At Lunchtime on Tuesday 21st we organised the watch change, Niall had come up with a process of how this should happen with the least impact to the team. Fortunately for me it had no impact other than getting to spend the afternoon with my new watch buddy Clément. For the others it meant a combination of 2hr watches followed by 1hr off then 1hr on and then back to 2hr and 2hr off in the new watch.
The added bonus for Niall was he was upgrading accommodation to the fwd cabin and Clément downgraded to the aft and sharing with Ralph.
Clément and I are both new to rowing, let alone ocean rowing, so spending time with Niall and Ralph was invaluable to get coaching from them both in the last two weeks.
We started our watch off with Clément taking the first seat and leading the pace, this gave me chance to see his natural style and gauge how we may both need to adjust to row efficiently together. Surprisingly we both had similar styles and were off to a great start, whilst only managing 3knts, our timing was quite in sync. During the watch I found out that Clément had never rowed solo during any time on the boat so had not found his own rhythm, but instead mimicked a combination of Ralph and Niall's. We decided to use the time during this watch to try out different things so he rowed solo for 10 mins, then I rowed solo and then we rowed together. He also mentioned that he has only ever had a fee pointers from Ralph and Niall but never knew the techniques that he should to trying. We then decided to go back to basics and just rowed with our arms and looking at the recovery period along with the stroke length. Once we had that sorted we then introduced using our legs. The first two hours we really stormed and formed as a team.
The next watch didn't start too well, due to an accident within 30 seconds of sitting at the oars. Only the day before we were saying there is very little to injure you on a rowing boat. We forgot the tripping hazards. Ralph was walking from the fwd cabin to the aft and as he went to step over my stationary oar he tripped on the line securing the water containers to the boat. His body weight land on my oar and bent my knee backwards. It felt like I had been hit with a wrecking ball and I burst into uncontrollable tears with the pain. Accidents happen and it was no-ones fault but I could have done without another injury. So I had 2hrs of rowing to do and just got on with it, rowing without bending my legs.
I thought of the quote from my brother-in-law sent in an email from 12th March.
‘It will hurt. It will take time. It will take dedication. It will require will power. It requires sacrifice (you will need to push your body to the max). There will be temptation. But, i promise you, when you reach your goal, it will be worth it.’ - Ben Howes
During the session I was thinking of home, then there was a magical moment when the wind was blowing the sea spray off each oar stroke and rainbows appeared. This made me think of the card from my mum gave me when I left on this journey and it was as if she was right beside me willing me to Row on.
Later in the afternoon we were visited by dolphins who were very active leaving torpedoed shape trails through the waves. In the evening I was very grateful to just relax and each 2hr off period I just slept.
Wednesday was a new day and the goal was for Clément and I to really start performing as a team. As a boat we had been making great progress and achieving about 76Nm over a 24hr period. Calculating this against our virtual pace boat with a target of 45 days for the crossing we were now 4hrs ahead when we hit the 1/3 complete milestone. Over the day Clément and I manage to keep the boat moving at between 3.5 to 4knts so we're pleased with our combined efforts.
Thursday started off really tough with the ocean feeling like treacle, strangely though the boat was still moving at 3.5knts. We had cloud cover for the first time which made the sunrise quite spectacular. We saw a fishing vessel for the first time in 4 days, I was starting to think we were the only boat on the ocean for a while.
So I mentioned previously that I had not had a comedy moment, well that changed just after lunch, I had eaten my Chicken and rice followed by Apple crunch and custard (Yummy). Then Niall said why don't to share out one of those large bars of Milka Chocolate (with peanut and caramel). I replied great idea and just before my watch started I thought well I will just eat my allowance in one go. About 5mins into my watch the world went into slow motion, every stoke of the oars, as the boat went over the crest of a wave. Even when people spoken to me. This went on for about 2hrs and after discussing it with Niall we concluded I had a sugar high due to not eating much sugar in the last week. Whilst the feeling was fun to begin with I don't want to experience that again so from now on I will keep up with the Mars a day to help work rest and play.
There were two other highlights of the day, firstly the epic random 8-10 meter waves that appeared in the 2-4 meter swell. We managed to surf the wave and hit 9.2knts in a rowing boat!!!
The second was about 23:00 when it was pitch black, we were doing about 4knts when we then hit a squall, at this point normal people would get waterproofs but we just powered through with the feeling of the fresh rain water hitting my skin and making me feel alive. 10 minutes later it stopped and my watch was over, what a way to end the week. Other than a few aches here and there, we are all fit and focused on the next half way milestone that we should achieve by Tuesday next week.
I am off to bed now but please remember whilst I am taking the time to recover there are others that need our support. Please can you find the time to spread the word and show your support by making a donation to one of the charities I have chosen to support.