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 Atlantic Challenge

 October and November 1997


Occasional news reports from "Mount Gay Rum Runner"

Duncan Nicoll and Jock Wishart report from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean

Latest news at the top

November 11th

Thought we'd give you an idea of our day-to-day cycle and what we actually do!
Jock					Duncan
0700-10      Sleep                      Row
10-1300      Row			Messages,breakfast,wash
13-1600      Lunch,Navigate,radio       Row
16-1900      Row			Messages,dinner prep,diary
19-2200      Dinner,sleep               Row
22-0100      Row                        Sleep
01-0400      Sleep                      Row
04-0700      Row                        Sleep

The pattern is being followed day in day out and is exhausting to say the least: it's amazing that the body does actually adjust to it. Now the weather is with us this pattern is enabling us to cover 55-65 miles per day. When you consider that we were rowing against the wind in the first few weeks and only achieving 0.3 miles in about 8 hours: still worth it to stop being blown back.

We have a number of pieces of emergancy equipment on board: a four man liferaft that we can deploy in about 10-15 seconds, an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that sends out a distress signal that initiates a rescue attempt. The signal is bounced off a satellite to a rescue co-ordination cantre with can discern the details of the beacon specific to boat and location.

SART (Search & rescue Transponders) transmit a radar signal - the advantage of this is that SART can be picked up by all vessels and aircraft fitted with radar, not just those with specialist search & rescue equipment. The ARGOS unit gives out our daily position via satellite to France and then relayed to the UK. Plus all the usual harnesses and lifejackets. Of course all this stuff is useless unless you know how to use them, hence our attending an ocean safety survival course before departure. We believe we have it reasonably covered. We also hope we never have to use them.

November 2nd

Yet another day spent under the sea anchor, the sea and wind impossible to row under and pushing us back along our course which is very frustrating. We seem to have little luck so far with only two days with the wind in our favour. We appear to have a very high boat speed compared to most of the other competitors but still, due to conditions, we lag behind. Hopefully our luck is being stored for later days: our spirits are high nevertheless. We understand this phenomenon, the lack of wind in our direction has been caused by the El Nino causing havoc to the winds in the North and South Atlantic, as so far we have not encountered any trade winds from the NE that would normally move us rapidly towards our goal. Others further South have and the Kiwis, according to stats from the Challenge Business, have achieved an amazing 94 nautical miles in 24 hours.

So what's it like living on a boat this size in the middle of the Atlantic? Firstly when you go to sea you have to take everything, ever been on holiday and forgotten something?, well you can't afford to out here, there are no shops just around the corner. Fundamentals such as food and water, the basics, are one thing but there is so much more to it. All the safety equipment that needs carrying, medicines etc., we have a medical box that looks more like a complete pharmacy and any forgotten item could mean crisis.

It's strange how Father Neptune looks out for your weaknesses: our one cloth sea anchor was torn in the first storm, now well repaired by Duncan's nimble fingers - he'll make someone a good (if not lovely) wife one day; our only whip aerial for the short wave radio our only means of voice communication broken in one of its early uses in bad conditions. Even Jock's watch stopped in spite of a new battery a couple of nights ago which caused him great concern as without a watch there is difficulty in navigating. Physical problems such as salt sores, blood blisters and the occasional burn from cooking are normal, but Jock has also suffered from a strained knee and Duncan from 'claw hands', both due to the high number of hours spent rowing each day (3 hours on, 3 off for the forseeable future: not a bad winter's training). Being prepared with the correct equipment is making all the difference.

Until next time, Duncan & Jock.

October 24th

After 2 days of good progress , nearly 40 miles a day as we're now working on a 3 on 3 off schedule, things took a turn for the worse earlier on today with yet another depression giving contrary winds building up into 0 to 10 foot seas and making progress once again impossible.

Despite all the consistency there supposedly is in the Azores high we have now had 13 days of winds from the wrong quarter which is both frustrating and psychologically offputting when we still have so far to go. Also today Jock had an injury to his knee which is of concern to us both as we are unsure whether it is a build up of lactic acid or something more serious. Happily the the bad weather meant we could not row in any case and we are both a lot happier this evening.

We wait for our luck to turn but we are still in good shape and good spirits and hopefully better than most and there is still a long long way to go yet: we pray however for the North Easterly winds. Some five boats are now definitely out with we believe some three others being rowed by individuals, latest casualty being the Germans who gave up in complete exhaustion. Last night we had a visitor, a small squid which we found lying on the deck in the morning but Duncan despite his handiness in the kitchen is not yet up to grilled calamari so back to the sea it went!

In the back cuddy which is our home, 6ft by 4ft, we have all that anyone could desire (Jock's words not mine - Duncan) all powered amazingly by solar panels which on some days are giving as much as 10 amps to power the many electrical items we have on board. This electricity powers our water maker, which through a reverse osmosis filter converts salt water to perfectly drinkable fresh water.

Sorry we're not in touch that much at the moment but please don't hold back if you have any messages for us at the present time, we really appreciate all the messages that have come. Thanks, Duncan and Jock.

If you want to send a message to Jock and Duncan, write an email to Chris Jones - keep it short and sweet, with minimum carriage returns etc.

October 18th

(News arrived on October 21st, due to technical difficulties now more or less sorted out).
The past two days have just been a struggle with south then south westerly winds opposing us, so little progress has been made apart from the afternoon of the 17th when for a while the sea was like a millpond and we had our best piece of rowing technically yet. As we write this piece we are sitting with two sea anchors out and a force five to six blowing outside from an atlantic depression just trying to stop us going backwards too fast, so we're re not even at this moment maintaining our position. Having said that, it's the same for all and we at least started out in a very good position. One startling occurence yesterday was the appearance over the horizon of one of our competitors Russel and Andy in Bitzer: Russel rows for Broxbourne Rowing Club. We exchanged pleasantries, sultanas, and Duncan's Monday lunch that we never had.....God help them if they ate it! At the same time Jock was on the radio to London so was able to pass on a message to Andy's parents as they had no comms gear on board. News came of progress of some of our other competitors in the race and that two boats had broken rudders and another two including Peter Haining and David Riches were out.

Later on that night we ate our supper with the ocean like a mill pond around us; there was absolutely no noise to be heard apart from the hull in the water, difficult to imagine we're in the Atlantic Ocean. People may wonder what we're eating: we're on a diet of freeze-dried food, boil-in-a-bag and South African army rations all of which is quite palatable if sometimes a trifle boring.

We're in good humour and fine fettle, all systems working well and feeling strong. Waiting desperately for the North East winds to fill in: till then we rest.

Message Ends

© Copyright Regatta Magazine, 1997.

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