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Date: 07 Mar 2010 21:16:09
Title: Day 62 - Less than 300 miles to go!

Sorry this is a day late, we were waiting for credit on our sat phone to be able to send this.



Hello dot watchers,


I’ve just read Richie’s “to do” list in his last blog and there’s some belters in there. I thought most 14 year olds at boarding school were playing with themselves senseless rather than writing life goals! What Richie hasn’t explained and isn’t giving himself justice for is that most of his remaining events are “invite only” and some you have to qualify for and you can’t just be any Tom, Dick or Harry and enter. With his current endurance CV he won’t have much trouble getting into any of them and after training with him for the last year or so and being out here for 60 odd days I’ve ever faith that he’ll complete all of them and set some impressive times. Ah, a quick random fact for you – Richie’s first ever triathlon was the Ironman distance which he completed in a respectable time. Most normal people try a small sprint distance first, then get some confidence with a few Olympic distance ones and eventually try a half Ironman distance before attempting the big one – the full Ironman!. He’s a machine!!!


Well as it’s Sunday Richie and I thought we’d give ourselves the day off rowing, what with it being the day of rest and all that. I joke – the weather is against us and we’re stuck on the para anchor AGAIN!!!! What makes it worse is that we couldn’t have asked for a better week as we have averaged our target of 50 miles per day and neither of us have missed a single shift and are within 280 miles of the finish line. All we both want to do it keep rowing and get to Antigua but Mother Nature isn’t quite ready for that yet. We’ve another 5 or 6 days on the oars before we cross the chequered flag and we can’t arrive too early as most of the Red Arrow fan club (well, our friends & family) are flying out on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Today I thought I’d give you the low down on the 2 other teams, HCL & Dream Maker that are our closest competitors and who we’re having a mini race with for 5th place in the pairs class. We hope that there is a big enough gap behind Dream Maker that none of the chasing pack, lead by Vision of Cornwall who are 150 miles (approx) behind can interfere in this sub-race.  



HCH Workforce 1

On HCL is Joe Thompson (23) and Chris Brooks (23) and both of whom are rugger boys from Exeter University who now both live in Sussex.  Joe and Chris played in the same University team as Richie’s brother Robert (aka Bobby Guns) who is called that for obvious reasons. Robert has been texting Joe and Chris abuse for us and telling them to let his little brother pass or else!


We first met the boys in Portsmouth in July last year when they joined us for a drink one night when we were doing our compulsory courses. They are top boys and they told us they were in the race to win it. Sadly for them that hasn’t panned out although as a consolation they did win the unrecognised award of, “The longest continuous time in La Gomera”. They arrived a week before we had to in mid November because they had work to finish off on HCL and they didn’t return home for Christmas at all and left La Gomera when the race started on the 4th January – about 65 days in total! Yep, you could have rowed the Atlantic in that time and this probably explains why the boys confessed in a recent blog that they only had 10 days of food left as they were tucking into it in La Gomera.


Also, they are proper sun worshippers and Woodvale picked up in their news round up that they’d just had one of their worst days because they’d just run out of Hawiian Tropic factor 5 carrot oil!! We’ve text HCL to offer to sell them food and olive oil if they slow down and let us catch them!!!


Dream Maker

The other boat tussling for 5th place in the pairs race is Dream Maker, crewed by Mick Birchall (44), a married Cambridgeshire Copper and Lia Ditton (29), an artist and professional sailor who is entered in the next Barcelona World Race and are the only mixed team in the race. Richie and I did our compulsory residential Navigation, Radio Telephony and Sea Survival courses with Mick and his first partner, Richard, in Portsmouth and got to know them very well.We were joined on that course by the crews of Spirit of M.A. and Heritage Explorer and had a great week. Richard was forced to pull out of the race on medical grounds which meant Mick needed to recruit a new partner with less than 6 months to go which is far from ideal. Mick continued his fundraising and sponsor fulfilments and attended the Peterborough Rowiing Regatta and pretty much put up a sign next to his boat saying, “Money needed. Oh, and a rowing partner.”

Coach Amy was racing up there that day and losing badly if my memory serves me correctly and even Mick couldn’t persuade her to join him. However, up steps the big man Anton who also racing that day and after a few weeks of phone calls Anton became Mick's new partner. Anton, a GB rower (which he’ll happily tell you, and again, and again even if you don’t ask)  but as it turns out actually only made it to the trials but never let fact get in the way of a good brag mate! Anton was always good value and he got on well with everyone. The newly formed team came down to the training row which was going from Cornwall to the Scilly Isles. Lots of lessons were learnt on that trip and the crews of Red Arrow and Dream Maker managed to grab a lift back from the Scilly Isles on a high powered RIB (Rubber Inflatable Boat) and Anton actually saved me from getting thrown overboard. Thanks pal!


Mick and Anton came out to La Gomera and were sharing an apartment next to us. After the first week tensions were building between them and Mick then declared that he didn’t feel safe to row an ocean with Anton and wanted him off the boat. A huge call so late on in the day as Mick was then left with about 10 days to find a replacement rower to step in or take half the rations off and row solo. I think Anton thought it was just going to be a passing phase but eventually they agreed the financials and parted company. To Anton’s credit he stayed in La Gomera in case somebody got injured or this happened to another crew and we spent some time with him. Anton got chatting to a boat owner in the harbour and he was sailing across the Atlantic in a couple of days and Anton was offered a free place. Sailing the Atlantic is no mean feat in itself so they set off well before the rowing race. When we were at sea we received news that their boat had lost its mast and they had to get rescued and didn’t make it across. I felt really sorry for Anton as we were hoping he’d at least cross the Atlantic albeit not how he’d intended. He still sends us texts which is really good of him.


With the help of various former ocean rowers Lia Ditton was contacted as someone who had the qualifications and would be interested. Mick spoke to Lia from La Gomera in what was probably a very unique phone interview and Lia was able to change her plans and fly out within the next couple of days. They had about a week to get to know each other and for Mick to teach Lia how to row.   Richie and I met Lia in Southampton at a Woodvale seminar and she was originally planning on building her own boat and moving to Denmark where her rowing partner was based. This didn’t happen but she did manage to make it to the start line.


I’m now going to copy an extract that the amazing journalist Rachel Smith wrote for her Yacht Pals online magazine where she did a quick round up of all the teams as she’s written a brilliant piece about life on Dream Maker and Mick and Lia’s relationship at sea;……..


“What's been noticeable this week on Dream Maker is the development in the relationship between the two rowers. Lia, being used to long periods away sailing, doesn't get homesick as such, though she misses her family. Mick however, is missing his 'created' family of wife and children, which he feels is very different. An emotional phone call home to his family ran into Lia's off watch, but was obviously much needed. Still, on a boat that size, emotions are catching, and it triggered an outburst in both rowers. Mick is incredibly homesick ,but partly blamed that on Lia being, as he termed it: 'hard shelled and unemotional', forcing him to pent up his feelings. Unfair as Lia may feel this is, it needs to be sorted out if they are to continue as a team.

After the outpouring of feelings, Mick and Lia have come to the conclusion that they actually don't know each other at all, they aren't friends and perpetually mis-understand each other. Once that was established, they considered their options:

1. One of them get off the boat, leaving the other to continue solo. As the boat belongs to Mick, the one getting off would most likely be Lia.
2. Retire from the Atlantic Ocean Rowing Race, and create some form of sail to get them to Antigua as fast as possible.
3. Have a 'probation' period.
4. Learn to live with each other and endeavour to become friends.

Having come this far, Mick and Lia quickly discounted options 1-3 and, remembering their commitment to those who have supported the campaign, decided on this approach:

* To have a talking session every day when cooking
* If something is misunderstood (easy to happen between exhausted people, rowing 12 hours a day in 30 degree heat) then it's discussed immediately and not stored up to be used as evidence at a later date
* To hug, or have a virtual hug at least, once a day

So they've come to the conclusion that they may never really understand each other and be able to communicate properly - but by keeping the airways open, they will hopefully be able to function better as a crew. And, as Lia said to a lady who asked what she had learnt from sailing the Atlantic solo:  "when you are cold, wet, hungry or alone in the middle of the night, you must always remember that the sun will come back."

For Mick and Lia to row the Atlantic will be an amazing accomplishment, but if they can learn how to be friends, work as a team and not simply function as two people who row and sleep on the same boat, that will be their greatest achievement.”





So in summary, Jo and Chris on HCL are running out of food and will have to resort to rowing at night because they have run out of sun cream. On Dream Maker, by the sounds of it the only time that Policeman Mick will be using his handcuffs on Lia is to restrain her from killing him and not for anything kinky! Life seems so much better on Red Arrow with good morale and plenty of food. If it comes to a photo finish between the 3 boats we have the secret weapon of my big nose – I’ll just lean forward off the bow and we’ll win by a nose!


I’m very jealous of anyone who is tucking into a Sunday roast today. Mum – I’ve just counted on the Windows calendar that I’ve missed 16 Sunday Roasts and a Christmas Dinner so far since I left the UK in November and I’m hoping to have those on consecutive nights when I get home!


The row must go on – Antigua here we come.





*We are still collecting sponsorship if you are able to donate and the best way is through the about justgiving link.


A few personal messages from me…….


Hilary & Martin -           Have a good time skiing and I’m sure as soon as I’m back in England you’ll be stalking me at various restaurants around the South East. Good spot about me not having a child!


Rachel Smith   -           I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your wording again and in the nicest possible way please stop texting us and get yourself booked up for Antigua! With all your texts it feels like you’ve been with us on this crossing – thank you.


Jack Barnes -               Thanks for the advice of following the boat in front although we haven’t seen another rowing boat since the first couple of days. Since when were you my “bestest cousin in the world “ – you haven’t sponsored me yet!!!


David Moss -                Rich doesn’t know I’m writing this to you but he loves getting your texts and he keeps saying, “I really hope David comes out to Antigua”. So what’s stopping you???


Aunty C -                      Oh, I love the update it did make me chuckle! See you at Sam’s wedding.


Debra -                         Glad your Mum is on the road to recovery, very pleased for you.  


Snodgrass -                 That nickname will only be recognised by a handful of people reading this and I did laugh when you put it on your text as I haven’t heard that for years! Your mum seems very intrigued by the race– why don’t you do it together in 2011? All the best.  


Robin Gilmore -           As much as I have enjoyed and at the same time endured this crossing there is absolutely no chance that I will be resting in Antigua for a bit and then carrying on and trying tp cross the Pacific!


Ian Pain -                     Do Rich and I qualify for Jailbreak as we haven’t spent any money since we left La Gomera??? Surely Antigua is further than Hamburg??? Thanks for your texts.


Tiger  & Katie Ford -     I’m hoping you are both doing your long runs today for the marathon - no excuses!  You should beat Ellie this year as she’ll be on crutches!

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