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
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.
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.
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!!!
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
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
“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
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.
a 'probation' period.
4. Learn to live with each other and endeavour to
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
* 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
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
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!
row must go on – Antigua here we come.
are still collecting sponsorship if you are able to donate and the best way is
through the about justgiving link.
few personal messages from me…….
& 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!
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.
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!!!
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
Oh, I love the update it did make me chuckle! See you at Sam’s
Glad your Mum is on the road to recovery, very pleased for you.
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.
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
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!