Four friends from Bondi Beach have clinched second place in the world’s toughest rowing race – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – finishing only behind British team, Fortitude IV.
The team – Martin Fletcher, Ryan Grace, Cameron Mostyn and Nicholas Sargent – completed the 3000-mile rowing race in 34 days 10 hours and 46 minutes, arriving into English Harbour, Antigua on 15 January 2020 – setting a world record for fastest Atlantic row crossing by an Australian team.
It was not an easy crossing for the Australian crew – challenges presented themselves even before the start line; their boat only got clearance to compete on the morning of the race after a technical fault with their boat almost prevented them from starting. It was one of the team’s father who eventually came to the rescue – managing to source the replacement part from a neighbouring Canary Island and thus clearing the boat for launch.
This year’s weather conditions were some of the toughest on record – they experienced some of the strongest winds in the history of the race – causing waves up to 12 metres in height, broken oars, seats, capsizing as well as sores and bruises.
But alongside extreme weather conditions, the participants have also experienced incredible wildlife sightings during their voyage – witnessing both highs and lows of mother nature during this elemental adventure. Whales, orca and repeat sightings of flying fish jumping over their boat and even hitting rowers’ heads – Rowed Less Travelled reported, at one point, a Marlin fish colliding with their boat and almost knocking them off course – such sightings lifting spirits on this epic journey. The natural wonders combined with the challenge of both mental and physical endurance result in a life-changing achievement – and affirm the rowers’ motivations for entering.
Speaking in Antigua after the race Ryan Grace of Rowed Less Travelled said:
“Those final few days were so tough, we were so beaten and exhausted, and we saw every part of the ocean, but I’m glad we had that experience because it makes this moment so much sweeter. We are going to relish this feeling for the rest of our lives. […] There was one time when we were about to change shifts and I saw the wave hit Fletch [Martin Fletcher] and the whole boat flipped upside down. I was on the ceiling of the cabin just holding the handle because I couldn’t close it – if I had let go the cabin would have flooded and that would have been it. None of us are equipped to handle this, but you have no choice. You just have to keep going.”
Elsewhere in the fleet, 8 other boats are expected to finish within the next week, with some of the solo boats predicted to spend up to 8 more weeks at sea.
Talisker Whisky have sponsored the Atlantic Challenge for six years and share the same love for adventure and the world’s oceans. Talisker has a rich history with the sea – in 1830 Talisker Whisky was founded by the MacAskill brothers who rowed from Eigg to Skye to find the perfect spot for their distillery in Scotland. Just like the Talisker distillery, this row represents what it means to be made by the sea.