The Red Arrow team completed their challenge in a time of 72 days, 8 hours and 43 minutes before making it to land where a sizeable crowd waited, including supporters who had literally minutes to spare, with time for just a brief hug, before charging off to the airport to make their flight home.
Stepping onto land is a momentous event, and as Rich said: ‘That thing with your legs is a bit funny!’. Their list of treats included strawberry milkshakes, breakfast cereal, burgers and chips (fries) and fresh fruit. Of course, they were able to manage a sip of the Caribbean’s finest rum punch (which nearly knocked them out), and I know there was some pink champagne waiting in the refrigerator back at the villa… because I left it there for them to enjoy!
I asked Paul (Tom’s father) how it felt to see the team arrive, as it must rank as one of the most amazing moments for any parent. His overwhelming feeling is that of pride – he’s incredibly proud that both Tom and Rich had the vision and dream to take on a challenge like this – but that they also had the courage to take it by the scruff of the neck and actually make it happen.
But the story doesn’t end there: A little bird had told me that Tom is, in fact, a true romantic, and had stashed an engagement ring onboard the trusty Red Arrow. During a celebratory meal with his girlfriend Laura at Johnnie Coconut’s across the harbour, sitting right on the waterside, he did the deed, and got down on one knee to propose. Happily, Laura has accepted! What a wonderful way to round up such an amazing experience, and congratulations to them both.
Tom thoroughly enjoyed his short time spent at the villa in Antigua, with the joy of showers, crisp, dry sheets, real food, flushing toilets and family all around. After clearing immigration the next morning, and going through scrutineering, there wasn’t time for much other than a quick drive round the island and some serious lazing by the pool!
Now safely back home and spending most of his time eating and sleeping, he’s letting it all sink in slowly. The extent of the support that the team has experienced has surprised him, as people he lost contact with years ago have stepped up to show their appreciation and amazement at the team’s achievement. Overwhelming is yet again the best way to describe it!
By the time you read this, there’s likely to have been a plethora of rowing boats arrive in Antigua, as the chasing pack have been pretty tightly bunched up. Mick and Lia rowed Dream Maker into English Harbour the day after Red Arrow – bizarrely, in the same finish order and roughly the same time apart as the two boats were in the last race!
Mick’s wife Vicky and three wonderful, funny and articulate children (Charlotte, James and Lucy) have been waiting for his arrival with great anticipation, and I’m sure that seeing their dad for the first time will be a moment they’ll never forget. Despite their differences on the way across, Mick and Lia have undoubtedly both learnt a lot from the experience, which they completed in 72 days 23 hours and 29 minutes – not bad for ‘an old bloke and a girl!’.
Lia of course had the usual girly dilemma of ‘what to wear’ for her arrival, but settled for a bikini. Even with all of her vast sailing experience, stepping onto land from a rowing boat proved to be a wobbly time and she found herself staring around as there was so much to look at while she grinned from ear to ear. I really hope that they can be friends following such a unique time spent together, as your rowing partner really is the only person who truly understands what you’ve been through – both the highs and the lows.
Over the weekend, we’ve also seen the arrival of the lovely Neil and Dean in Spirit of MA, followed by the four ‘Jersey Girls’ onboard Mission Atlantic, Limited Intelligence (now a 3 man boat) and Pendovey Swift. Neil and Dean, the two fire fighters from Manchester Airport on Spirit of MA will be more than happy to lead home Pendovey Swift, crewed by Mike and Simon, two fire fighters from Cardiff, with whom there was a little friendly ‘fire fighter’ rivalry going on!
Next in is the incredible Pete van Kets onboard Nyamezela, followed by Vision of Cornwall, No Fear, Explore, Spirit of Montanaro and The Reason Why. It’s amazing to see the boats making landfall so close together and with so many arriving in such a short time scale, we can be sure that the welcome committee for each one will be growing and there’ll be a party going on in English Harbour!
Congratulations to all those who have arrived this week and are tentatively testing out their land legs, and we’ll look forward to more successful landings, and an update on those out on the water next week.
Ocean Rowing News by Rachel Smith for YachtPals.com