Fitness Magazine

Rowing the Atlantic – Would You, Could You, Should You?

By Girlontheriver @girlontheriver

Admit it. As autumn set in and you moved into longer erg sessions, you probably felt that anything over 20 minutes was a long haul. I certainly did. And if you’ve survived the Boston marathon, you probably think you’re pretty hard. Well, think again. Allow me to introduce you to the crazy world of Atlantic rowing.

I’m not talking about the likes of Ben Fogle and James Cracknell. Much as I admire the enormous physical  feat of what they achieved (I really do), there’s no denying that they had quite a lot of help and sponsorship along the way. No, I’m talking about ordinary guys; people like you and me (well, in some respects, anyway), who – with no camera crew or massive corporate sponsorship – put together a tiny rowing craft, fill it with food and equipment, strike off from the Canaries in the direction of America and keep rowing until they get there.

One such survivor – an endurance-junkie called Andrew Barnett – gave a talk at my club last week about his experiences of rowing the Atlantic. He did it in the same year as Cracknell and Fogle, but on a shoestring, surviving on a diet made up largely of reconstituted mashed potato (and some pretty weird-looking fish that he and his rowing partner caught on the way). Over 64 gruelling days they survived two broken ribs, a shark attack that left two holes in the hull of their boat, storms, sickness and blisters the like of which… (actually, let’s not even go there).

Now, they were two great, big, hairy blokes. Surely, I thought, nobody that I could relate to – no small, light, normal woman – would do it.

Well, step up Helena Smalman-Smith. A pint-sized rower no bigger than me, she is about to perform the very same feat with just her husband, Richard, for company. Check them out here. Better still, sponsor them (it’s for a great cause). I sure as heck couldn’t do what they’re doing – Atlantic rowing wouldn’t be for me. But I can write a cheque, and I’d urge you to do the same. Go Tiger Team!

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