January 9, 2022
UPDATE FROM ATLANTIC CAMPAIGNS SAFETY OFFICER
The character of the row has changed considerably since the last update. The gruelling but benign conditions have been replaced by faster and bigger seas and stronger winds. These are not bad conditions at all, they are faster and scarier but are giving the crews a tremendous boost in speed and bringing down the ETAs considerably. At the time of writing just over 1000 calls and messages have been made and received.
The main thing about the conditions and the impact on crews is often attitude. You can have two people in the same boat with exactly the same conditions who have a very different experience based on their view of events. One could say ‘this is a big sea, it is tough and scary, but we are out here doing this amazing thing, facing and overcoming challenges and having an incredible adventure’ whilst the other could say ‘this is a big sea, it is tough and scary and I wish it was flatter, this is an overwhelming situation, I wish it was different.’ So much of the experience is attitude and accepting what is happening and making the most of it. I have had calls today from two crews, one agitated about speed and conditions and another asking how they can capitalise and go faster and surf more. Another crew facing near pitch-pole conditions said they were too busy to be scared. That is a huge part of being at sea in an ocean rowing boat – you just have to get on with things without fuss or drama and we have crews excelling in that this year.Conditions right now are seeing a rolling swell of up to 20 feet/6 meters and winds gusting up to 25 knots largely from a NE and NNE direction and as a result the average speeds are increasing. There have been a few localised headwinds hitting some crews and you will see sudden speed and course changes. This can be scary, but the crews are safe. The boats are strong and self-right, the rowers are always clipped on and there is always a voice to help at the end of the phone.The conditions do mean more wear and tear on boats and bodies, and we are starting to see a few more reports of auto tillers failing and more bruises and sores.
The reported issues remain relatively few. We have had broken oars and broken gates which are not unusual and the crews have spares and the ability to make repairs. The rougher seas mean that sometimes watermakers suck in air which can cause pressure problems. One new problem this year was a watermaker not working and on investigation it turned out that there was a squid stuck in the intake. We have also had our first capsize of the race. The crew are absolutely fine and handled the situation extremely well. Prior to the incident they had again discussed and pictured a capsize (we instruct all crews to visualise and rehearse all scenarios as much as possible) so when it happened, and the boat rolled 360 degrees the pair were back on the oars and rowing within minutes and were extremely happy with how they coped. On speaking with them their confidence and self-belief has grown enormously which is one of the things we frequently see in this race.
Some crews are still struggling to eat whilst others are eating everything and wanting more but more significantly, we are starting to see more bum sores, repetitive injuries, and skin complaints. The incidence of these things is far less than in the past but will never be eradicated. This is a hot, wet environment with constant friction and will always cause problems. The Safety Officers and Race doctor advise the crews on prevention and treatment and though unpleasant now, recovery will be quick once they are safely in Antigua. Many crews have a device called a BGAN or Broadband Global Area Network which allows them to connect to the internet via satellite. With this they can send clear images to us to help diagnose problems and offer solutions. To date the fleet health is good and there are no great concerns and nothing out of the ordinary.
At the time of writing 19 crews have less than 1000 miles to go. The closest has just over 500 miles to go and the furthest has just under 1900 miles. The fastest boat did over 90 miles in the last 24 hours and the slowest just over 30. This is a very clear reminder of how, despite all being on the same ocean in the same race, the experiences will vary enormously.
Crews and families are starting to look to arrival times now. Most importantly please note the YB ETAs are estimated and are not 100% accurate. Nikki at AC will let all families know when they should be looking at travelling out on a case-by-case basis. Once supporters are in Antigua the safety team will brief them where to be and when in order for them and the rowers to have the best experience of the finish and what to expect.
At present we expect the fleet to be fast until conditions change on the 11th when winds drop then turn to have more S in them by the 13th meaning that those crews approaching the finish from the north will slow down and the fleet as a whole will be a little slower. At present, though this may change, we expect the first finisher in on late 14, early 15 Jan.
Conditions will be fast for a few days then change before building again. This is a critical time mentally for the rowers. Those about to finish must not relax and need to stay careful and vigilant so please continue to encourage them to be careful. For those who have not performed as they hoped or who are still a long way from finishing to see other crews arrive can be demoralising. This is not about who does what in comparison with another crew. Each crew, each rower has their own adventure, their own challenge, and their own row. It is all about small manageable goals hour by hour, watch by watch, day by day.
As always if there are any questions, please let us know! To see the amazing videos captured by the teams please head to our Instagram page @atlanticcampaigns!