La Gomera
Canary Islands
la gomera sign post
English Harbour
Antigua & Barbuda

The World’s Toughest Row

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is the premier event on the worldwide ocean-rowing calendar. Sponsored by Talisker Single Malt Whisky and organised by Atlantic Campaigns, the race involves a 3000-mile, human-powered rowing voyage from San Sebastian in La Gomera (Canary Islands) to English Harbour in Antigua & Barbuda (West Indies).

Held annually, the event attracts competitors from all walks of life, and from all over the world. In recent years, teams have come from Australia, China, England, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States.

Rowers can compete alone (Solo category), in twos (Pairs category), in threes (Trio category), in a group of four (Fours category), or in a group of five (Fives category). The teams must cross the Atlantic Ocean unaided – and must carry everything they need to survive on their boats.

Support vessels are available for emergency (life-threatening) situations only. Rescued teams are disqualified from the race.

Teams are also disqualified if they fail the post-race inspection: Atlantic Campaigns staff check the boats to make sure that every single piece of equipment and every single piece of packaging (food containers, bottles, cans, packets) is present and accounted for.

The organisers partnered with EcoForLife in 2018 to supply biodegradable water bottles to competitors, and there’s a firm commitment to make the race as environmentally friendly as possible.

I’ll be competing in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge as a solo rower. The race is scheduled to start on 12 December 2019. The crossing can take anywhere from 30 to 90 days, depending on the weather, the wind, and the ocean conditions.

I hope to complete my journey in 55 days and I’m aiming to arrive in Antigua by mid-February 2020. I’ll be spending Christmas, New Year, and possibly Valentine’s Day at sea – alone and far from my family and friends.

Getting ready for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a mammoth task, physically and mentally. My race preparation includes…

Fitness and physical conditioning (strength and endurance) with personal trainer Brandon Goodwin at Pro-Fit Private Training in KZN.

Diet and nutrition management by Brandon Goodwin, Cameron Carey and other specialists at Pro-Fit Private Training.

Mandatory training courses in maritime communication, navigation, seamanship and first aid, with SeaSports South West in Teignmouth, Devon.

An intensive ocean-rowing course (via Adventure Hub) with one-on-one instruction by Ian Couch, who is also the lead duty and safety officer for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

A 120-hour pre-race row is compulsory, and I’ll complete that later in the year.

I count myself lucky to have secured the services of internationally renowned ocean master and survival expert Leven Brown.

Leven is a formidable seafarer who holds multiple Guinness World Records. He’s a respected skipper and expedition consultant whose skills are in high demand, and he’ll be helping me with route planning during the race.

Leven is also building my boat. His company, Leven Brown Adventure & Ocean Services, is producing the next generation vessel that I’ll be rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in December.

The Melokuhle Mystery Boat (as it’s known within my circle) is currently under construction in Ukraine. Its specifications and features are being kept under wraps until delivery – but here’s a sneak peak of the design.

Want to get your brand in front of a global audience of 3 billion people? Contact my support team to inquire about advertising space on my boat today:

The Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge were still under construction in 1896 when Norwegian immigrants George Harbo and Frank Samuelson decided to leave New York in a skiff made of pine and white oak. Their destination? Europe, more than 3000 miles across the Atlantic.

Today, Harbo and Samuelson have a place in the history books. But back then, nobody knew what lay ahead for the men as they rowed off in search of fame and fortune. After 55 days at sea, the intrepid duo reached the Scilly Isles. Their extraordinary record stood unbeaten for 114 years.

In 1966, British paratroopers Sergeant Chay Blyth and Captain John Ridgway became the first pair to row across the Atlantic in the twentieth century, crossing from Cape Cod to Ireland in 92 days. They braved two hurricanes in their open dory, the English Rose III.

Three decades after his Atlantic crossing with Ridgway, Blyth organised the first official Atlantic race, the Port St Charles Rowing Race. Thirty teams left Playa San Juan, Tenerife, on the 12th of October 1997. Kiwi Challenge rowers Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs took the top honours in Port St Charles, Barbados, 41 days and 3 hours later.

In 2001, the race was sponsored by Ward Evans and drew 36 teams of competitors from 12 countries. Thirty-three boats reached the finish line in Barbados, with New Zealand teammates Steve Westlake and Matt Goodman of Telecom Challenge the victors.

The event was renamed the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race in 2003 and the new departure point – San Sebastian on La Gomera – was a fitting nod to one of history’s most famous seafaring figures: Christopher Columbus started his journey towards the New World from this same port. For the third time in a row, the winners flew the flag of New Zealand. The race was run every two years until 2015, when it became an annual event.

Atlantic Campaigns has organised the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge since 2013. The 3000-mile contest sees rowers cross from La Gomera (Canary Islands) to English Harbour (Antigua & Barbuda) either solo, in pairs, or as part of a team of up to five people.

The 2017 edition of the race saw multiple records smashed, including The Four Oarsmen for the fastest ever team (29 days); Mark Slats for the fastest ever solo rower (30 days); and Kung Fu Cha Cha for the fastest ever all-female team (34 days).

The 2018 teams set off on December 12th. Twenty-eight boats left La Gomera. Twenty-seven reached the finish line in English Harbour. The Dutch Atlantic Four claimed top honours with a crossing time of 34 days, 12 hours and nine minutes – and there were extraordinary performances all around.

In the past four years, participants of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge have donated more than six million euros to charitable organisations, and highlighted pressing social and environmental issues around the world.