Our latest Challengers are taking on the Atlantic Ocean in a vessel the size of telephone box

Sailing the Atlantic is challenging enough in a full-sized yacht. Now imagine doing it in a rowing boat. But that’s the task Andy Hodgson, and Rosalind Chaston have taken on in their ambitious Atlantic Escapade project.

In January, they’ll row unassisted from the Canaries to the Caribbean (a distance of 3,000 miles), to raise money for the RNLI and CW’s charity partners Blue Marine Foundation.

When their endeavours came to Christopher Ward’s attention, the company decided to bring them into the Challenger programme – which offers support to pioneers without the financial background to achieve their dreams. The company has also given them a pair of C60 Sapphires for the journey – a dive watch made for the most testing of maritime conditions.

Here, we talk to Andy and Rosalind about preparing for the great adventure.

Hi guys. Before we get onto your Atlantic crossing, tell us about yourselves…
Andy: I’m a pretty ordinary bloke! In terms of rowing, I rowed the coast of Great Britain in 175 days. I was done with it – then I met Rosalind! I still had the boat, they’re hard to sell, and she convinced me to come out of retirement to cross the Atlantic. So here we are!
Rosalind: It’s my fault. We’re a couple and have been together for three years. I finished university a year and a half ago – I did oceanography and now work in science education. When Andy told me about his row around Britain, I thought it sounded like the most fantastic thing to do.

Why the Atlantic crossing?
A: We were introduced through a mutual friend, who told her what I’d done with the round-Britain. Most people who hear that think I’m mad, but Rosalind thought it was terrific.
R: We’re looking forward to crossing the ocean by ourselves – it’s the sense of achievement.
A: Two things make the trip worth it: first, getting stories for the old people’s home. Second, there’s this weird thing about pushing yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of – it gives you rewarding experiences you can draw from in the rest of your life.

“Covid lockdown in a studio flat was good training”

Rosalind takes to the water wearing her C60 Sapphire

What will an average day be like?
R: Almost every day is the same. You prepare for sudden moments of excitement. But most of the time, it’s row, eat, sleep and repeat. The boat will be moving 24 hours a day: if one of you is on the oars, the other will be sleeping. We’ll do two hours on, two off.
A: Our training optimises our performance. But because we’re a couple, we don’t just want to meet in the doorway. So 9am-9pm will be two hours on/two hours off – grinding it out.
R: In the two hours off, you’ll make water with the water-maker, stretch, rest, recover, make your food and get your sleep in. Then up for your next shift!

What are the sleeping arrangements?
R: We’ll be rowing and sleeping separately during the night, but doing longer shifts.
A: The only time we’ll be in the cabin asleep together – which is the same volume as a telephone box – is if we’re storm-bound. Then we’ll have to put the parachute anchor out.

Does the boat have a roof?
R: It’s a supersize rowing boat with a covered cabin at each end. When you’re rowing you’re out in the sun or rain: that’s why we’ve had to build up our ability to row in the heat.

Does the trip scare you?
R: It does! But I’m willing to be scared. Andy’s worried about the swell, I’m concerned about the discomfort. When you’re rowing, it’s fine, but when you come off your shift, you’re covered in salt, and you can’t sleep. Those moments will challenge me the most.
A: The conditions worry me. There was some pretty heavy stuff on my trip around Britain. I was caught in force eight and nine gales at one stage. There’s a feeling of helplessness – it’s like walking down the shops and the ground swallowing you up. If the boat rolls over, which happens to some teams, will suppressed trauma from the round-Britain swallow me up? Or will I be able to say: “I’ve been here before, I can deal with this?”

If the boat rolls over, what happens?
R: They’re self-righting, so it should pop straight back over.
A: You’ve got a pump on the outer side, so if it doesn’t right itself, you can get out of the boat – the pump clears the cabin of water.

“We’ll do between 60 to 100 miles on a good day”

The C60 Sapphire is waterproof to 600m

How do you do the day-to-day stuff: eating, going to the loo, washing?
R: The toilet situation is ‘bucket and chuck it’! We have a nice yellow bucket – a loo with a view! Food – we have freeze-dried packs: just add water and ‘enjoy’.
A: Washing is every eight-year-old’s dream. There’s no Sunday bath night. Some people have taken wet wipes, but there’s a pollution problem with them. So it’s a saltwater wash or nothing at all. The freshwater you make from the solar-powered water-maker is too precious to waste on washing.

How do you think you’ll get on?
A: There’s a tiny cabin up the front if I misbehave!
R: Covid lockdown in a studio flat was good training. When you’re stressed and scared, it’s easy to be blunt and not communicate well. So we’ve had honest conversations about how we want the other to respond in certain situations. I need sympathy: Andy needs silence!

What’s the training been like?
R: We’ve been doing physical training in the gym. It’s mostly about injury prevention. When you’re rowing in the waves, you can’t get a clean stroke, so it’s about building up the stabilisers. We’re also doing on-water training, which builds up procedures and routines, so they’re second nature. We’ll be doing sea survival and sea navigation courses and working with a sports psychologist to build the communication side.

How many miles a day will you do?
R: Between 60 to 100 on a good day. You have the currents with you, plus the trade winds have set in from the Canaries. The world record is 43 days. We’re aiming for 42 and a half.

How does the navigation work?
A: Two main ways. We’ve got electronic navigation on board and a chart plotter that you’d find on a standard trans-Atlantic yacht. We’ve also got an onshore weather router who we’re in contact with via satellite phone – and they’ll update us on our position every day.
R: We’ll also have a paper chart – and know our position twice daily.
A: We’re doing courses on celestial navigation. The main problem is as you’re moving up and down on the waves, you don’t have the stability to use a sextant.
R: We’re interested in using a watch as a compass! I know Christopher Ward makes them.

And you’ve been given a Christopher Ward watch as part of joining the Challenger programme?
A: Yes, the C60 Sapphire – a great mix of rugged and beautiful that feels more than capable for the challenge ahead. Also, the Trident seconds hand is cool! I feel confident when I wear it, and the quick-release #tide strap means we’re doing our bit to help against ocean plastic pollution, too.

After you’ve done this, what next?
R: We have ideas! We’re both into human-powered adventures. Maybe something more global.
A: Going around the world by human power would be the ultimate goal: rowing, cycling, mountaineering!

Andy and Rosalind need £10,000 to make their trip a reality. If you’d like to donate – and help two worthy charities in the process – you can do so below.

Donate here

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