It is so good to be on dry land!
They'll be hundreds of photos going up on our website over the next few days so please keep checking.
I wrote the below blog just as we were approaching Antigua and it was sent in the same batch a Rich's last blog but when I checked our blog page it wasn't showing for some reason so I've re-sent it below.
I'll write an update on our arrival, adjusting to land and coming back to the UK by the end of next week.
Thanks again for all your support.
----- Original Message -----
From: Rich & Tom
To: 1 Red Arrow Web Blog
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:41 AM
Subject: My last blog at Sea - A very special Thank You
We are approaching the finish line and as I type we have less than 30 miles to go. Antigua is on the horizon. Over the last year so many people have helped and contributed in so many ways that Rich and I feel very lucky to have such supportive friends and family. One person deserves a special mention though and that is my Dad, Paul.
To row an Ocean is actually 2 races – the first is to get to the start line and the second race is to actually row the Ocean. Some people say that getting to the start line is the hardest part. After our beer in Surbiton some 3 years ago when Rich accepted me as his new partner and the enormity of what we’d signed up for it soon became very apparent to me that we would need help. Rich and I would both be working full time up to the start of the race and we wouldn’t be able to run a fundraising campaign to raise sufficient funds to cover all the costs whilst raising money for Ataxia UK, prepare a race ready boat, learn to row (neither of us had rowed before we signed up) and put our bodies through some gruelling training regimes to get ourselves physically ready without help. We needed someone to manage the campaign and us.
The most suitable person I knew and who I wanted to ask first was Dad. Dad is so hard working, a real doer (if that word exists), always thinking, very positive and always keen to help. Rich had only met Dad a handful of times back then although he agreed for me to approach Dad. For those of you who don’t know Dad he’s a retired Actuary (a highly qualified mathematician who calculates financial futures and in his case for pensions and pensions funds) by profession and although still has other business interests was winding down last year and is “semi retired”. That said, he is still a very busy man but I popped round one night to talk it through with him.
Mum and Dad have always been very supportive of me doing the rowing. I remember the first time that I told them I’d signed up and they never discouraged me. I talked them through the concept, the issues, the dangers and told them everything I knew without hiding anything. I’m sure some parents would try and talk their children out of doing this sort of thing – not mine. The following day I received a card (which I have with me on the boat) wishing me good luck and saying they would do whatever they could do to help. As always, they have been true to their word and I feel very lucky to have them as parents.
When I asked Dad whether he would manage us he agreed straight away and was delighted we’d asked him and said, ““I’ll get you to the start line but the rowing part is down to you two.” Dad is a fit guy for his age and 2 years ago rode the tandem with me overnight to Paris. He loves a cycling challenge but if Rich did get injured I knew deep down that this wouldn’t interest Dad and I’d have to look elsewhere for a new partner. It would be too slow for Dad and he’d prefer to power across the Atlantic with a monster outboard engine strapped to the back of Red Arrow.
So with a Team Manager in place it all started to happen and to give you an indication of exactly how much Dad has done for us I’ve had a brain storm and listed the bits I can remember (there are no doubt more things) and in no particular order……………….
- Helped design, print and arrange the sponsor post cards from La Gomera.
- Investigated whether it was possible to set up RTA (Rowing the Atlantic – our team name) as a Charity or Trust for tax benefits. We weren’t eligible for either.
- Drove up to Porthmadog (North West Wales) to collect Red Arrow from where she was being worked on and brought her back to Woking for the Chobham Carnival.
- Spent a day with Richie and I in Porthmadog with our boat handy man and electrician talking through changes required to Red Arrow. He didn’t take much persuading to come as he could have a blast in the car through the Welsh mountains!
- Spent hours and countless trips going back and forth to see the very helpful Chris Grainger at Guildford Marine (our local boat shop) in Woking to get the equipment we needed and various bits and bobs.
- He came up with the idea of the RTA Launch Party on the 6th December 2008 which should have been exactly a year before the race started. We held the event in an aircraft hangar at Fairoaks and Dad helped plan and organise the event. This really brought our campaign alive!
- Arranged several meetings with a Graphic Designer and a techy to get our e-newsletter off the ground. Eventually we took this in-house and James Downie and Andrew Horton arranged these each month.
- Has kept all the RTA Accounts up to date.
- Helped finalise our RTA Platinum Sponsorship document and covering letter which he and Mum then printed, bound and posted to over 100 companies. Sadly, we didn’t attract a >£15k sponsor but it wasn’t for the lack of trying.
- Attended various meetings at IMG with several internal departments. I offered Dad lunch every time so I knew he’d come!
- Emailed Rich and I a meeting agenda a couple of days before we were due to meet. We met almost every Sunday evening for the last year at Dad’s and more frequently as Red Arrow got closer to shipping. Mum would often cook us a Roast Dinner before we started and sometimes Rich would be tucking into a one on a Sunday when I’d be away!
- Made himself available for countless conference calls that Rich, Dad and I would be on and often dealt with all the action points.
- Drove down with me to Penzance in Cornwall to collect Red Arrow after our trip to the Scilly Isles on a 2 day round trip so we could share the driving. The following morning we stopped at Woodvale in Plymouth who spent 4 hours going over Red Arrow with a new “to do” list to pass the scruiteneering in La Gomera. Dad made notes of all the action points whilst we stood in the rain.
- Arranged a business banking account for RTA and saved us hours by taking care of paying in all the money that we were donated and ensuring all our invoices were paid. He was also never shy in loaning us thousands of pounds when we needed it. He will be re-paid!
- Spent a great deal of time with James Downie to update and tweak our brilliant website.
- Followed up every possible sponsor lead – he left no stone unturned.
- Even whilst we’ve been at sea Dad has been emailing us a daily race update and general RTA news update. We feel like we haven’t missed anything at home.
- Attended meetings in London without either Rich or I when we were trying to attract sponsors through London First.
There’s still more………….
- Arranged the boat insurance for Red Arrow and dealt with a claim we had after a little accident on the Thames!
- Dad helped individually pack the 180 days bags of food for Rich and I which took over his dining room for a few days. I then asked him for some help with my 65 snack bags which was a mistake because some were missing chocolate bars!!!!!!
- Was our point of contact with Woodvale (the race organisers) for all the financial and administration deadlines and boat logistics. To prove how good Dad was, when Rich and I “signed in” in La Gomera we were told that we were the only team to have paid everything up to date and all the mountains of paperwork correct. This was all due to Dad.
- Delivered Red Arrow to Tilbury Docks for it to be shipped to La Gomera as Rich and I were both working that day. Fellow competitors, Spirit of M.A. were staying with Dad that night and were in convoy to Tilbury and if Dad hadn’t noticed that their trailer wheel was about to give way on the M25 they could have lost their boat! Spirit of M.A. was delivered to the docks on the back of an AA low loader.
- Opened the doors of his house to Tony and Jeff who were our local boat electrician and engineer who saved the day late on. Dad spent morning, afternoons and full days with both of them helping out where he could.
- Drove Rich, Hannah, Laura and I and towed Red Arrow to the start of the Great River Race in Docklands with Mum. He then drove the trailer to the finish in Ham for us and cycled back along the Thames with Mum cheering us along from most bridges. Having the trailer at the finish saved us hours.
- Spent 2 weeks in La Gomera with us doing anything and everything he could do to help.
- Worked very closely with Ataxia UK (our Charity) and attended numerous meetings at their offices in Kennington. Dad also helped finalise the contract we have with Ataxia UK.
- Spent hours online registering Red Arrow with the Marine Coastguard Agency, obtaining a Ships Radio License and registering the Emergency Position Identification Response Beacons (EPIRB) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s). I know some of these took numerous attempts because I recall Dad emailing or ringing me telling me how painful it had been!
- Has been out in Antigua for a week already awaiting our arrival and sorting out our return boat shipping and various other bits for us.
- Had an afternoon BBQ where Olly Dudley and Cath Allaway (local former ocean rowers) came round for a bite to eat to help us with a food planning. Dad, Rich and I were then up to 1am the following night devising a food and calorie plan. We also did a gas canister burns test to calculate how many canisters we’d need. Dad did the maths!
- Not only did Dad attend countless fundraising events throughout the year that we held he would also be heavily involved in the planning and arrangements of them. Off the top of my head he was at the Chobham Carnival, RTA Launch Party, Woking Round Table Dinner, RTA Leaving Party & Quiz Night, Rayleigh Round Table Dinner, Heather Close Pancake Morning, St Mary’s Grove BBQ, Barnes Fair, Putney Quiz Night and the University of Gloucestershire Freshers Fair.
- Individually listing all the serial numbers for the flares and gas canisters that were shipped with Red Arrow as these were hazardous goods and required special paperwork.
- Generally just spending hours thinking about the project, replying to the constant flow of emails and numerous phone calls.
- There is bound to be more and I will be annoyed when I’ve sent this as I’m sure I would have remembered more but I think you get the drift………….
You’re probably thinking, “So how much did you pay him then?” Dad did all of this for free because he wanted to and in fact we borrowed money off of him!!! Quite simply, all his time, all his effort and all the thought he put into the project we think he’s deserved to have crossed the Ocean. If Dad hadn’t of helped us I don’t think we would have made it to the start line.
Thanks for everything Dad.
Paul: tom has asked me to add to this, but i dont know how and i dont know where to put it. So here goes......thank you!!!!! I promised i wouldnt mention the EPERB problem that we had.......but to me your still perfec.....................t!
Tom & Rich
p.s. If Carol Vorderman is reading this then please put Dad forward for the Pride of Britain Awards!