3,000 nautical miles, 2 men, 3 legs, a seven metre long row boat and the Atlantic Ocean.
Since trading in their Viking Pro indoor rower, Row2Recovery’s Team Trident have faced more than just physical challenges.
Jon Armstrong and Jordan Beecher hit the open seas 32 days ago, starting this race with a 48-hour delay caused by rough seas. Upon getting out of the harbour they experience no wind and no speed, causing them to hit their first mental challenge within two days, and questioning their ability to complete this epic journey. Now, the boys have covered over 2,400 nautical miles, with roughly 600 more to go they have faced capsize, feelings of defeat and determination, as well as immense physical and emotional challenges.
As they fight for first position against the Ordinary Boys, Jordan shares some insight into the past 28 days of their transatlantic journey from La Gomera to Antigua.
Day 1 to 4
14 December – 17 December
The race started, and after a few hours of moving at a fair speed we turned towards our first waypoint where everything stopped; no wind; no tide; no speed.
The next two days were incredibly emotional, we were caught in our own little weather bubble doing one nautical mile an hour while our competition sped away seemingly out of reach. We felt like a rubber duck in a bath tub. Finally, on the evening of day three, 16 December, we felt the wind hit from the North East with the tides and currents pointing us in the right direction – we were off and back in the competition!
After nearly a week on the water three boats had withdrawn, whilst Jon and I found ourselves leading the pairs, and in only seventh or eighth position of the entire fleet. It had been a hard graft of two hours on, two hours off, but we were reaping the reward of leading our category. Now the pressure was on to stay at the front, we felt our discipline starting to lack through fatigue and necessity, taking ‘gentlemen’s’ four to six hour rests in the evening. We need to remember every mistake or moment of laziness is another mile closer to our competition.
We suffered our first capsize, or semi capsize in my opinion, but I was safely locked in the cabin. Jon got smashed by a wave, with the boat tipping sides up. I was awoken by Jon’s water bottle, enamel mug, and even worse, his pee bottle, striking me in the face. Jon was shocked to find a kraken, or octopus, waiting for him in the water.
We were both slightly home sick as we thought of our families sitting down to a large Christmas roast dinner, although we spent a few minutes in the morning opening the few presents from family, friends and each other. The sea provided some entertainment and excitement for us, as we saw our first shark! Brown in colour and roughly a meter and a half long, it was seemingly stalking our boat to see if we were worth a bite. We spent the night fearing the possibility of capsizing, not wanting to be devoured. Jon and I are dreaming of being at home celebrating our success with a roast dinner.
4 January 2018
The past ten days have been challenging, as we fought emotional and physical exhaustion. Last week the ‘Ordinary Boys’ knocked us out of first place and we put this down to our lapse in routine, which allowed the duo to put around ten miles between our boats. With the pair now leading, we spent five days going back and forth, a mile lost, a mile gained.
Jon and I were emotionally beaten and feeling very sorry for ourselves. We pulled our heads together, devised a plan and put some pressure on the crew ahead of us – we consider it very ‘un Englishman-like’ to roll over and accept defeat. We both believe men make their own luck.
Neither of us went into this race with the aim of breaking records or winning our category ‑ we are both competitive and winning would be a bonus, but our aim was to row the ocean and remain friends. With this in mind, we focused on reaching an average mileage per shift by setting personal goals. This created an achievable and less daunting challenge than fighting to get back to first position. Our strength in this race is definitely our consistency, and Jon and I were able to hit our average speed over ground more times than we were failing. We found ourselves catching our competition within a matter of 24 hours.
We rowed through ‘Ordinary Boys’ this morning, taking back first place!
As stressful and infuriating as this week has been, it has felt more like lane racing on Dorney Lake, than a side by side ocean rowing endeavour. An incredible experience.
Upon taking back the lead, Jon and I reflected on our journey so far, discussing our planning in the lead up to take off. Jon asked me what else I would have brought with me, and to my surprise, I immediately replied more tuna – this shows how much I miss real food! My other response was some form of head protection for Jon. Never have I met someone who consistently hits their head on every surface within striking distance so consistently, we could almost rely on it to time out our shifts.
Along this journey, I am yet to wish I was stuck on this seven meter long boat with someone other than Jon. I look back at our first training row in La Gomera, when Jon confidently stated ‘I’ll row us out of the harbour old boy’, and proceeded to fix both oars back to front in the opposite gates. A look of despair and blissful ignorance sat on my face – I remember thinking I might regret having not taken someone more sea worthy. But I am proud to be on this boat, having Jon as my partner for this challenge.
As we reached the last thousand miles we looked over our shoulders to see Ordinary Boys hot on our tails. They are without a doubt better seamen than Jon and myself, and if they do go on to win it will be an outcome I can live with. But with a bit of luck, Team Trident might pull this off.