Three and a half weeks into the expedition, we are approaching the halfway point. We find ourselves dreaming more and more about being in Antigua as the unrelenting rhythm of life on board is beginning to challenge our mental as well as physical resilience.
The first few weeks of this challenge were broken up nicely into milestones that kept us looking forward to something. First there was losing sight of land, then first swim, then Christmas, followed by New Year. Halfway marks the point at which we know exactly what it has taken to get here, and exactly what we need to do to finish it. We know it's achievable, we're, "golden".
Over the last few weeks we have had some amazing experiences and overcome some serious challenges, which broke up the routine and gave us something to focus on, other than rowing, sleeping and eating. Having to manage the issue of a power shortage when we were so reliant on power for navigation, steering and water making; working out how to fix two of three rowing seats when the welds broke 10 days in; seeing the algae lighting up with each stroke of the oars at night; and being surrounded by dolphins as we celebrated the New Year sunset with a bottle of Theakston's Old Peculier and Fuller's London Pride. Even the best of these start to lose their impact the third or fourth time. "What's that? Dolphins? Yeah, no worries, I'll catch them some other time." We're not quite that blasé, but when we are missing friends, family and food that doesn't have to be rehydrated before you eat it, it is easy to forget the amazing experience we are witness to. We do find ourselves talking about Antigua A LOT!
We draw a lot of morale from the messages we get from home. The updates of how we are faring compared with other teams always makes us pull a little harder. The updates of the money we are raising for our charities is another huge motivation, and feels like vindication for all the effort and hardship we are enduring. Even the simple comments on Facebook or replies to emails gives us a boost and something new to discuss on the next shift.
The hands and bums have held out well so far, a few small blisters, pressure sores and a bit of nappy rash due to the time spent in wet shorts is the extent of our ailments. Naturally there are some aches and pains in knees, backs, but nothing to worry us at this stage, thanks to the months of prior preparation in the gym and boat clubs before we left home. So we are coping well with the rigours of rowing for 10-12 hours a day, and this in part is down to the regime of having 4 hours of rest and 2 hours of boat tasks in every 10; a luxury we can afford due to our fifth man and which ought to mean we carry a better speed for longer than the rest of the fleet can. Who knows what impact the next 3-4 weeks will have? Hopefully it will be enough time to claw a few places further up the leaderboard and shed the last few pounds before we hit the beach!
The halfway approaches, and whilst we wish we were arriving in Antigua next week with the Dutch Atlantic Four, we remain certain the Atlantic has more to give us yet. We are ready!