events and workshops, a helpline and peer support.
What made you choose Rock2Recovery as your charity?
The name Atlantic-R2R was born out of the link we developed early on with the charity Rock2Recovery. Mental health is a subject close to many members of the team. Still, veteran’s mental health, in particular, is close to those that are from the army after the death of a friend and former British Army colleague because of mental health issues.
Atlantic-R2R crewmember Paul comments:
“Unfortunately, I have seen people I know well and others I have not known on a personal level, struggle and ultimately take their own life. 5 people I knew or knew of in 18 years. Some had long since left the military while others were still serving. Some had been the life and sole of the group and the last person you would have thought was struggling to cope. If help had been available to them things might have turned out very differently. Rock2Recovery seeks to provide emergency support to the individual and his family. They make a fantastic difference to those that need it. I could not think of a better charity more worthy of support and it is a privilege to take on this epic adventure in their name and raise some money to help them carry on their work.”
How much would you like to raise for this charity, and how much have you raised so far?
We initially need to raise around £ 75,000 to purchase the boat. We plan to donate the boat to the charity after the race. This will allow them to enter teams in future races and generate money in the coming years.
We also have an initial target to raise £100,000 for the charity. This will be on top of what it will take us to participate in TWAC 2023.
We have currently raised around £12,000. This has enabled us to pay the deposits and secure our position in the race. We will shortly put the deposit down for the boat itself! Exciting times!
Where can people go to donate to Atlantic R2R?
We have recently set up a crowdfunding page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/atlanticr2r.
How are you all feeling about the challenge that lies ahead?
Everyone is feeling very positive. Recently having a good period of sponsorship backing, we are very keen to keep up the momentum! Training is going well both on the water and in the gym!
Can you recommend ways in which the veterans, and their family members who are suffering can seek help?
There are several contact points, and they must always remember that utilising any of them is better than suffering alone! If anyone is in crisis, they should contact their GP, Samaritans or the emergency services on 999 (UK). There are also many support networks such as, but not limited to: