I had the pleasure of visiting Talisker HQ in London to chat with the Diageo team and 2019 Atlantic rowing team Fortitude IV about my Atlantic Row experience.
Here are the questions they asked me.
Tell us about your TWAC experience and it’s lasting impact.
My TWAC experience was like nothing else I have ever done in my life. It was one of the toughest, yet most exhilarating and rewarding experiences!
I was part of a team called Row For The Ocean and we were put together for our drive to win the female race and also our love of the environment.
Sometimes I think back to the challenge and find it hard to believe it was me that did it! It was agony at times, being so tired that I would fall asleep rowing.
There were many challenges, but having been back for 10 months, I can see that all the tough times were the best bits, as those were the bits I learnt the most.
The team and I experienced things that only a few hundred people have experienced and it was magical!
How would you describe your team mates (wild spirits) and how did you support each other during the race?
Each one of us on the boat had very different personalities. At first it was tricky to balance it all – we were tired, hungry and doing the biggest event of our life. But over the weeks, we adapted, got to know each other and knew what to do in certain situations. It was beautiful to witness.
Through tough times we would ask ourselves as team “why are we here?” And the answer was always the same – to win the female race.
We’d frequently check in with each other and make sure we were doing well. If someone was feeling low, whatever they wanted we would respect – whether that be they needed to talk, cry or just have silence.
We’d do small things like fill each others water bottles and leave surprise snacks to boost each other’s morale. It was the small things that counted.
Best memory of the race?
The best memory has to be the day we were followed by a family of whales.
I was asleep in my off shift and there’s an unwritten rule that you never wake anyone unless absolutely necessary.
So there I am in a deep sleep, completely naked, and my teammate wakes me up. “Laura, Laura, we are being followed by whales.” I jumped out of bed in a heart beat and stood naked on deck staring that the whales though. bleary eyes. I was in awe of these magnificent creatures.
They were bigger than our 8.5m long boat!
They were about 10m away – so close we could almost touch them!
That was the only time we stopped rowing, just soaking up what we saw and feeling completely and utterly grateful for that moment.
The biggest challenge during the race?
There was one day we experimenced a headwind and we decided to do our best to fight it.
We were told by our land support that this would last about 4 hours, so we got three people rowing and one person hand steering in order to gain more power.
Usually, we would row in 2-hour shifts but decided to battle it out and go for the full 4 hours.
After 5 hours it was apparent that the wind was not going to die down but we kept rowing.
We rowed non-stop for 9 hours! 6 of that time was with our left oar only to stop us bneing pushed in the wrong direction.
Each hour that passed we wondered how much longer we could keep going.
For those 9 hours, we travelled at just 0.5 miles an hour. It was soul-destroying. That’s 2 laps of a running track, with 3 people’s effort in just one hour!
In that time we’d travelled just 4 miles!
But later we got news from land support that some teams has stopped rowing and given in to the wind, which meant they had be pushed backwards, so in fact, we had actually gained about 10 miles.
Advice for Ollie and Jon competing this year?
Embrace every moment – even the bad bits.
Remember you have chosen to do the challenge and put yourself there.
What a privilege to experience that.
Even through the toughest times, think how incredible it is to be there.
Enjoy every moment!