As we reported
 in the tail end of 2015, The Tempest Two set out on their 3,000-mile journey across the Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Carrying nothing but the essentials (including an Aeropress and several bags of our Kasigwa filter) they spent two months arduously shaving miles off their distance and moving closer to a seemingly infinite horizon. 

If you followed their journey, you'll know their time on the ocean was anything but easy. Challenges presented themselves both frequently and unexpectedly -- but they made it.

In three instalments, James and Tom regale us with their stories and what they learnt as two dots in the middle of the big blue. 

-- Richard

Just under 2 years ago, we set ourselves a goal that many people thought was unobtainable, unreachable, impossible. We wanted to take on what is widely regarded as the toughest challenge on Earth, with no prior experience or skill-set in the discipline. We wanted to take on the Atlantic Ocean, unsupported, in a rowing boat.

The voyage would span 3000 miles from The Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, to the Caribbean Island of Barbados. Along the way we would encounter sharks, whales, a near miss with a tanker and the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic for 50 years. Our relationship as friends would be tested to its limits, as well as our nerve and physical strength. It is not uncommon for people to aspire to these great challenges, but the logistics, finances and sheer workload of completing them often presents a hurdle that is easy to trip on. 

We wanted to share how we approached this mammoth endeavour, and what we learnt along the way in becoming transatlantic rowers.

From day one, the one thing we never lacked was confidence. Even though neither of us had any experience rowing or sailing, we didn’t doubt ourselves for a second. Family, friends and colleagues initially laughed off the idea without a second thought — it was a moon-shot concept with no real conviction. Little did they know we weren’t viewing this as an idea; to us, this was happening.

There were a number of moments along the way to the start-line where we could have quite easily pulled out and made valid excuses for doing so. Our original boat didn’t get made in time, so we used a 10 year old model instead. Relatively severe injuries were sustained, preventing proper training for up to 6 months, and the thousands of ‘NO’ emails for sponsorship would have deterred the majority of people. But instead of using any (or all) of these excuses, we projected a picture of calm and confidence, never letting these set-backs hinder our determination and belief.

We always wanted to work with brands that we loved. Using this as a base, there was a unique opportunity for them brands to get involved and tell their story through an incredible adventure.

As a key partner of ours, Workshop Coffee was one of the first on the list that we wanted on-board. Drinking their coffee near enough everyday and following the stories they tell from origin, their roasting and through their stores, we both agreed that coffee would be an incredible luxury on the row, providing a welcome break from the 2 on, 2 off routine. Brewing an Aeropress in the middle of the Atlantic can’t have been done many times (if at all) and the full process of making the filter coffee in such an incredible location would be sure to stick in our memory. 

The question we most get asked about the row, is ‘How did you train?’. We were lucky to have the support of Caveman Conditioning, who put a specific plan together for us to achieve the necessary level of fitness in order to complete the punishing regime at sea. We worked on strength, flexibility and cardio in equal amounts, but outside the gym we had the important task of learning to row. Neither of us had ever held an oar, so getting to grips with an alien sport was a big challenge. We spent as much time on our boat as possible, but didn’t get access to her until 6 months from the start.
We managed a total of 5 training rows before setting off on the Atlantic, so had to learn our trade on the high-seas — and what a humbling experience it was. We are not the most traditional looking rowers, coming in at a huge 5ft 6 and 5ft 8 respectively, we don’t have the levers usually associated with strong oarsmen. Luckily the seas are very different to the river and require a much more stable head, consistency,  persistence and just sheer determination when all things are against you, this, we had in abundance, 

Given that neither of us had any knowledge of seamanship, we spoke to as many people as possible who could shed light on what we would face out there. The group of trans-atlantic rowers is about as elite as it gets, with only around 260 boats making the crossing. We were lucky enough to spend time with some very competent ocean rowers and racked their brains for the ins-and-outs of what it takes to succeed, allowing us to prepare mentally for what lay ahead. We also gleaned priceless pieces of information such as using sheepskin on our rowing seats to help with salt-sores, packing the correct food, how to wash effectively (whilst ironically surrounded by water) and the best ways to keep the boat clean, lean and moving fast. It was the head-start we needed before even reaching The Canaries.

As we arrived into The Canary Islands, we were soon made aware that the weather in the Atlantic was not playing by the rules. We were due to set off on the 9th December, but this was made impossible by harsh Southerly winds that prevented us passing down towards the coast of Africa. These winds blew hard for an entire week, something the locals said  they’d never experienced before during the winter months. After 2 weeks of finding ourselves stuck in the small coastal town of Puerto Mogan, we decided to push off in variable weather, literally throwing caution to the wind and going for it. 

All the emails, phone conversations, books and sleepless nights suddenly faded into the background. This was the moment we had been working towards for 18 months. 

We were taking on the Atlantic Ocean. 

We were alone.

Image credits: @stokedeversince