Regatta Online - Ocean Rowing
Regatta Magazine Online

 Ocean Rowing

 Issue 106 - March 1998


Atlantic Crossing

Life on the ocean wave

Simon Chalk at 24 years of age claims to be 'the youngest person in history to have sailed round Cape Horn and rowed across the Atlantic'. He and George Rock in Cellnet Challenger missed whales by a few feet and were almost run down by a yacht.

Chalk is planning to organise another race from Tenerife to Barbados in 2000, this time containing a single-handed class for loners and those who fell out with their partners this time. 'The organisation of the 1997 race left a lot to be desired, and as a result of this we intend to hold our own race with the support of a title sponsor and the blessing of many of the competitors,' he said.

Peter Lowe's baptism in the Atlantic Rowing Race was sudden. On Monday he received a phone call from Daniel Innes asking him if he would like to join the crew of the Golden Fleece as Innes's partner Robert Whitaker had sustained an injury. On Wednesday Lowe accepted the offer, on Thursday and Friday the former Pangborne Oxford Brookes oarsman went to work at his chartered surveyor's office before flying to Tenerife overnight. On Saturday he and Innes, a teacher at Oundle, loaded the boat, and on Saturday they set off. 'It was absolutely loopy,' he says. He was sea sick for five days. 'To be honest what I did is absolute madness.'

Their rudder broke after three days when the pin on the stern sheared off. 'We took it off and threw it overboard. We did the whole race without rudder. Our other major problem was that the solar battery which powered the de-salinator wouldn't charge fully. We drank all the water we took with us. We had to call for drinking water. It took three days for the rescue yacht to reach us, and we'd run out. That took us out of the race for summoning help, but we are pleased with finishing tenth over all.'

After an hour of the race, Lowe says, you lose sight of all the other boats. One night they spotted a light and met Nadia and David Rice for breakfast. 'It was very British. They gave us flapjacks and we gave them something in return. Nadia is tiny! We couldn't fathom how they stacked on the miles after they left us. They eventually beat us by miles and miles.'

Lowe had tried to get sponsorship for the race himself before pulling out six months before it started. He had met Innes briefly while both were rowing at Queen's Tower. 'We talked about everything at first, and there were always jobs to do. We rowed one hour on and off during day, 1.5 hours at night. The maximum sleep either of us got was one and a quarter hours. We both fell asleep at the oars. The boat was never flat still. I read Michael Palin's Pole to Pole, Brian Moore's autobiography, and the latest Regatta magazine from cover to cover.'

Charlie Street and Roger Gould took time off from their normal beat, the Met Police's armed guard at Heathrow, to raise some cash for the Children with Leukaemia Trust, a charity set up by Street to help his late godson who suffered from the disease. The race cost the coppers about 35,000, the sum they hope to raise for the charity. Street rows for Walbrook and once did Westminster to Paris in a Montague whaler with the Met. He listened to Dire Straits, Beatles, Mozart, Madonna, and Pink Floyd and read John Fairfax's Britannia.

'We rowed two hours on/off day/night, never stopped. For the first three to four days we were seasick. You come through the other side. It was bloody hard work, but there was never a dull moment. The boat rolls all the time. It was like being drunk on Barbados for four days at the end - very peculiar.'

They saw four tankers and three yachts. 'Nobody on the tankers saw us. Nobody on deck. A Danish yacht turned round and threw a bag overboard which they said was full of drowning puppies. They knew the rules! It contained chocolate and cans of cold Tango. Tasted like nectar'.

Nadia Rice, age 50, became the second woman to row the Atlantic when she finished in third place with her husband David. The Rices have two grown up sons. 'We're not a powerful team physically,' said David, whose wife is only 5ft tall. 'But it's not that sort of race. It's more about determination and seamanship and navigation.' Diet note: Nadia is a vegetarian.

'A noble idea, a sporting exploit, but a financial abyss' was how the French press described the participation of second-placed Joseph Le Guen and Pascal Blond, a former prisoner who had completed 14 years in gaol. Emergence, the Brest charity which helps ex-prisoners assimilate to society, is in difficulty having put 800,000 francs into the project.

© Copyright Regatta Magazine, 1998.

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