Editorial Staff
3 months ago

Editorial Staff
3 months ago

Destination Nelson’s Dockyard as world’s toughest row begins in Canary Islands

by Mick the Ram


The 2023 World’s Toughest Row has begun. Around 45 teams set off on 12 December from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, heading 3,000 miles west across the Atlantic destined for Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda.

This annual race – previously known as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – involves either soloists, pairs, trios or quads, taking on the challenge of crossing the ocean in a rowing boat only 7m in length and under 2m wide.

The crossing can take anything from 35 to 96 days, with rowers likely to face waves that can reach between 60m and 80m in height. At its deepest point the Atlantic Ocean is 8.5km/5.28 miles deep.      

More than €10 million has been raised for charities worldwide from the previous four races.

Following the Columbus path

The route from the small westernmost island of seven main Canary Islands – which lie off the west coast of Africa – to the Caribbean and Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua, attempts to match the path Columbus’s fleet took several centuries before.

It is a mighty challenge; indeed it is worth remembering that more people have scaled Mount Everest than have rowed across an ocean.

Testing human limits to the max

The popularity of the race is increasing year on year; so much so that the races for the next two years have already reached their full allocation. The attraction is for those modern adventurers who like to test their limits of endurance.

Participants will face a constant battle of sleep deprivation, suffer hallucinations, and the almost inevitable seasickness, which could last for anything up to ten days at a time.

Clearing unwelcome guests

They will be rowing in total darkness, except for moonlight and stars on clear nights and hunger is bound to hit at some stage, with rowers surviving on high calorific dehydrated meals, similar to those consumed by astronauts, which need re-hydrating with boiling water.

At regular intervals the rowers will need to clean the underside of their vessels in what will at times be shark-infested waters, to reduce drag which will be caused by barnacles hitching a ride.

Staggering numbers

Typically, rowers will row for two hours at a time, then grab some sleep for two hours, and this remains a constant throughout the epic journey. It is estimated that each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes during the race.

They will burn more than 5,000 calories each day and will be required to take on upwards of 10 litres of water every day. On average they are expected to lose around 12kg by the end of the crossing.

Rubbish situation for the teams

Having safely navigated their way to Antigua and Barbuda an inspection of rubbish stowed on board will take place, to ensure that nobody has been polluting the ocean on the trip across. A particular amount of waste will need to be saved and accounted for.

Support in the shadows

Each boat will have a satellite phone for emergencies, which can contact either of the two safety yachts which will be supporting the teams, essentially shadowing them across the Atlantic.

Making memories

The incredible mental and physical strain that the teams will endure will be tempered by the remarkable marine sights they will encounter on a daily basis, coupled with the stunning sunsets that cannot be seen from land, only from the middle of the ocean.

The sense of achievement when the teams set foot on Antigua will be something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.


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