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.