On Tuesday 9th February, after 51 days, 16 hours, 6 minutes and 51 seconds at sea, the Atlantic Lions rowing team skippered by Matt Townsend (former MYC Cadet member) completed its race across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua. Finishing in 12th place overall out of a starting entry of 26 boats, the Lions received a tumultuous welcome not only from family, friends and girlfriends, but also from the crew of competing boats, locals, tourists and the professional crew aboard the superyachts in the harbour. Cheers, flares and a fanfare of foghorns were just the prelude to emotional scenes at the dock as the rowers caught sight of their supporters.
After a few minutes to greet family and friends, the rowers fulfilled their media duties. Matt said that this was hardest thing they had ever done but that the welcome they received was the best 30 minutes of their lives so far.
During the crossing they had encountered whales, dolphins and sharks, they had caught (and lost) Dorado and they were assaulted by flying fish (affectionately known as sea pigeons). Power shortages were a particular problem, especially on cloudy days, and they resorted to hand or foot steering for most of the passage because of autohelm malfunctions. Their watermaker broke down on several occasions resulting in them arduously using their hand powered watermaker throughout their “off” watch to make sufficient water for the day.
Physically, the rowers looked well although each had lost 7-10kgs in spite of consuming 6000 calories each day in dry food and snacks (energy bars, peanut butter gel and energy drinks). All of them had suffered ailments during the race, especially chafing andopen sores on their bottoms. Hygiene routines were strictly adhered to otherwise these would undoubtedly have been worse. Tendinitis was an issue, along with claw hands. All of them hallucinated when extremely fatigued, severe seasickness was also a problem for some. One of the team fell off the boat and one was nearly washed off the boat by a rogue wave, but fortunately both were wearing harnesses at the time.
Please visit the Atlantic Lions website at www.atlanticlions.com to read the team’s blogs and more details of their journey.
It’s well worth remembering why Matt and his friends, Charlie, Dave and Joe undertook this challenge. Dave’s uncle, Gary, died of MS in 2009 when he was just 51 years old. The team set themselves the double challenge of rowing the Atlantic and raising £100,000 for the MS Trust. Their boat’s race number was 51, in memory of Gary and remarkably the number 51 appeared twice in their finish time too. The challenge of the ocean has been met for now, and the team are well on the way to achieving their fundraising goal too having raised £75,000 so far.
Matt, Charlie, Joe and Dave are very grateful to the Medway Yacht Club and its members for the support they have received. Hopefully we’ll get them back to the Club in a few months time so they can talk about their experiences.