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Atlantic Lions Maiden Voyage

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Atlantic lions rowing a boat

In December 2015 four friends who met at the University of Birmingham are going to attempt to row across the Atlantic in aid of the MS Trust. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3,000 mile race from La Gomera, Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean and has been dubbed the ‘toughest rowing race on earth’.

Below you can read their latest blog about the Maiden Voyage they made at the weekend.

For more information on the Atlantic lions have a look at their blog, If you want to support the lads you can donate here

Atlantic Lions Maiden Voyage

This weekend had long been in our diaries as the first ‘proper outing’. We have been out as a crew together on the river, but never more than a couple of hours at a time and although Matt and Charlie had already spent a night on the boat, that was well within the protection of Christchurch harbour! It was with excitement and unnatural early morning enthusiasm that the boys left London at 6am on Saturday morning and made their way down to Christchurch. Over the last few weeks Cris and his team at Rossiter have worked tirelessly to have the boat ready – including fitting a new rudder cassette, rudder line cleats and VHF radio. So enthusiastic were we that we actually had to wait for the Chandlery to open at 9am to buy a few last minute bits and bobs. It did give us time to squeeze in a few bacon and sausage baguettes prior to departure – always a welcome deviation from the plan!

With ration packs aboard and a chipper radio check with Solent coastguard from Joe we were ready to go! We left Christchurch harbour on the turn of the morning tide and made good progress across the Bay. Electrician Dave had set our way points into the GPS and navigated us in an Easterly Direction towards Hurst point. We had also activated our AIS – automatic identification system, which not only allowed us to identify other vessels, but also allowed bigger ships to see us on their screens probably, long before they would see our small 29ft boat bobbing around in the Solent! We actually arrived at Hurst point ahead of schedule and struggled to make it around the point against the outgoing tide. What we learnt very early on was that even rowing with maximum power we were never going to be able to compete against a 6kt current!

the guys from Atlantic lions laughing

Though slightly heavier than the powder foods, these taste immeasurably better – and actually resemble real food. They are also more calorific which is going to be essential as we try and keep enough energy going in each day to fuel us across the Atlantic. Pasta bolognese and chicken and mushroom pasta were particular favourites – but it was the unassuming rice pudding that really hit the spot! BTBT also provided us with packs of biltong, squeezy peanut butter, squeeze fruit, a range of nuts and some boiled sweets – which were great to keep the salt taste off our tongues but also provided our daily Vitamin C! Thank you to our food sponsor for their support and we look forward to using more in the coming months!

We eventually made it around Hurst point and had our first real taste of waves in the chop between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. We got into a good rowing routine for about 10 miles up the Solent and picked up a temporary mooring just outside Cowes. We knew that we had a solid row ahead and managed to squeeze ourselves into the cabins for a couple of hours downtime. Charlie was banished to the bow suite and the other three got cosy in the aft cabin – not the most spacious arrangement, but something we’ll have to get used to if weather forces us inside during the race. At midnight we set of westwards back down the channel. Safety officer Slug ensured that were were all in lifejackets and harnesses and it was good practice changing over. Rowing in the dark was initially a little unnerving. Although there were lights from channel buoys, it was difficult to see exactly where we were and so we had a system where two rowed, one helmed, and one was constantly on the GPS, checking our position, altering our bearing, looking out for navigation marks etc. This was a new environment for most of the crew but prior planning and adequate caution meant that we did remarkably well to row a safe passage through the channel and follow the Isle of Wight southwest towards the needles.<img alt="sunset view" class="image-right" data-cke-saved-src="/sites/default/files/sunset-boat.jpg" src="//www.mstrust.org.uk/sites/default/files/sunset-boat.jpg" width:="" 300px;="" height:="" 300px;"="">

It was off the westerly tip of the island that we encountered our most tricky conditions. Wind vs tide created large swells coming across the beam of the boat as we tried to head Northwards back into the bay. Charlie and Matt struggled to make useful strokes, with one oar up and one oar down most of the time – often taking airstrokes and sharing a number of simultaneous curses! Making their way slowly through some of the worst of this chop it was time for Dave and Joe to put in a real shift. Although the waves settled slightly, the north westerly current was relentless and constantly trying to push us off course. The boys battled hard for an hour and made slow but steady progress northwards – despite only travelling about 2nm true distance in 2hrs it was by far the hardest the crew had rowed and made all the more difficult in the dark! Sunrise came as a welcome reward for our efforts and eventually the south coast began to get steadily closer as we made our way back to Christchurch.

All in all this weekend had been a huge success. We had achieved the objectives of our first outing – to be out on the boat for 24 hours as a crew, row through darkness, test some of our equipment, practice navigating between waypoints and eat from ration packs. The route had been testing for it’s own reasons, primarily the strength of the currents and the business of the traffic through the Solent – and there were important lessons learnt from these. Some 40 nautical miles and a few blisters later only puts into perspective the challenge ahead – 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

If you would like to find out more on the Atlantic Lions please email fundraising@mstrust.org.uk