by Rachel Hearn
It has been thirty days. Dozens of vomits, one broken bracket, multiple phone calls to multiple coast guard units, a diverted Portuguese fishing vessel, one crew member’s departure, several days on land in Cape Verde, and a lot of welding since the crew set off from Lanzarote. Doesn’t make it sound eventful at all!
I cannot begin to explain what a roller-coaster it’s been since bidding farewell to the crew in Lanzarote, and I’m not even on the boat! The emotions we’ve all been through at home supporting them, must have only been a tiny percentage of what they’ve been feeling. Waking up to missed calls from the sat phone in the middle of the night then hearing the news that the boat was damaged and irreparable at sea was awful. I could only guess how I would feel to be out there in their position. It must have felt like the end of the road; facing the prospect of being rescued, and having to leave the boat bobbing around in the ocean.
I cannot believe how lucky we are that the boat was towed with the crew, that seemed like such an unachievable prospect to start with. We were genuinely facing up to the fact that we’d need to raise tens of thousands of pounds to try and save the project and that the boat would be left bobbing about in the ocean for as long as it took. As much as I am endlessly irritated by the man, I have to concede that Barry Hayes has been incredible land support, throughout the whole process. When the time comes for the Indian crossing, I know I’ll be in safe (arrogant, hyperactive, smelly) hands, and so will my family.
Having to miss the crews departure from Lanzarote was gutting, they selfishly pushed it back a day because of the weather window so I was crying in the airport terminal watching the live feed of them setting off. I was relatively composed until Duncan Roy started the three cheers; that, for some reason, set me off! It was a mixture of pride, excitement and jealousy at the end of a great few days in Lanzarote. It was really important to me to try and go out and help Alex and her parents with the prep (flattering myself here that I had any ocean rowing boat skills to offer!) I was surprised when I turned up and they’d done the majority of it, my contributions to the row consisted mainly of writing offensive messages on the boat and on the ‘snack packs’. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that when Billy is possibly at his lowest mid-Atlantic he might pull out a bag of snacks to read that “The team prefer Barry Hayes” or “Alex’s dad would have made a better skipper”!
The footage that the guys have been able to send back has been amazing, I still can’t believe how much wildlife they have seen and so early on, what a privilege to be able to just quietly row with pods of dolphins in their natural habit, I mean seriously there were dozens of them! When I was in Namibia in 2018 we camped in a dried up riverbed and in the evening a herd of wild African elephants with their baby walked through the campsite, I cried, It made me think in like twenty years time when the population of wild elephants has declined to bare bones, I will have been lucky enough to have come face to face with them in their habitat! That is genuinely priceless, I imagine that’s how I’ll feel if I’m lucky enough to see wild dolphins and whales – whether I’ll be brave enough to get in and swim with them, who knows, maybe I’ll throw John Haskell in first to quite literally test the waters.
Their Atlantic trip – even with the diversions and things going wrong – has not put me off, or given me even a moment of doubt about doing it. It has just added to the already building excitement. So few people have rowed an ocean, or even just done any kind of long distance crossing, let alone human powered, let alone a world first, let alone in arguably one of the most remote locations, and we have such a great crew. We are all very different but we already have a lot of laughs together and I know that when I’m struggling they’ll be able to get me through it! Everyone with any experience that I’ve been bugging with questions has assured me that the challenge is mostly mental, there will always be illnesses, injuries, rough weather and general low points, it’s how you mentally deal with it that is the difference between succeeding and quitting. This is way out of my comfort zone, so I won’t know truly what I’m made of until I do it. I think regardless of how much I struggle I’ll always know that my boyfriend, my family, my friends and Barry (NOT a friend) will never let me forget it if I give up! That is a bigger motivator than anything!
So it’s maybe a little under 3 months until we can hopefully set off from Western Australia, which means two months left of boring, every day, drudgery of shift work – I’m writing this from a McDonald’s car park on standby in the ambulance rapid response vehicle – that last shift before my six month career break is going to be magnificent!!!! General fitness training has gone well, I’ve shed some weight, gotten a lot fitter but now it’s time to start building some muscle and putting on some extra blubber. I’ll need it to keep me warm and give me a bit of excess fat to burn with the rowing and the inevitable seasickness. So in a few weeks time I will start stuffing my face (this is actually the real reason I signed up, because I have spent years inadvertently carb loading and it’s all about to pay off!).
What I need now is for a few photos of the guys actually rowing and not farting about with their oars out of the water, they need to get their arse in gear and hurry up and get to Antigua!