MEET THE ATLANTIC GIRLS, RACING IN THE 2022 TALISKER WHISKY ATLANTIC CHALLENGE.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge gives crews an incredible platform to raise funds for charity. Sadly, brain tumors are still the biggest cancer killer of children and adults in the UK, affecting more people under the age of 40 than any other type of cancer. We would like to help change that. So far the participants of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge have collectively raised just over €9.3m for charities worldwide since 2013 and we cannot think of a more worthy cause than the BTC. For ‘The Atlantic Girls’ it could only be The Brain Tumor Charity – a UK based charity, driving brain tumor research forward towards a cure.
Katy Wetz 25 years old, Veterinary Surgeon, Oxfordshire
Why the Atlantic?: I strongly remember bribing some university friends with dinner and pitching the idea over some form of pasta in our slightly decrepit student kitchen. That was about 3 years ago now. There was a universal ‘are you mad?’ look at the majority of faces. The whole concept of rowing ourselves 3000 miles unsupported across an ocean seemed so unachievable at the time. Of them all, Laura was crazy enough to say yes and once we found Frankie and Millie the rest was history. I am grateful for this team of like-minded women and for my family and friends who are in support of what is a rather bold endeavor. Someone said that life only really begins at the end of your comfort zone – if this is the case then I think we’re all in for the journey of a lifetime!
If I had to describe myself it would be as a coffee lover and a mild peanut butter addict with a love for almost all things outdoors, especially if water related. Born and raised in Kent, I figure my love for the sea was born through the repeated tradition of holidays down on the Pembrokeshire coast. At university I got my water fix through rowing and loved the sense of community that I gained through the team. Now, outside of my day (and occasionally night) job as a veterinary surgeon, I feel the journey to this start line will take up most of my free time. Despite that, I think I’ll forever be trying to sneak in a weekend on the coast whenever time allows!
Laura-Jayne Pattinson26 years old, Veterinary Surgeon, West Yorkshire
Why the TWAC?: Personally I blame Katy and my inability to turn down a challenge, be it a silly dare or a row across an ocean. It all started with a meal at a friend’s house and the suggestion that we start a team to cross the Atlantic. Obviously, I was crazy enough to accept. Fast forward a couple of months and we’re rowing the Thames for three days to raise money for Parkinsons and a year later we’d found two more excellent crew mates in Frankie and Millie and had finally signed up to row 3,000 miles across an ocean. I do not think this is a thing I would have ever dreamed of myself doing, but I love the ocean and one of my passions is rowing so why not combine the two. Sure my family think I am crazy but when faced with the opportunity to cross the Atlantic in honor of a fantastic charity, who wouldn’t sign up.
Frankie Tuck 31 years old, Finance Manager, Bath
Sometimes in life you’ve just got to say yes to ridiculous ideas. Many moons ago there was a large part of me that didn’t think I’d make it this far down the line. In essence I thought that as long as I put my name in the hat, that was good enough for me. But in all honesty, it wouldn’t have been. I wanted to get stuck in, be a part of a crew that really gels and row the Atlantic. I know there is a lot that I need to learn and will learn along the way. I’m going into this somewhat blind as it’s definitely not your everyday scenario. But what I do know is that I’m very lucky to find three other like minded girls who together form the formidable Atlantic Girls team. Alongside these girls I want to make sure I can have a positive impact campaigning for our fantastic charity at the same time as going through something that is ultimately going to be an extremely life changing experience for us all. So here I am, saying yes, and signing up to row 3000 miles across the Atlantic with the Atlantic Girls.
Millie Frith 26 years old, Office Manager, London
Why the TWAC: I found rowing at University and instantly fell in love. It was the first sport I tried where I needed to be stronger and more competitive where previously I had always shied away from both. I soon was in the senior crew for Henley and shortly after Women’s Captain. I loved every second. It created a lot of opportunities for me and led me into endurance challenges such as TWAC, Everest Base Camp, ultra-marathons and long-distance cycling.
I’ve followed the challenge for years, read the books and watched everything I could about the challenge. I always was so inspired and wanted to do it, but I knew I needed to find the perfect crew to do it with. I was the final member to join Atlantic Girls after several years looking for people as up for the challenge as I was. I am lucky to have found the perfect crew that share the same passions for rowing, charity and challenges as I do, it is very special, and I believe why this is a dream team. I have a pretty long challenge bucket list that seems to grow longer every day, so to finally tick one off that’s been at the top of the list for years, is an amazing feeling.
TALISKER WHISKY ATLANTIC CHALLENGE
The annual race begins in early December, with up to 30 teams participating from around the world. The race structure brings together an environment where teams from across the globe gather in the race village San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands. The atmosphere is electric as people help each other prepare for the challenge of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. All with the same objective – to take on the unique experience of crossing an ocean in a rowing boat.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge brings together teams from all walks of life united by the same objective: to take on the unique challenge of crossing an ocean in a rowing boat. The atmosphere is electric as people help each other prepare for the challenge of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Teams battle with sleep deprivation, salt sores, and physical extremes inflicted by the race. Rowers are left with their own thoughts, an expanse of the ocean and the job of getting the boat safely to the other side.The race offers different experiences to all involved. The challenge creates strong friendships and competitiveness gives way to the camaraderie that is required to complete the challenge. Upon finishing, rowers join a small community of friends that have shared the adventures of an ocean crossing. The mental and physical endurance will result in a life-changing achievement that will never be forgotten.
- Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes during a race.
- Team Fortitude IV achieved the fastest 24 hours ever with 107.45 nautical miles covered.
- The fastest row across the Atlantic was a four man team The Four Oarsmen who finished in 29 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes
- At its deepest, the Atlantic Ocean is 8.5km / 5.28 miles deep.
- The waves that the rowers experience can measure up to 20ft high.
- Each rower is expected to use 800 sheets of toilet paper during their crossing.
- In the 2016 race, solo rower Daryl Farmer arrived in Antigua after 96 days, rowing without a rudder to steer with for nearly 1200miles/40 days.
- The fastest solo across the Atlantic was Mark Slats who completed in 30 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes.
- Rowers burn in excess of 5,000 calories per day.
- There is no toilet on board – rowers use a bucket!
- The average rower loses around 8kg during a crossing.
- In the 2018 race, solo rower Kelda Wood (Row 2 Raise) was kept company by a whale for nearly 7 days.
INTERVIEW WITH THE CREW
SO EXPLAIN TO US WHAT THE CHALLENGE IS AND YOUR REASONS FOR YOUR TAKING PART IN THIS HUGE SEA RACE?
Laura-Jayne: The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3000-mile race from La Gomera, Canary Islands to Antigua where individuals test their grit and determination in a battle against mother nature. Crews can face 40 ft waves, sleep deprivation and severe sea sickness all whilst racing to be the first to make it across the ocean. A grueling schedule of 2 hours on the oars, 2 hours off the oars will be maintained until the finish line is reached. The challenge this year will be a fleet of 40 boats which is the biggest to date, however still more people have summited Everest than crossed the Atlantic. We hope to join a small number of women who have successfully crossed the ocean. I think I can speak for us all and say we as soon as we heard about this challenge we wanted to be a part of it. Most of us thought it would something we could only dream of doing, but luckily the opportunity arose and we all jumped on the chance to be one of the few people who have had the privilege to row across the Atlantic ocean. We all love adventure and rowing so this seemed like the perfect combination of both.
HOW DID YOU ALL MEET AND FORM YOUR TEAM?
Katy: Myself and Laura both attended the Royal Veterinary College and met through the rowing club in our first year. We competed together throughout university and the conversation of taking river rowing to a whole new level came up over a couple of bowls of pasta one night in our final year. The team wasn’t quite complete there though. We found Frankie and Millie a little later on, knowing that we needed two others equally as ‘up for it’ and adventure driven people. Both brought different strengths and character to the team, both previous rowers with a willingness to go beyond the normal comfort zone and work together towards a shared goal. The crew of four became The Atlantic Girls.
YOUR AMAZING CAUSE THAT YOU’RE ROWING FOR, EXPLAIN TO US HOW THIS CAME ABOUT?
Laura-Jayne: The amazing thing about the TWAC is it gives us an incredible platform for good (be it raising money for charity or spreading the message of the importance of sustainability) and as part of this we are rowing in order to raise money for the Brain Tumor Charity, who are a small UK based charity dedicated to accelerating the progress in how brain tumors are diagnosed, cared for, treated and ultimately cured. We knew when we signed up to the race, we wanted to use it to raise money, but we wanted to use a charity that meant something to us.
Katy: I couldn’t process that one of us twenty-somethings, on the edge of finishing university and going out into the world, could be affected by something as uncertain and frightening as a brain tumor. Yet there it was, a threat to a life that had so much yet to do and see. For me I was humbled by the power of this disease and the age predilection. Brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40. The more we’ve spent time learning about this disease and talking to people at The Brain Tumor Charity, the stories continue to come about those who have been affected and the knock-on effect this had had on their lives and the lives of their closest few. There are so many worthwhile causes out there but for us as a team this was the one. We are loving working alongside the people at the BTC and can’t wait to hopefully hit some big numbers for fundraising.
Millie: Whilst at University there was someone in the rowing club that was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is an incredible rower and to be impacted so massively by something so young really hit home with me. Since his surgery he is now back to rowing and cycling and has even cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
SO WE HEAR YOUR BOAT IS THE ONLY ECO BOAT IN THE RACE CAN YOU TELL US MORE?
Laura-Jayne: Vaquita (aptly named after a rare species of porpoise found in Mexico) is much like her namesake, one of a kind. She was initially built as a prototype for the Bristol Gulls in a collaboration between Rannoch and the National Composites Center whose aim was to build a boat out of as much ecologically and environmentally friendly materials as possible (that could still float) and based on her history win races. Her core materials and manufacturing processes are centered around sustainable design with reduced impact on the environment including: her foam core made from recycled PET, greener epoxy resin made with carbon derived from plant origin and glass fiber manufacture using 100% renewable energy.
IN TERMS OF THE RACE WHAT ARE YOU HOPES AND DREAMS HOW DO YOU ENVISAGE THE CHALLENGE GOING?
Laura-Jayne: We have had many long discussions about this and mainly as a group we’ve decided we want to make the most of this amazing opportunity and enjoy the experience. As part of our prepping, we were asked to come up with one statement that aligns all we want from our race and after a long thought we decided on ‘be the person you know you can be’. It would be amazing to win The Murden Trophy, which is the female class, but ultimately, we decided that we wanted to look back at our journey and know that we put our all into it and had no regrets, so if we see any exciting wildlife yes, we are stopping rowing to jump in with them. There will be tough moments but the idea of knowing you can work together as a team row an ocean is an incredible thought and what I suspect will keep us all going
Hopes and dreams
Laura-Jayne: I am just hoping to see as much as possible, you hear amazing stories of crews rowing amongst super pods of dolphins and I would just love to experience that. I would also appreciate no capsizing or salt sores please
Millie: I can’t wait for the silence and to just row. I am also so excited to be rowing with the other girls as I know for all the good and bad bits we’ll get through.
HOW ARE YOU FINDING THE VARIED CHALLENGES OF TRAINING BUT ALSO MONEY FUND RAISING FOR YOUR JOURNEY?
Laura-Jayne: On a whole the training seems to be easier than the fundraising. We all work full time but usually find the time to squeeze a session before or after work. A very lovely friend of Laura-Jayne’s offered to create a training plan for us so that has been a godsend and we have recently started a training WhatsApp which helps keep us motivated to keep pushing. Fundraising is a slow burner and certainly does take up even more of our time than we expected, but we have been told by previous crews once you have the boat that can become easier. And when we do get chatting to companies it is wonderful getting to share our journey with them and learn more about theirs.
Millie: It has been great to get to speak to so many different brands and see how many people are doing wonderful things for the planet.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES BOTH PRIOR TO THE RACE AND DURING?
Frankie: We had heard the well-known saying ‘Getting to the start line is the hardest part’ on the ocean rower grapevine coming into this. Little did we know how true this was. Like other crews, funding is the biggest challenge for us needing to raise over £100k in total. It honestly takes up more time that we had fully appreciated! As well as self-funding a large part of this and draining our bank accounts dry, we are thankfully lucky enough to have an ever-growing community of sponsors big and small who seem to have been caught up in our adventure too and want to help with this ridiculous endeavor. We are always looking for more to join the team. Compared to the prep the race should be a doddle!
WE ALSO HEAR THAT YOU’RE TRYING TO WORK WITH ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE COMPANIES TO SUPPORT YOUR EFFORTS CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ANY?
Millie: We always wanted to achieve this dream with as minimal impact on the planet as possible. It would be selfish to achieve all we wanted and have a huge carbon footprint left behind once we had finished. So, we decided that throughout our campaign we’d endeavour to work with brands that are making conscious changes for a better planet. Thankfully, almost all companies are changing their ways with the planet’s health in mind now. We are working with brands for kits that are made from recycled plastic, we are using products that are manufactured more sustainably, and partnering with organizations who are doing business right and finding innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
Katy: There are a couple of companies we can talk about at the moment one of which is the Small Beer Brew Co, whose sustainable business practices led them to become London’s first B Corp™ Certified brewery. Their brewery runs on entirely renewable energy sources and is the world’s first brewery to operate a dry floor policy, drastically reducing the amount of water needed in the brewing process. The beer is pretty great too! We’re hugely excited to have them on board with us as a sponsor. In fact, our next event is taking place in their brewery near Bermondsey, London.
FOR OTHER WOMEN OR MEN THINING OF ENTERING SUCH A CHALLENGE WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER THEM?
Millie: People love to hear about this challenge so just keep talking about it and everything will start to snowball in the best way! Stay positive and just keep going.
Katy: There will be moments when you question everything about what you’re trying to achieve, but it’s about learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and leaning on your team in the trickier times. Your team really matters! Be organized, if anything this challenge has taught me how many hours there really are in a day! Finally I’d say try and enjoy the journey, this row has been over two years in the planning and training, with to-do lists that often seem endless; remember why you started in the first place, stay positive and always keep the end goal in mind.
Laura-Jayne: Honestly if you can’t stop thinking about it just do it. If you believe you can do it you will! I feel like the same applies for lots of challenges such as this. Work hard, keep focussed and you’ll get there.
IF WE COULD LEAVE YOU WITH THE FINAL WORD OR MESSAGE TO OUR READERS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Frankie: Honestly, if there is even the smallest niggle in the back of your head about an adventure you want to go on, a career change you want to make or even a new hobby you want to try. Go do it! After all our motto is be the person you know you can be. Your future self will thank you tenfold. Oh and finally follow our journey. It’s going to be a good one!