Oar Inspiring 1st British team to complete epic Atlantic challenge

There were scenes of celebration in Antigua last night as team Oar Inspiring set foot on solid ground for the first time in five weeks.

On December 12th the team set out from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to row 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, all in aid of Starlight.

35 days, 8 hours and 5 minutes later, after battling treacherous weather conditions, extreme physical demands and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, the team rowed victorious across the finish line as the 1st British team to complete the race.

The team came an impressive 2nd place out of 27 international teams in what was a closely fought race with the winners, the Dutch Atlantic Four, who entered the harbour less than 24 hours earlier.

Throughout their journey, George, Caspar, Toby and Justin never forgot the reason behind why they were pushing themselves to the limit, to help Starlight fund a year’s worth of wishes for seriously ill children. Raising an incredible £47,949.60 while on the water.

Cathy Gilman, CEO, Starlight Children’s Foundation spoke about their incredible feat:

“We are so thrilled to receive the news that the Oar Inspiring team have arrived safely in Antigua, crossing the finish line after only 35 days. Everyone at Starlight has been eagerly following the team’s progress with awe and admiration. That they’ve completed this epic 3000-mile crossing in such an incredible time really demonstrates their focus, stamina and devotion both to the challenge and our cause. Thank you to George, Caspar, Toby and Justin for your heroic efforts and sacrifices, supported throughout by your devoted family and friends.

The money that Oar Inspiring raise will help fund wishes for seriously ill children and their families. Wishes provide a much-needed break from the routine of treatment, offering life-changing experiences and creating memories to cherish. The vital work we do to make serious illness a bit more bearable is only possible because of our amazing fundraisers and supporters. Thank you and congratulations Oar Inspiring!”

You can still congratulate the team by donating to their Just Giving page here.

Below is just a small extract of the team’s blog, following their (literal) ups and downs over the waves. You can read the full blogs on their website.

Day 1
Awesome send off from other boats and the crowd. Saw loads of dolphins, awesome and hopefully a good sign of things to come. We were now up with the front runners…The first night was a proper baptism of fire. Having never actually rowed non-stop like this under race conditions the night shift was tough. But we rowed through the night, spirits still kind of high!

Day 3

The last shift was really tough. Sideways waves, seat rocking side to side, Oarʼs smashing in and out of the water, losing a few layers of skin in our shins in the process, and a little dignity.

Day 5

[On receiving emails from home] Although this is emotional, it doesn’t take much to get us to be a bit tearful, it is a welcome break. The more emails the better. Some are heartfelt, some are encouraging, some are funny and some are unexpected but almost all include an update on the weather back home. Classic English people.

Day 6

The dolphins continue to circle the boat, popping their heads up then diving down under the boat. We thought we were quite good at surfing waves but these guys are clearly the pros. So much so that there is a part of me that slightly resents them, as here we are slogging away and these little so and soʼs are just playing around going 20 times the speed.

Day 7

The autohelm alarm goes off again. When the alarm goes, the autohelm stops working, if no one is on the hand steering we are at the mercy of the wind and waves. The boat spins to 180°, again! Casp grabs the hand lines and Juzza does his best to spins us back round, with 20 knots of wind and a tonne and a half of boat this is no easy feat.

Day 11

The wind has dropped dramatically but is still behind. Speed is still good and we are informed we are, for the 3rd day running the fastest boat in the fleet!

Day 13

A few ‘Merry Christmas’ are said to each other during shift changes, these are said, and met with a somewhat sarcastic laugh…Christmas Day is upon us and it basically feels like any other day, woohoo!

Day 15

The 4pm update comes through, holy mother of….. we have rowed 101nm in the last 24 hours. We are reliably informed that only 3 crews have ever managed this, we had no idea of this before setting our goal.

Day 16

The good side to the darkness is that the night sky is incredible. More stars than you can imagine, the more you look the more you can see.

Day 17
[On receiving an email in regards to a friend’s 8-year battle with Leukaemia] What I will categorically say is that the next time I got on the oars and for the next 6/7 sessions, that letter and Rozzer’s situation is all I could think about. It completely distracted me from my own issue….In doing so it alleviated my pain, which in turn sparked a very positive energy in me that filled me with endorphins. It really highlighted the power of the right stimulus to the brain in helping get through a tough time. That’s Starlight. Starlight send letters/ make phone calls to children informing them that their wish has been granted. And like that letter, I’m sure, even for a greater period of time, the pain is gone. As the brain starts to fantasize about how good the wish will be. To meet their hero, to leave the hospital, to sit on a horse, go to a pantomime, simply do anything other than what they’ve been used too. These are children who could name every bit of hospital equipment in a ward quicker than any medical student and could probably even operate it with precision. We have the chance to be ‘pain relief’ in the most natural way. Be the light at the end of the rather dimly, if at all, lit tunnel.

Day 22

It’s 11 and it already a slog, progress is slow and unaided by nature. Midday is almost upon us and the sea is completely flat, a millpond. I never imagined that the Atlantic could be this still, the glassy water forms a giant mirror. The mirror adds to the strength of the sun, light bouncing off it. Not to worry though, we’re only got to row 6 hours each in this cauldron of fire. We nickname this patch ‘Death Valley.’

Day 28

The major issue, that has really only become an issue recently is pressure sores on our bums. These sores make for pretty uncomfortable rowing. It’s like sitting on a really hard and uncomfortable chair that has odd bits of Lego super glued to the top.