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Ten Things You Need To Know About The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

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team this way up twac2022

team this way up twac2022

Never heard of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (or TWAC for short)? This blog will tell you ten things you need to know about the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, and – don’t worry – we’ve written it for the non-rowing enthusiast.  Give us three minutes of your time and you will then be an expert on what it takes to compete in the world’s toughest row. We’ll cover topics from how the rowers handle the lack of sleep, to whether it’s actually possible for them to take toilet breaks while out on their 3,000 mile voyage!

1.Where did the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge begin? 

The Atlantic Rowing Race was founded in 1997 by Sir Chay Blyth, world famous Scottish yachtsman and rower. The Atlantic rowing races were organised roughly every two years until 2012, when Atlantic Campaigns – led by Carsten Heron Olsen – bought the rights to the Race and it became what we now know as the ‘Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.’ Since 2015 the race has been held annually, starting in December.

 2. How far is the row?  

The most common question asked about the TWAC is, “How far do the teams have to row?” The world’s premier rowing event starts from the Atlantic Campaigns Race Village, San Sebastian, in La Gomera (Canary Islands) and finishes at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour in Antigua. The journey to cross the Atlantic will take around 3,000 miles, depending on the wind. It may seem like an impossible task, but just remember that when Team This Way Up arrive in Antigua they will be able to relax on a sun lounger on the beach, with an exotic cocktail in hand. Keep that for motivation!

3. Do the teams have support boats? 

In short, no!  The row is unsupported, with the crews carrying all of their equipment, food and supplies on board.  They will be completely self sufficient, unless they encounter major issues, in which case rescue vessels will come to their aid.  However, they will be equipped with two satellite phones onboard and usually a device which allows them to communicate with the race organisers and family and friends back home. Even with sat phones though the connection can be tricky, so keep an eye on the #twac2022 on social platforms, for access all areas! Luckily we will be able to keep up with the lads’ progress day by day, by downloading the YB Races Tracker, which shows every boat position throughout the race.

4. How do you train for it? 

As Team This Way Up are preparing themselves for an endurance event like no other, the training is no joke. Rowers looking to take part in the TWAC have to spend endless hours in the gym, on rowing machines and lifting heavy weights. At the heart of the training plans are team training weekends out on the water – they have to spend at least 120 hours together out to sea, rowing both night and day. This also gives the teams a chance to test out safety exercises, such as man overboard and the practicalities of filtering water.  These sessions are key to give an idea of what the reality of life on board will be, to get over seasickness and to build up a bond and camaraderie with team mates.

5.How do the rowers handle the lack of sleep? 

Sleep deprivation is a normality for Atlantic rowers. To keep the boat moving, the most popular routine is two hours on and two hours off for the entirety of the crossing, giving rowers potentially twelve hours to rest in short bursts, if they are in a team of four. Some teams switch to three hours on, then one hour off in the early morning and late afternoon when it’s cooler and just one-hour stints during the heat of the day. Getting sleep isn’t always easy though, with the inside of the boat cabins being hot during the day and somewhat cramped! It normally takes rowers around three to five days to adapt to the routine of ocean rowing – much like fighting jet lag on holiday, just on a much more physically and mentally challenging level.

6.What is the diet like out at sea? 

When you are rowing endlessly night and day, every day, for weeks and weeks, the food on board will become the highlight. Rowers need to consume 5,000-7,000 calories per day, depending on weight and their onboard diet will consist of three or four freeze-dried meals and snacks. Such as cereal bars and flapjacks. The frozen dried meals will need hot water added to them, so they are able to hydrate, before they are ready to be consumed. When the rowers are crossing the Atlantic, they typically lose up to 8kg in weight. This conveys how important it is to maintain a nutritional intake on deck.

7.Why is there so much importance on drinking water out at sea? 

It is hugely important for Team This Way Up to keep themselves hydrated during the crossing. Every drop of drinking water has to be filtered through the onboard “water maker”, as the teams are entirely self-sufficient.  Keeping hydrated is the key to peak performance, but most importantly to ensure safety – here comes a little bit of sport science. When muscles are kept saturated, this allows them to burn energy more efficiently, regulate body temperature and to wash away byproducts of exertion, lactic acid as an example. Dehydration out at sea is a massive risk and may potentially cause the team to have to stop their challenge.

8.How do you take toilet breaks on the boat? 

One of the most popular topics of conversation when people ask about long rowing expeditions is, “How do you go to the toilet?” The full facilities of mains plumbing are not possible on rowing boats…that said luxury yachts have luxurious bathrooms on board. Unluckily for Team This Way Up, they have to do their business in a bucket. Then implementing the ‘bucket and chuck it’ approach and making sure to empty the contents overboard. No one wants to be the team member that is the cause of the boat having badly smelling aromas on deck.

9.Who was the fastest to row the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge? 

Hundreds of rowing teams have taken part in the TWAC. There are soloists, duos, trios, quartets and quintets. The fastest ever row across the Atlantic was recorded by the fantastic foursome that were The Four Oarsmen. They completed the row in 29 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes – an absolutely astonishing achievement! There have also been solo rowers who have defied all the odds and created competition records. The fastest solo row across the Atlantic was recorded by Mark Slats who completed it in 30 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes. Completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge as a soloist deserves so much praise and recognition. Here’s hoping that Team This Way Up will become record breakers!

10.Do you see much wildlife when crossing the Atlantic? 

As Team This Way Up will be mid Atlantic for many weeks, they should have a good chance of seeing some wildlife. Past Atlantic Challenge rowers have reported sightings of killer whales, minke whales, dolphins, tuna, storm petrel and many other types of birds. Remarkably in 2018, a solo rower by the name of Kelda Wood was kept company on her row across the Atlantic by a whale for nearly seven days! This makes the Atlantic Challenge a unique experience with the potential to see some of the ocean’s most beautiful creatures.

You can support Team This Way Up’s chosen charity, Starlight, by donating on their Just Giving Page

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Team This Way Up Launch

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On December 12th 2022, Team This Way Up will begin the challenge of rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, from La Gomera in The Canary Islands to English harbour, Antigua, taking part in the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.   The four-man crew of Ed Ogden, Ollie Browne, James Peet and Jos Pape will row, eat and sleep on repeat for around 35 days.
The Challenge is an annual trans-Atlantic rowing race, in which circa 40 teams compete – from solo rowers up to crews of five – to be the fastest boat to row the 3,000 miles, starting in December and usually arriving 5 to 7 weeks later.  The extreme endurance race, which attracts individuals who want to test themselves mentally and physically beyond their limits, is the premier event in ocean rowing.
The team have been preparing for the race for two years to ensure that they are competitive, working with The University of Kent Sports and Science Department and performance consultancy Peak Dynamics to achieve the fitness and stamina levels required to take part. In 2021, they competed in and won the Noman Barcelona to Ibiza race in 93 hours.
During the Atlantic Challenge, the boat will be moving continuously – it takes an average of 1.5 million oar strokes to cross the ocean – with the team likely to face high winds and waves up to 20ft high.  They will be entirely self-sufficient throughout the trip, filtering sea water to drink and carrying all of their food (mostly dehydrated) onboard.   Rowers burn in excess of 5,000 calories per day and lose an average of 8kg during the crossing.
The Challenge has always been an opportunity for crews to raise funds to support their chosen charities, with total fundraising to date at £11m.  Team This Way Up have chosen to support Starlight, the national children’s charity who use play to make the experience of illness and treatment better for children and their families.  The team’s fundraising target is £250,000 and – as a self-funded team – all monies raised through sponsorship and donations will go direct to the charity.  Starlight supports frontline hospital staff by funding play specialists who bring the chance to play to children in bed in hospital. The charity also provides play boxes, gaming carts and mobile sensory rooms – something to engage every age group, help distract them and feel less alone.  Additionally, they create family events and experiences, including weekends spent at amusement parks to private film screenings or exciting gaming days, Starlight Escapes, Days and Breaks create opportunities for seriously ill children and their families to leave the stress of hospitals and hospices far behind.
Cathy Gilman, CEO of Starlight says, “We are delighted that the This Way Up team have chosen to support Starlight for this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic is an incredibly tough feat, especially as it means they won’t be with their families this Christmas. But we hope that knowing that their efforts will give children the time, space and opportunity to play during illness and treatment will help Ed, James, Ollie and Jos succeed.  The money that the team raise will help more children to experience play in and out of hospital which helps to alleviate anxiety, isolation and uncertainty, and restore a smile to their faces. We can’t thank them enough for taking on this tremendous challenge.”
Get regular updates from the team during their prep and the race itself, by following them on Instagram @teamthiswayup or on Facebook at Team This Way Up. Support the team and Starlight by donating on their Just Giving page


Noman Barcelona Ibiza, July 2021

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The first race and a winning start for the team! In July 2021, the team won the Noman Barcelona to Ibiza race, crossing the Balearic Sea first in 93 hours.

The Noman Campaign series aims to raise much needed funds for the fight against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), hoping to eliminate 5% of cancers worldwide through global coverage of gender-neutral HPV vaccination programs. Departing from the busy port of Barcelona the team spent the first 12 hours up close to the busy tanker traffic waiting outside the harbour. The marine traffic soon thinned out, but the conditions never eased, despite the beautiful vistas! The race proved a serious test for the boys, with arduous headwinds and sweltering hot sun throughout, they were forced to dig deep to grind out the win.

They undoubtedly learnt a huge amount from the experience, from race management, to boat handling, team preparation and conditioning, even seasickness and have a solid base of experience to build on, moving into 2022. One down, one to go!