March 21, 2021
Sophie Hibbin

Action packed training week before we set off ...

By way of an introduction, I’m Sophie, one of the crew of 12 rowing across the Atlantic in Roxy’s maiden ocean crossing. My job is to blog each stage of our adventure, starting with our action-packed training week in Tenerife.

It’s quite a tricky task to fill a blog with the words to properly capture the events and feelings of the week before rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. The emotions have been running strong, with nerves and excitement churning together, and the preparation has been extensive, keeping us very busy. Even getting to the starting line here in Tenerife was only possible through a heroic team effort; a sure sign, I feel, of things to come.

The crew all have our own reasons for rowing, and our own hopes and fears for the expedition. The sea has never looked so vast as it does when I look out at it with the knowledge that in one short day, I will be rowing across it. But Charlie and Dawn, leading us on our row, have laid out a comprehensive training programme to ensure we are all ready to take on this incredible challenge.

We set our eyes on Roxy in the marina for the first time on Wednesday morning, and she looked magnificent! We were given some time to reacquaint ourselves with her, before getting our heads down for a navigation class (expertly delivered by co-skipper Dawn) and then getting to work packing up some snack packs. To let you in on one of the many things sustaining us throughout the trip, this recipe is a unique but tasty combination of chocolate, chilli powder, peanuts, and sultanas - I can highly recommend it, and I don’t even like sultanas!

Thursday, our second full day of training, started with a First Aid course, and we got to grips with what medical equipment is available on the boat and how to deal with any incidents. Friends and family will be either reassured, terrified, or both to know that there is a Russell chest seal on board, in case of a marlin strike(!)

Next, we took Roxy out of the marina for a little jaunt, which felt brilliant. It’s easy to tell the hard work that Rannoch and Charlie have put in, and Roxy just feels joyous to row. It’s impossible to anticipate how hard the row is going to be, of course, though we know it’s going to be tougher than anything most have us have ever or will ever do, but feeling the dedication that has gone into creating this journey will make it that much easier to take every stroke.

Being out in the boat also gave me my first taste of seasickness, and my first taste of water from the water maker, and to be honest I couldn’t tell you which was worse! Once back ashore, we were phenomenally privileged to have the Mayor come to bless our voyage. Roxy was anointed with some pink champagne, and the crew were treated to a little too, which went a long way to washing away the taste of the water maker!

Friday was a critical training day, including sea survival theory and practical, and our radio course examination. The best bit of sea survival (or in my case, sea not-survival) was inflating a life jacket for the first time and jumping into the water, then piling into the life raft. Whilst floating around in the marina in a life jacket the size of a bouncy castle was fun, trying to climb into the life raft unassisted whilst wearing said bouncy castle was rather sobering and hit home how reliant we will all be on each other.

To recover from the excitement, next we got to sample some of our expedition food. Apart from snack packs with novel ingredient combos, and what looks like ten tonnes of protein bars, we have freeze dried specially designed meal packs, easily made up mid ocean with water from the jet boil. They are incredibly tasty, and much better than they sound (not to mention much better than my own cooking!)

Saturday started with another rowing session, to make some little calibrations and then began the massive task of unpacking and repacking the boat. Whilst the crew were busy loading, I was given the task of leashing the oars to Roxy using my newly learned skills in tying knots. If a later blog mentions that an oar has floated off into the ocean, you will know who to blame...

Now I sit here on the final day before departure, having loaded the boat with the final precious cargo (snacks!) - all that’s left to do is row across the ocean!

What has become abundantly clear throughout training is how much we are going to rely on each other’s strengths to match our own weaknesses, to lift each other up and help each other out. As well as the practicalities and knowledge acquired during the training week, I have also gained even more of an appreciation for my crewmates; their skills and knowledge, their dedication and fortitude, and their humour and kindness. Rannoch have assembled a truly formidable crew, and I can’t wait to achieve our dream of rowing the Atlantic - together.

Next stop, Antigua!