So far things have not gone entirely to plan but never-the-less this is an incredible experience.
As a quick update on what happened in La Gomera; due to further complications with boat build in November and deadlines not adhered to by our latest boat builder we were still cutting holes and fitting equipment at the start line. We went to Scotland mid-November expecting a race ready boat so we could train, however, and without warning we visited a work-in-progress which was no good when we were due to drive down to La Gomera in less than a week.
Needless to say we knew there was a huge risk of the Nutilus not being ready but we had no choice but to drive her ourselves and hope it would be finished on time. The drive was quite demanding and led to us sleeping in the car ensuring the boat remained unharmed, as you can imagine 2 years of hard work and over £100,000 of effort made us quite protective.
Quite simply we were on the verge of not crossing, the boat was very much in build in the two weeks prior to race start. Holes were still being cut for bilge pumps and all of the electrics required wiring, whilst the steering system had not been fitted. Fortunately, following two weeks of 6am starts and midnight finishes, we had a boat we thought could go in the water whilst we finished the final tasks.
Much to our dismay, the boat had a hole which accumulated an entire deck hatch full of water within one day, The Nutilus was taken straight out of the water and we decided to finish the boat off ourselves without the boat builder being involved.
We fixed the leak, added more strong points to increase the height of our jack stay, fitted our rudder, mounted and calibrated our auto helm and finished countless other odd jobs. We made the decision to finish the boat ourselves as we were at this point too concerned with the quality of the work of the boat builder; we had no choice but to accommodate poor time scales and false promises to ensure we made this years race, but when the output is of such poor quality, our safety is then on the line, and these final jobs were critical in ensuring we can start.
Atlantic Campaigns were involved throughout our build and following the leak, quite rightly, made the decision to delay our start until we tested the boat we had finished. All passed fine and following final tweaks we started the race three days behind the rest of the fleet and in much poorer conditions. This did impact us massively as a team, as we were told that we would no longer be in the race. Disregarding the £24k cost to take part, we have spent two years preparing for the biggest race of our lives, and to see that taken away by matters out of our control created a poor mentality to start a 40-50 day Atlantic crossing, but nevertheless we still had a crossing and we knew we could catch other boats up.
We know as a strong team we could make some good ground on other teams despite them having more favourable conditions. Something to note is the different classes of boat; there is concept class and pure class. Ours is a pure class, a boat which is not impacted by the wind as much as concept boats who are known as 'blow boats', the race record in a concept four was 35 days and in a pure four was 44 days prior to this year's race, for some indication on the difference.
We pushed through the big waves of the first three days which took three boats out of the race, and then began making good progress, until we hit a few complications... The solar panels, navigation light, antenna, compass mount, strong points; nearly everything fitted by the boat builder in the weeks leading up to the race had begun leaking, we spent days understanding new leaks from an already wet environment and filling the holes as best we could.
Once filled, we started making good progress again until the weather pushed passed us whilst continuing to support the teams in front; this required a change in our route. Instead of heading down south to eventually turn west making use of the natural trade wind route, we actually found more favourable conditions by taking a direct line, this has meant less miles to row and a much better approach, we just need to make sure we're not too far north for the approach to Antigua.
We had already caught a few teams up and our three-day delay didn't matter anymore. We began and maintained a strong routine of boat maintenance, eating and of course relentless rowing. Despite it obviously being an incredibly tough endurance race, we think the two years of events, training and awareness has prepared us well, when things are getting very tough, we pull through as a team very well.
The latest issue being our auto helm failing, not due to our installation I would like to add :) has hindered the strong progress made in the earlier weeks! We're now on a very gruelling shift pattern, with much less sleep whilst we manually steer to make sure we hit the best mileage we can each day. At present, we definitely feel the most sleep deprived we have yet, but it'll get us to the finish line so we're getting on with it well!
Unfortunately, we're not going to hit our target completion of less than 45 days, but after five weeks on the ocean, I must say it is incredible, the wildlife, night sky and sheer size of what we are crossing has been a great experience so far, and now we're on the final stretch to Antigua! We expect to be in the early part of February.
Track the race:
PC - Visit the official race website to see the tracker https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/
Mobile - Download ‘YB Races’ app from the app store. Select the ‘Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2017’ race.
Follow ‘Team Nuts’ updates on facebook - https://en-gb.facebook.com/bythehundred/
Donate to the charity the team is supporting - Movember Foundation