Today 55 rowers from across the globe have set out on a grand voyage for the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2020 – an epic 3,000 mile rowing challenge across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a race with purpose – an inspirational event, which draws out the wild spirit in everyday people to achieve extraordinary things. It is a soul-changing journey and the challenge of a lifetime, giving rowers the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of the majestic ocean.
Beginning in the Spanish port of San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands and ending in Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua-Barbuda, the crews will spend between 30 to 90 days at sea where they could face commanding waves, extreme physical challenge and nature in its purest form from spellbinding starry skies to dolphins in their natural habitats, and a whole host of marine wildlife as they row the 3,000 miles to Antigua.
Over 21 international teams – including four-man crews, all-female and solo crews – from countries including South Africa, the Netherlands, the United States of America and Great Britain are taking on the race under strict COVID-19 protocols after years of preparation.
To reach the start line, teams have had to demonstrate similar levels of vigor, determination and strength of character, as they’ll require at sea. The crews have worked tirelessly to secure partners and donations, while training – often around a full-time job – to prepare to row the 1.5 million oar strokes needed to cross the ocean.
Each rower has a unique and personal motivation for racing; from charity fundraising to building awareness of ocean health.
Frank Rothwell, 70, who is taking on the challenge with the hope of raising £1m for Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s safe to say the enormity of the challenge is really hitting home! On the nighttime ferry to La Gomera, I looked out to the dark sea and I couldn’t see the horizon. That’s when it hit me, I thought I can’t believe I’m going out there on my own! Now I’m making final preparations at the start line, I know just how much I will miss my home comforts, especially my family, and wife of 50 years, Judith. But luckily for me, she’s promised to call me twice a day to keep me company.
“That being said, I’ve spent the last 18 months training for this exact moment, so although it’s daunting, I feel excited and as ready as I’ll ever be. Raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, and hitting my £1 million, has become my biggest motivation. People are getting in touch with messages of support and donating money for dementia research, and Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation has generously offered to double the first £500,000 of donations, so I can’t go back now. I’ve got to prove that you’re never too old to take on a challenge!”
Dixon McDonald – Captain of USA boat, Latitude 35, said: “I grew up in New York City, on the 7th floor of a 16 floor apartment building in Manhattan. I did not grow up next to an ocean, I had never rowed until about a year and a half ago. I hadn’t spent more than five and half hours on a rowing machine until I started training for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. That said, I love pushing the limits of what’s considered possible and this race seemed like the perfect challenge to do just that.”
Sofia Deambrosi from The Bristol Gulls boat, said: “It is absolutely impossible to put into words how we feel right now, about to set off into the big blue. The team has gone through an incredible two years which have been a roller coaster of emotions, team dynamics and financial stability. Being at the start line is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime but also the end of a journey we embarked on with determination and grit; where we both hit hard walls and met wonderful people, and came out of with new knowledge and skills, and 3 best friends for life.
We cannot wait to get going, and wake up to beautiful views and sounds of the ocean. We’ve left behind busy lives and loved ones at home and now all that is ahead of us is 3,000 miles of adventure.”
The oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky is very much a product of its rugged, coastal home. A whisky full of coastal character, Talisker’s origins come through in its aroma and taste, which connects the drinker with its rugged environment, delivering a powerful peat-smoke, with hints of sea-salt and a citrus sweetness and making it the perfect toast to those heading out to sea today.
Natalia Montigny, Head of Global Marketing for Talisker commented: “Talisker was founded in 1830 by two wild spirits – the MacAskill brothers – who rowed from Eigg to Skye in search of the perfect location for their distillery so we can say that Talisker Whisky is truly Made By The Sea. Every year we are touched by the incredible stories and determination of those taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We wish them all the best as they undertake this epic journey and look forward to welcoming them back and raising a toast to their accomplishment.”
Carsten Heron Olsen, CEO of Atlantic Campaigns, said: “It is great to see our teams set off today on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Their determination and enthusiasm has been unwavering. After months of working with partners and the public to raise money for some amazing causes, the 55 rowers today get to take to the water and continue to inspire people across the world as they take on a journey most could not even imagine. ”