Atlantic Row Dinner, 7th Sept. 2017

 presents

Atlantic Rowing Race Dinner

An entertaining and elegant evening at Trinity House, overlooking the Tower of London

Thursday 7th September 2017. 7pm reception, 8pm dinner

Drinks reception – view our ocean rowing boat

Exquisite three course dinner with wine – served in the library

Music, charity auction, toasts and digestifs

Dress code: Evening wear (black tie optional)

In December 2017, Heads Together and Row will row unsupported from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We aim to beat the world record of 56 days for a mixed-fours crossing. Our voyage will be as much a mental as a physical challenge.

Our mission is to help people talk about their mental health and to raise funds for mental health charities. We invite you to join us at Trinity House on 7th September to become part of the adventure, support Combat Stress and help change the future of mental health.

Tickets £130. Proceeds to Combat Stress and Heads Together and Row

Bookings and enquiries e: headstogetherandrow@gmail.com

t: 07917 072 548 (Toby Gould, Captain) www.headstogetherandrow.org.uk

 

Trinity House

 

OUR EXPEDITION

In December 2017, team Heads Together and Row will row unsupported from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. We aim to beat the World Record of 56 days for an Atlantic east to west mixed-fours crossing.

We will row in pairs in two hour shifts around the clock. Our 24’ x 6’ boat will carry all our equipment and food, and a water maker to convert sea water into drinking water. We will be at the mercy of the elements which could result in 40ft waves, 40C heat and hurricane strength winds.

Our voyage will be as much a mental as a physical challenge.

OUR CHARITIES

Our mission is to help people talk about their mental health while raising funds for Combat Stress and Mind.

We are rowing in support of Heads Together, a campaign spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to change the conversation on mental health.

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans, providing free specialist clinical treatment and welfare support to ex-servicemen and women with mental health conditions.

Mind is the leading mental health charity for England and Wales. They provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

In recognition of the environment we will call our home, we are also supporting the Marine Conservation Society, the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.

BECOME A PARTNER

The support of our partners is crucial. We rely on money, goods and services, corporate and personal sponsorship to help us reach the start line. If you would like to become part of the adventure and help change the future of mental health, we offer excellent packages ranging from experience days on our boat to global marketing opportunities (2015 race global Advertising Value Equivalent £7.7m).

Tablers to row the Atlantic for mental health

 

HTaR 24hr training session, April 2017, Isle of Wight

We’ve had some fantastic support for our Atlantic row from the Round Table, with the fine gentlemen of the Billericay Round Table amongst our core sponsorship partners to date. Through our engagement with them Jeremy and I were sold on the concept – ‘having fun with a great bunch of mates and trying something new, whilst also supporting thousands of local charities and individuals making an enormous difference to millions of lives every year’.

So much so that we’ve become members and will be looking to get a lot more involved after the small matter of raising funding, preparing for, and taking part in the world’s toughest row across the Atlantic in December!

You can read more about our Atlantic row and our journey with Round Table on their website here.

 

Time to talk on Time to Talk Day about why I want to row the Atlantic

On the eve of two more rowers’ arrivals in Antigua, including solo rower Gavan Hennigan who has brilliantly maintained 3rd place throughout the course of the race, I continue to marvel at what all the crews are achieving and look forward to our turn when we depart La Gomera this December.

As I write this, it is also the eve of Time To Talk Day, an initiative of Time to Change, run by Mind (one of our chosen charities) and Rethink Mental Illness.

Talking to more and more people throughout our Atlantic row campaign, there’s one question almost everyone asks – “Why?” This is nearly always followed by “Are you crazy?” or “Rather you than me”.

When thinking of whether to write this and of all the reasons I didn’t want to, it made me realise that not to do so goes against everything we as a crew are trying to achieve, namely to get people to open up about their mental health so that it isn’t a big issue or one that is stigmatised.

We are rowing in support of the Heads Together campaign to change the conversation on mental health and end the stigma. It is crucial that if people need help, not only should it be available, but they should feel confident and able to get it.  Why would you want to make someone who already feels anxious and alone feel afraid to speak out for fear of what people may think or how they may react?

So yes, particularly in my 20s, I struggled. I’m aware there are some people close to me who may come across this blog who do not know that – although it was probably obvious! I’ve felt desperate at times and very alone despite having lots of lovely people around me. I’ve felt low to the extent it looked like I was in a really bad mood. I wasn’t, but at the same time, neither could I just ‘cheer up’! I made drastic changes in my life to see if that helped; I’ve wandered around Australia alone for two months, changed career and lived in the Caribbean. All fantastic changes but they weren’t the solution to what I suppose is a muddle of the wiring in my brain.

Because I’ve been able to talk about it when out with my friends, I’ve got through it. I’m in a job I enjoy, live in a great place and still have lovely people around me. Although I may still have the odd ‘down’ day, I’m fine. Sport has also played a big part in that and rowing in particular, which I started at university. I like to have a project or a focus and this Atlantic Challenge is definitely that. I’m not doing this because it’s the latest ‘drastic change’ I want to make, but rather because I now know I can do it.

One of the great aims of our Atlantic campaign is to help increase awareness surrounding mental health in support of our two great charities, also involved in the Heads Together Campaign, Mind and Combat Stress. So, if this blog helps even a little on Time to Talk Day then we’re doing our job.

As well as an incredible physical challenge, this is going to be a tough one mentally too and I don’t want anyone to think after reading this that I’m going to crumble. If I, or any of us, do it’s because no one can know how they will cope with being on a very small boat in the middle of the Atlantic, not because they may have found life difficult in the past. I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly at this. Roll on December!

So back to the questions. ‘Why?’ Because it is important that this issue is hit from both angles; that those suffering should feel empowered to ask for help and that those who may be on the receiving end of that admission can cope with it. ‘Am I crazy?’ To want to row across the Atlantic, maybe, but as a person, no I am not. And as to the last, yes, it is me, not you, but don’t worry, I’ve dealt with it.

#TimetoTalk  #MentalHealthMatters  #thisgirlcan  #twac2017 #Atlanticrow

12 brave crews embark on the expedition of a life time

Ali and I spent a few days in La Gomera for the start of the 2016 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge this week. Our mission – to learn what we could from the start of the 2016 race in preparation for our turn on 12 December 2017. This blog captures a few of the things we learnt.

First a word on the island that will be our home for two weeks of pre-race scrutineering and final preparation. Most crews don’t venture further than the small harbour town of San Sebastian. They are here for one reason only with a singular focus on preparations for their race. We however, had a bit more leisure time to explore. La Gomera is a volcanic island, typically Spanish despite being 1,000 miles from the mainland. It is brown and green, 14 miles wide, one mile high, and in the words of Douglas Adam’s is ‘mostly harmless’. Its charm lies in the fact that the one hour ferry from Tenerife is enough to put off the vast majority of tourists. Furthermore, no bugger, barring a few skirmishes, has bothered to mess with it since 1489 when the inhabitants faced defeat at the hands of the Spaniards.

It is the perfect place to unwind – ideal for the 12 crews in their final days of mental grounding for the daunting 1-1challenge ahead – 3,000 miles of ocean until they next reach sanctuary in English Harbour, a safe haven frequented by the British since the 17th century.  When the crews left the sun-drenched serenity of La Gomera this morning they were on their own at the mercy of the Atlantic Ocean, some for 90 days or more if mother nature is unforgiving.

The crews departed in five minute intervals, turning their backs on the comfort, security and space afforded by their temporary island home. Watching this highly emotive spectacle got me thinking.  As much as I love my crew mates, thinking about two months at sea with Ali, Jez and Justin in a space not quite big enough for us all to lay down at the same time (and that’s before you subtract the space for three buckets that we will share to meet all our bucket related needs), I find myself apprehensive about how I’ll cope. It was also the first time a glimmer of justification for attempting a solo ocean row had ever crossed my mind – thankfully it passed swiftly out the other side – something for a future life time perhaps.

2

The start of the race was everything it should be. Subdued excitement. The crews were visibly itching to get going as they waited on their boats inside the harbour wall, poised to take that first stroke… Hordes of well-wishers were brimming with excitement manifested in the form of cheering, flag waving and mortar-esque fireworks.

Family and close friends appeared more reserved. I’m told some families come out to La Gomera for the final few days then leave before the actual day of departure, not wanting to witness the visual spectacle of their loved ones rowing out to sea knowing there is a chance they may never return.

greydepart-flags

Meanwhile the Atlantic Campaigns’ team were working away in the background making sure the crews were in the best possible state of readiness. I’m certain that safety is their top priority and the final handshake with each crew member before they left the marina struck me as particularly meaningful – ‘this is it, the stage is set, you are ready – safe passage.’

Then, one by one, finalthey rowed out of the harbour and disappeared over the horizon. I’m very much looking forward to the feeling of leaving all the commotion and emotion behind and settling into the row – everything else will be out of sight, out of mind, and the only thing left will be row, eat, sleep, repeat.

So, what did I learn? I have a lot to do before I’ll be ready. Departure day is a milestone to look forward to, but it will be difficult to let go – of the side of the marina pontoon, and of loved ones. I owe it to myself and to them to give me the best possible chance of making it to the other side. The boat and equipment will be 100% shipshape – that’s a given. I need to spend a fair amount of time in 2017 learning to be comfortable with myself and with Ali, Jez and Justin in confined spaces. I also need to prepare myself physically. Of course, I’ll be doing a massive amount of rowing training. But while swimming training in the waters of the Canary Islands, I concluded that I also want to be able to swim away from sharks faster than any of my crew mates!

4

First boat trial

On a wonderfully bright but absolutely freezing Sunday, the four of us donned as many layers of kit as we could, while ensuring we could still move our arms, and headed to The Hamble, near Southampton. A round of hot drinks and a few envious looks at Toby’s bacon sandwich later, we were joined by Justin Adkin of Sea Sabre and Chris Martin of New Ocean Wave. Justin is currently building a boat we hope to charter for the race and so we had the opportunity to talk spec and see the designs. Our consultant Chris had kindly brought Isobel with him, our boat for the day, and fresh from her arrival back from Hawaii after the Great Pacific Race. So, having lulled our body temperatures into a false sense of security, out we went again to get the boat in the water and underway.

Jez studied the charts while the boat was loaded (more bags of clothes!) and prepared for the off. I tried out the bow cabin and was pleased to find that at 6’1″ tall I was able to stretch out fully. That said, the feet end narrows considerably so if sheltering in there with a crew mate during a storm, we’re going to have to take it in turns!

As we wobbled away from the pontoon, my ears pricked up when I heard Chris tell us there was no ballast in the boat and I had visions of tipping over and me sinking to the bottom of the Solent in my four layers of kit. I’m used to rowing in ‘fine’ boats like those at the Olympics which are a lot closer to the water and very sensitive to movement so it took a while for me to get my sea legs. I did get there eventually though and am reassured by the amount of movement there is without going over. During the race we will have several litres of bottled water in the bottom of the boat which will not only add to the weight and stability but will mean that, should the boat capsize, it will self-right.

Justin started off in the stroke seat with Toby behind him which, for those who don’t know, is actually towards the front of the boat as we’re going backwards! As the only one of us who could actually see where we were going, Jez steered us out of the marina. Justin and Toby valiantly battled with the wind and waves while Jez battled with the ‘traffic’. I’m aware from my sailing days that ‘power gives way to sail’ but am not sure where rowing boats fit with that and made a mental note to check. That said, once out of La Gomera, we’re unlikely to see another soul for 3,000 miles so that won’t be an issue.

Due to the strong winds we decided to head back into more sheltered water and Jez and I took over at the oars to do so. Having packed some dehydrated delights we moored on a buoy to fire up the jet boil and savour such specialities as chicken tikka, vegetable pasta and spicy beef. Water – check. Forks – check. Matches – oops! Another mental note for the list….

Before freezing our socks off completely we got back on the oars and headed back, while testing out the music speakers on board. Back on dry land and in possession of matches once again, we had our late lunch tasting session which was nicer than expected, although remains to be seen after weeks on end of eating rehydrated meals.

We had a great day on the south coast. Thank you so much to Justin Adkin for coming to meet with us and talk to us about the new boat. Also to Chris for bringing the boat and taking us out. We were also joined by [crew] Justin’s partner Jane who we’d like to thank for photography and the attached video.

Ali

http://quik.gopro.com/v/mOObrCE7zF/