The 3,000-mile Atlantic Rowing Challenge is a mental battle as much as a physical one. Competitors are stuck in the cramped surroundings of their boat for the best part of 40 days and will be at the mercy of the weather and sea conditions.
The fact that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have rowed an ocean gives you an idea of the size of the task. So, we spoke to Keith Burnet of the Fitter Planet Team to find out how they're preparing for the upcoming Atlantic Rowing Race...
Hi Keith, this is your first crack at the Atlantic Rowing Race but you've spoken to a few people about what to expect. What are the biggest challenges you're preparing for?
There are a lot of physical challenges like hand and feet blisters, a raw gluteus maximus, salt sores, sunburn, sea sickness. We've tried to prepare for them as best we can by toughening the hands and using multiple seat covers.
If the weather is bad then we run the risk of capsizing in the big waves, so we have tried to get as much practice on the boat as COVID has allowed.
However, it's more than likely that the big hurdles will be mostly psychological and the team has been working with our ‘Mind Doctor’, Margi Luzanycia, to prepare us.
We know that spending 24 hours a day together for up to 40-days in a confined space is going to be a challenge in itself, before you even consider the fact we will be rowing across an inhospitable ocean with no sight of land for over a month.
It's going to be tough and how much of an effect have the COVID lockdowns affected how you guys have been able to train?
It's had a big impact for us particularly as we are not all UK-based and we only got our boat at the beginning of August. As a result, our water-based training on the boat has been limited to one-week long session.
Most of our training has had to take place on the Ergometer at home but we have utilised time as best we can to get acclimated. Mainly we've been doing four intensive rowing sessions a week, plus daily flexibility sessions.
We have done a number of land and sea-based 24, 48, and 72-hour rows where we've been taking it in turns rowing "two hours on and two hours off". These sessions prepare us to row through the night without sleep, and it's been an opportunity for trialling our food choices and working on the right hydration strategy.
Excellent, you've been working with James on your hydration strategy and I wondered how you first heard about PH?
Our rowing coach, Duncan Roy, recommended we visit PH to get on top of our hydration strategy. Having a Sweat Test has been so valuable for us and really helped bring awareness to our hydration strategy on the boat.
As a salty sweater who was suffering from bad cramps, I am now so much more aware of how to manage this thanks to the advice from James.
And we have to ask, what on earth inspired you, Richard, James and Josh to take on the world’s toughest rowing race?
COVID-19! No joking aside, life goes quick and we have to make the most of it, so we wanted to do something to inspire others and ourselves. We also want to test ourselves on the toughest of challenges.
It had to be a big goal, something that is deemed unachievable to many. I was inspired by the fact that more people have climbed Mount Everest than rowed an ocean.
I have my own children in mind and I want to encourage them to believe that no matter what age you are, anything is possible if you really commit and dedicate yourself to it. Our fundraising is also a huge part of it for us and we are trying to raise money for two great charities, UNICEF & SHELTERBOX.
And can you tell us more about why you’re fundraising for those two charities in particular…
First off, both charities are doing amazing work on things that we are passionate about as a team and what is even better our two main sponsors Les Mills and Jones Lang LaSalle are also working with the same charities.
It’s hard to imagine having to walk four hours just to fill up your drink bottle, but that’s the reality for thousands of children in East Africa. Our funds raised rowing the Atlantic in 2020 will support UNICEF’s work to complete the Lega and Yelam Gej multi-village solar-powered water systems in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia.
By giving children access to clean, safe and sustainable water we can help them to grow up healthy and strong, safe from water-borne diseases. They will also have more time to spend on study and playtime when they don’t need to walk four hours every day to source water.
Right now, more than 88 million people around the world have been made homeless by natural disaster and conflict. Shelterbox are working to change this by providing emergency shelter and tools for families robbed of their homes by disaster.
Good luck for the Atlantic Rowing Challenge Keith and with raising funds for two such worthy causes.
If you'd like to donate to the Fitter Planet Cause ahead of the Atlantic Rowing Challenge, please click here.