Atlantic Rowing Race

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The Atlantic Rowing Race is an ocean rowing race from the Canary Islands to the West Indies, a distance of approximately 2,550 nm (2,930 statute miles or 4,700 km). The race was founded by Sir Chay Blyth and first held in 1997 with subsequent races roughly every two years since. The early races were run by Challenge Business Ltd. until the race was bought by Woodvale Events Ltd. in October 2003. Atlantic Campaigns SL, situated in La Gomera Canary Islands bought the rights to the Atlantic Rowing Race, now called The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge" - The World's Toughest Row in May 2012. Next race is in December 2015. After 2015 the race will be annually starting each December.


The Port St Charles Barbados Atlantic Rowing Race.

  • Winning team: Kiwi Challenge (NZ), rowed by Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs.

The first ever ocean rowing race saw 30 teams of two depart from Tenerife on 12 October 1997 to race over 3000 nm to Barbados. 6 boats withdrew, with 4 boats withdrawing in the first 36 hours, and 2 boats finished with single competitors aboard. Prior to this race there had been fewer than 30 successful ocean rows.


Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Race.[1]

  • Winning Team: Telecom Challenge 1 (NZ), rowed by Steve Westlake and Matt Goodman.

The second ocean rowing race saw 36 teams of two, from twelve different countries, depart from Playa San Juan, Tenerife, on 7 October 2001 to race over 3000 nm to Barbados. 33 boats made it successfully to the finish with Debra Veal, now Debra Searle MBE,[2] famously finishing alone after her husband left the boat on 21 October 2001.[3]


The Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race.

  • Winning Team: 'Holiday Shoppe Challenge' (NZ), rowed by James Fitzgerald and Kevin Biggar.

The third ocean rowing race was organised by Challenge Business and sponsored by Woodvale Events Ltd, who then went on to buy the race. 16 teams of two departed from La Gomera on 19 October 2003 to race to Barbados.

The Ocean Rowing Society Atlantic Rowing Regatta.

  • Winning Fours Team: 'Queensgate' (GB), rowed by Jason Hart, Phil Langman, Yorkie Lomas and Shaun Barker.
  • Winning Doubles Team: 'Carpe Diem' (GB), rowed by Christopher Morgan and Michael Perrins.
  • Winning Solo: 'TNT' (GB), rowed by Samson Knight.

A 2004 regatta was organised by the Ocean Rowing Society to race to Barbados. It is viewed as being a separate event to the regular bi-annual Atlantic Rowing Race. Departing from La Gomera on 20 January 2004 the regatta included 6 Doubles, 6 singles and a four. All boats except one single completed the crossing.


The Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race

C2 at Start of 2005 Race
  • Winning Fours Team: Atlantic4 (GB), rowed by George Simpson, David Martin, Glynn Coupland & Neil Wightwick.
  • Winning Doubles Team: C2 (GB), rowed by Clint Evans and Chris Andrews.

The 2005 race saw 20 doubles, 4 fours and 2 solos depart La Gomera on 30 November 2005 to race to Antigua. The start was originally scheduled for 27 November but Tropical Storm Delta, and its accompanying bad weather, delayed the start. Unprecedented bad weather during the event led to 6 boats retiring from the race.

Bad weather

The late-November start date was chosen as the hurricane season is normally all but finished for the year, unfortunately 2005's season lasted for an unusually long time.

A majority of the crews had completed between a quarter and a third of the race when there was a prolonged spell of unfavourable rowing conditions. Rather than the typical trade winds, that would have been helping the fleet, there were strong westerly winds caused mainly by Hurricane Epsilon. These forced many of the crews to stop rowing completely and to deploy a sea anchor to prevent them from drifting backwards.

In early January many of the fleet ended up passing through the southern edge of Tropical Storm Zeta, which raised high seas and created more adverse wind conditions. The bad weather all but prevented most crews from any attempt at a world record for the crossing.


Line Honours

All Relative at Start of 2005 Race

First to finish was the boat "All Relative", crewed by Justin Adkin, Robert Adkin, Martin Adkin and James Green from Beer, Devon. They had managed a fast start and were able to get clear of much of the bad weather that dogged other crews. Their lead had stretched to several hundred nautical miles before the other crews were able to start moving again. "All Relative" crossed the finish line in Antigua at 15:37:47 GMT on 8 January 2006; a crossing time of 39 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 47 seconds which broke the race record by just over 22 hours but fell 3 days outside the World Record. The crew also included the youngest ever person to complete the row across the Atlantic, who was 19 when the race began, and turned 20 on 7 January 2006.

Second to finish was the four-man boat "Atlantic-4", crewed by David Martin, Neil Wightwick, Glynn Coupland and George Simpson, who crossed the finish line at 02:26 GMT on 19 January 2006, a crossing time of 49 days, 14 hours, 21 minutes.

The third boat to finish was "Spirit of EDF Energy", crewed by double Olympic champion oarsman James Cracknell OBE and Ben Fogle, a UK TV presenter. They crossed the finish at 07:13 GMT on 19 January 2006, a crossing time of 49 days, 19 hours, 8 minutes. They were eventually placed second in the doubles division due to a time penalty, issued for using their emergency water ration. A BBC television programme on their experience, Through Hell and High Water, was aired in February 2006.

The fourth boat to finish, and winner of the Doubles division, was "C2" who crossed the line at 14:15 GMT on 20 January 2006, a crossing time of 51 days, 2 hours, 10 minutes. "C2" were the first crew to finish the race without incurring any penalty.

In fifth place overall, and third in the doubles division, was the crew "Boat de Vie". They were the first non-United Kingdom residents to finish the race, both crew members being residents of France. Both rowers were also leg-amputees and competed on equal terms with everyone else. They crossed the finish line at 15:36 GMT on 23 January 2006, a time of 54 days, 3 hours, 31 minutes.

In sixth place overall, and fourth in the doubles division, was the crew of "Atlantic Prince". They finished at 00:21 GMT on 28 January 2006, a time of 58 days, 12 hours, 16 minutes. Their boat had the distinction that this was its fourth successful Atlantic crossing. The two crew were also former captains of First and Third Trinity Boat Club who had broken the world record for a "two-man 1,000,000-metres on an rowing machine" by about 4.5 hours only a couple of weeks prior to the race.

In seventh place overall, and fifth in the doubles division, was the crew "Team Scandines". They were the second crew of non-UK residents to finish, both crew members being from Denmark. They crossed the finish line at 21:11 GMT on 28 January 2006 - a time of 59 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes.

In eighth place overall, and sixth in the doubles division, was "Row4Cancer" crewed by Liz O'Keeffe and Richard Mayon-White. They were the first mixed crew to finish and Liz was the first woman to reach Antigua, over a week ahead of the next woman. They crossed the finish line at 07:01 GMT on 30 January 2006 - a time of 60 days, 18 hours, 56 minutes. They had also suffered four complete capsizes during the race and lost much of their kit.

Mission Atlantic, crewed by four women from Guernsey ( Kathy Tracey, Sarah Day, Paula Evemy and Lois Rawlins-Duquemin) finished the race in 67 days, 7 hours and 20 minutes and they became the first Women's Fours ever to cross an ocean - any ocean - and therefore held the world record for the fastest Ladies Fours across the Atlantic. They also were the only fours boat to complete the race without using any of their emergency water balast.

The first solo to cross the finish line was Chris Martin in the boat "Pacific Pete". He crossed the finish at 03:24 GMT on 7 February 2006 - a crossing time of 68 days, 15 hours, 19 minutes. Martin had rowed for Great Britain in six consecutive World Championships - at junior, under 23 and senior levels.

Adjusted Final Positions

The final positions were adjusted from the Line Honours due to the ballast rule, which penalises the use of emergency drinking water as it makes the boat lighter and therefore faster. Due to the bad weather four boats were forced to use this supply. The positions were not adjusted until the last boat had finished, leading to accusations of favouritism for the celebrities and some confusion as to who had "won"; as the penalties were applied per finishing order across all classes.

  • Solos:
    • Both disqualified (Roz Savage for missing the finish buoy, Chris Martin for being assisted)
  • Doubles:
    • 1st C2
    • 2nd Spirit of EDF Energy (penalised 1 place for using 60L of water)
    • 3rd Bout de Vie
  • Fours:
    • 1st Atlantic4(Penalised 1 place for using 60L of water)
    • 2nd All Relative (Penalised 2 places for using 120L of water)
    • 3rd Mission Atlantic (Women)

Retiring crews

Six crews retired from the race:

  • Digicel Atlantic Challenge (Double) - retired 8 January 2006 due to capsizing and the subsequent unrepairable damage.
  • American Fire (Double) - retired 15 January 2006 due to a capsize.
  • Sun Latte (Double) - retired 15 January 2006 due to unrepairable damage due to a capsize.
  • Moveahead (Double) - retired 19 January 2006 due to a capsize.
  • Spirit of Cornwall (Double) - retired 23 January 2006, due to a capsize with less than 200 miles (320 km) left in the race. They were in 6th position overall when they retired.
  • Serenity Now (Double) - retired 24 January 2006 due to a capsize.


Pura Vida at Start of 2007 Race

The 2007 race left San Sebastián de la Gomera on Sunday 2 December 2007 with the finish in English Harbour, Antigua, on the same course as the 2005 race. 2 singles, 15 pairs and 5 fours started the race, with a six-crew boat starting slightly later. One pair "Titanic Challenge" and one Four "Move Ahead II" retired early on.

Line Honours

The first to finish, "Pura Vida", was a four crewed by John Cecil-Wright, Robbie Grant, Tom Harvey & Carl Theakston (all GB) finished at 14.52 GMT on 19 January 2008, taking 48 Days, 2 hours, 52 minutes.

The first pair, "Gquma Challenger" (Gquma meaning"breaking wave"[4]), was crewed by South Africans Bill Godfrey & Peter Van Kets. They finished at 00.15 GMT on 22 January, with the second pair, "No Fear", crewed by John Csehi & Nick Histon (both GB) finishing just 5 hours and 50 minutes later, after over 50 days at sea.

The next to finish, "Unfinished Business", comprised four girls—Jo Davies (GB), Sarah Kessans (US), Emily Kohl (US) & Tara Remington (NZ)—who had all competed in the 2005 race but had failed to finish due to injury, capsizing or sinking. They finished on 23 January in a time of 51 days, 16 hours and 31 minutes, a new female-fours record for an Atlantic crossing. The girls then renamed the boat "Finished Business".

Fifth to finish, "Go Commando", was crewed by Ben Gaffney and Orlando Rogers (both GB). They finished in 54 days, 8 hours and 39 minutes. Their row, and the preparation for it, were the subject of a 1-hour TV documentary shown on ITV 4 (UK) on 7 March 2008. Go Commando made a last minute dash and pulled away from "The Reason Why" crewed by Steve Gardner & Paul Harris (both GB), who finished 3 hours 24 minutes later, the sixth to finish.

Having started much later, "Oyster Shack Ocean Challenger" came in next. This was a "six" boat, although it was eventually rowed by five. Although "Oyster Shack" accompanied the race, it was a record attempt and not a race entrant and so was not placed (see below).

The seventh to finish, "Pendovey Swift" crewed by Ian Andrews and Joss Elliott (both GB), finished in 62 days, 20 hours and 56 Minutes. Next was "Mission Atlantic", a four comprising Andy Ehrhart, Justin Ellis, Mark Hefford and Nick Young (all GB) who completed the crossing in 65 days, 0 hours and 28 minutes although they were later disqualified (See "Race Positions" below). In eighth place came "Komale" with James Burge & Niall McCann (both GB) who took the start line, but immediately returned to San Sebastian due to a medical problem. They eventually started 2 days late and had a crossing time of 63 days, 2 hours and 5 minutes, but a race time 2 days longer than this.

"Jaydubyoo", crewed by brothers Andrew and Joseph Jordon-White (both GB), came ninth in 65 days, 19 hours 43 minutes—narrowly beating "Row of Life", crewed by Angela Madsen (USA) & Franck Festor (France), who finished in 65 days, 23 hours 24 minutes. Angela, a paraplegic, and Franck, a leg amputee, had originally planned to row the Atlantic in a differently-abled four, "Differents?" in 2006 but, when this was cancelled, agreed to row as a pair in order to "inspire, motivate and effect positive changes in the lives of those who are born differently abled and those who suffer serious trauma in their lives." "Differents?" made its first Atlantic crossing in 1997 and competed in the 2005 race as "Bout de Vie".

Eleventh was "Ocean Summit", crewed by Neil Hunter & Scott McNaughton (both GB), in 66 days, 10 hours and 10 minutes. Twelfth was "Pygram" with Fabien Decourt and Benoit Dusser (both France) in 72 Days, 3 hours and 3 minutes. "Atlantic Jack", crewed by Catherine Allaway (GB) & Margaret Bowling (Australia) came in only 2 hours 11 minutes later, although they were disqualified from the race (See "Race Positions" below). "C2", crewed by Andy Watson (GB) and Ian McGlade (Ireland), also finished the same day in 73 days 10 hours and 45 minutes, but were relegated 2 places for using emergency drinking water.

"Silver Cloud", crewed by Clair Desborough, Sarah Duff, Rachel Flanders & Fiona Waller (all GB), finished in 74 Days 1 hour and 3 minutes, putting them thirteenth in the race and making 17-year-old Rachel Flanders the youngest person to have rowed an ocean.

The two Solos both came in on 16 February, "1 Charmed Life" rowed by Peter Collett (GB/Australia) finished in 75 Days, 23 hours, 46 minutes in 14th place, and the "Spirit of Fernie" rowed by Paul Attalla (Canada) in 76 Days 7 Hours and 46 minutes was placed 16th by the demoting of C2.

"Barbara Ivy", crewed by Linda Griesel & Rachel Smith (both GB) finished 17th in 76 days 7 hours and 46 minutes and the final finisher was "Dream Maker" with Elin Haf Davies & Herdip Sidhu (both GB) in 77 days, 7 hours, 37 minutes

Race Positions

Most finishing positions were unaltered, "C2" was relegated 2 places, from thirteenth to fifteenth, for using over 110 litres of their emergency drinking water

Two boats which completed the crossing were disqualified from the race for receiving assistance en route. These were "Mission Atlantic", who were supplied with food, and "Atlantic Jack", who received food and a rudder-pin.

Oyster Shack

"Oyster Shack Ocean Challenger" was attempting to beat the record for the fastest rowed Atlantic crossing of 35 days 8 Hours and 30 minutes, set in 1992 by "La Mondiale" with a French crew of 11. The same "La Mondiale", this time with a British & Irish crew of fourteen, and an American rowed tri-maran "Orca", with a crew of four, set out from Puerto de Mogán, Gran Canaria, for Port St. Charles, Barbados, at about the same time—both trying to beat the record.

"Oyster Shack" had a late crew change and delayed their start until 5 December 2007, 2 days after the race started, hoping for better weather. Unfortunately the new crew member, Andy Morris, injured his knee and the attempt was abandoned after 22 hours with the boat towed to El Hierro. Having returned to La Gomera by ferry the boat was repaired and the five remaining crew members: Simon Chalk, Ian Couch, George Oliver, Mike Martin & Ben Thackwray (all GB) decided to try without a replacement.

Having waited for favourable weather again the second attempt left on 23 December 2007. Initially they had good weather and made good time, however, the rudder sheared off, the weather deteriorated and the repaired rudder broke again. They finally arrived in 37 days 5 hours and 39 minutes failing to beat the record. In the meantime "La Mondiale" had beaten the record with a time of 33 Days 7 hours and 30 minutes. This was the first crossing by a crew of five and the also the world record for fastest time from Canaries to Antigua in a row boat; as the four faster Atlantic crossings have all been to Barbados (which is subject to more favourable mid Atlantic currents).


The Atlantic Rowing Race 2009

The 2009 was planned to start on 6 December 2009, but was delayed because of bad weather and started on 4 January 2010. It was run over the same course as the previous two races; San Sebastián de La Gomera to English Harbour, Antigua.[5]

Final starters included 7 solos, 20 pairs and 3 fours. Entrants were predominantly from the UK, but included teams from Denmark, France, Ireland, South Africa and the United States.[6]

On 26 Feb 2010 the solo rower Charlie Pitcher (GB), in the boat "JJ (Insure & Go)", was the first to finish at Antigua after 52 days 6 hours and 47 minutes, becoming the first ever solo rower to beat the entire fleet of starters.

The second boat to finish, and the first pair, was James Croome and Oliver Back (both GB) in "QBE Insurance Challenger" who arrived on 5 March. The third boat, "Karukera", rowed by Frenchmen Francois Lamy and Benolt Dusser arrived 8 March and the fourth boat, "Vivaldi (Rames Dames)" rowed by Catherine Remy, Quitterie Marque, Laurence Grand Clement and Laurence De Rancourt (all France) was the first team of four, arriving on 9 March.

A boat called "Britannia III" planned a record attempt crossing of the Atlantic, having twelve people on board. Due to weather conditions it seemed more favourable for the record attempt to finish in Barbados instead. They took 38 and a half days, but did not break the record which is 33 days and 7 hours.


The 2011 race is due to start on 4 December 2011 over the now established course of San Sebastián de La Gomera to English Harbour, Antigua.[7] Entrants already declared by 5 April 2010 included 3 solos, 15 pairs and 2 fours.[8] Entrants included; Row for Freedom, Row to Recovery, The Atlantic 4, and Patience.



A race started late 2013


A race was planned to start on 15 December 2015 but has been delayed to 20 December due to bad weather conditions.[9]


Race times tend to be slower than record attempts, for three reasons:-

  • Boats leave on a predetermined start time, so cannot wait for favourable weather.
  • Boats are "One-Design", i.e. fundamentally the same, so cannot be very innovative.
  • The rules require extensive emergency equipment and stores e.g. water, which add weight.

The Record for the crossing (from La Gomera to Barbados) was set by a four crewed by Phil Langman, Shaun Barker, Jason Hart and Yorkie Lomas in 2004. They crossed in 36 days and 59 minutes, breaking the previous record set by the New Zealand double Kevin Biggar and James Fitzgerald during the 2003 race, by just over 22 hours.

The Record crossing for a four (from La Gomera to Antigua) was set by "All Relative" on 8 January 2006 who completed the course in 39 days 3 hours 35 minutes and 47 seconds.

In the 2007 race, "Unfinished Business", crewed by Jo Davies (GB), Sarah Kessans (US), Emily Kohl (US) & Tara Remington (NZ) set a new female fours record ( from La Gomera to Antigua) of 51 days 16 hours and 31 minutes.

The record crossing for a mixed (male/female) double from La Gomera to Barbados was set by Jenny Jardine & Ray Jardine (both USA) in "Caper" who completed the course on 30 December 2002 in 53 days 10 hours and 46 minutes. The record crossing for a mixed double from La Gomera to Antigua was set by Liz Mayon-White (née O'Keeffe) and Richard Mayon-White (both UK) in "Row4Cancer" who completed the course on 30 January 2006 in 60 days 18 hours and 56 minutes.


  1. "WARD EVANS ATLANTIC ROWING RACE 2001". The Ocean Rowing Society. Retrieved 2 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Brogan, Benedict (15 June 2002). "Arise Sir Jumping Jack Flash". The DailyTelegraph. London. Retrieved 2 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Sue Pelling (26 January 2002). "Debra Veal finishes Atlantic row". Yachting World. Retrieved 2 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Bill Godfrey and Peter van Kets. South Africa, Team Gquma Challenger". Ocean Rowing Society. Retrieved 2 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Woodvale Challenge Atlantic Rowing Race 2009 Retrieved 8 January 2009
  6. Entrants in the Atlantic Rowing Race 2009 Retrieved 5 April 2010
  7. Woodvale Challenge Atlantic Rowing Race 2011 Retrieved 1 July 2009
  8. Entrants in the Atlantic Rowing Race 2011 Retrieved 5 April 2010

External links