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On Shoulders of Giants


Designing takes inspiration from all kinds of sources. We love to be in the studio, but getting out and about to experience things will often inform and inspire our designs.

On the subject of inspiration, and if you are in need of it, read on to find out about the challenge Firmdale Hotels are sponsoring: to the row the Atlantic as quickly as possible!

The raw facts:

– 3000 miles unsupported from La Gomera, Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua
– 25ft of human in a 24ft boat
– 1,000,000+ strokes needed per rower to cross the Atlantic
– Current record is 29 days, 14 hours, 34 minutes set by “The Four Oarsman” in the 2017 race
– 2 hours on, 2 hours off, 24 hours a day
– 18 months of dedicated training

Last weekend, whilst in Lymington in the New Forest, we met with the four members of the ‘On Shoulders of Giants’ team taking part in the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. It was a real insight to see the boat in person and to ask some questions about this impressive task.

How did you acquire your boat? Can you give us a lowdown of its features?

The boat was made for team ‘Fortitude 4’ who were the first team to finish last year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

She is a Rannoch R45, a design that has set numerous ocean rowing world records and is widely regarded as the fastest ocean rowing boat in the world. She is 24 feet long…which is about the length of the crew if we were all to lie down in a row! She has three rowing positions with a cabin at either end that can (just) sleep two people.

Two solar panels charge batteries that run all of the electrics on board. This includes GPS navigation and identification systems, a radio for communicating with nearby boats and a water maker that turns seawater to fresh drinking water.

What has been your biggest challenge so far and what has it taught you?

On an early night row, we ended up in tough conditions pushing into a strong headwind having been up all night. We had limited time to get back to Lymington and had no option but to press on into tough conditions with poor visibility. Mark in particular ended up doing over 4 hours of high intensity time on the oars!

In a lot of ways it helped galvanise the team, it was the first adversity we’d hit on the water and has given us confidence in what we can achieve when we have to dig deep. It was also an example of one of the key messages you get told about the sea, that it’s a massive, powerful and dangerous thing that you don’t have a lot of control over!

What are your tactics for when the going gets tough?

Keep rowing and trust the process! One of the things we’ve learnt through our training is that food and rest make everything feel better!

We’ve each had some pretty low points out on the water but you get through your shift, eat something, get your head down and come out the other side of it feeling a whole lot better.

The whole event is so overwhelming that you have to break it down into manageable chunks and check those off. It might be a two hour shift on the oars, getting through your calories for the day or making it through a rough patch of weather but by setting smaller goals across the campaign, you can measure your progress and it seems that bit more manageable.

What will your provisions be in terms of food and drink?

We expect to get through around 8000 calories and 8-10 litres of water each per day! Food will be a mixture of freeze dried meals which we will rehydrate at sea, high calorie shakes and snack packs made up of all the things you shouldn’t eat if you’re not rowing for 12 hours per day! Water will come from the sea and be desalinated with the onboard water maker.

When do you depart and when do you hope to arrive?

The event begins on 12th December. The crossing itself should take between 30 and 40 days, depending on conditions. All being well we will arrive in Antigua sometime in mid-January 2021.

What charities are you supporting?

We are supporting two charities, Pursuing Independent Paths which supports adults with learning disabilities to achieve their full potential and the My Name’5 Doddie foundation which raises funds to aid research into Motor Neuron Disease.

We think you are very brave and Firmdale Hotels are proud to support you. Wishing you the very best of luck!

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