A Crazy Idea Becomes a Reality...!
A lot of people have been asking us, “WHY row across the Atlantic?!” To be fair, it’s a very reasonable question. Whist the motivation for each of us is nuanced, we’re all aligned on embracing this immense physical and mental challenge that will test us to the absolute brink. In addition, to be able to leverage this platform to raise as many funds as possible for mental health via the incredible work of the Black Dog Institute is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.
So, whose bright idea was this audacious quest to spend roughly 40 days at the whim of the merciless ocean, rowing 2 hours on and 2 hours off, without so much as the comfort of a toilet? Let the record show, responsibility sits 100% with Fletch. As the only crew member with even a shred of adventuring credibility, Fletch has actually stepped out of the comfort of Bondi to embark of various several week mountaineering expeditions in Pakistan and Nepal, and even demonstrated aquatic prowess in completing a 700km kayak of the Yukon. However, the pinnacle of brutal endurance quests had always eluded him. He had simply never met someone foolhardy enough to agree to subject themselves to the relentless suffering of rowing an ocean. Enter Ryan Grace.
Fletch masterfully plied Gracey with beers, one tasty froth-wagon after the next. Playing on his tipsy sense of invincibility, he lulled Gracey into a completely one-sided negotiation- “if I do my sky-diving licence with you, you have to row the Atlantic with me”. And, with that pack, a crazy idea started building momentum. Now they just needed to somehow convince a couple more buffoons and this thing had legs. Gracey had his sights set on a potential mark. Shortly after committing to the row he joined Cam and his wife Josie on a trail run down south in the Royal National Park. With over two hours in transit and a couple more running, he had ample time with a captive audience to go to work on his sales pitch. For those who haven’t met Gracey, the guy can talk the hind legs off a donkey. Although Cam initially rejected the outlandish idea, a seed had been sewed that would germinate in the following weeks. Meanwhile, Fletch was working on another mate, Sarge.
Fletch planted the idea over a few cold ones (he’s consistent) and, more importantly, the idea of a road trip to Palm Beach, QLD. While Sarge thought he was there to share the driving and help a mate relocate, Fletch had other ideas. During the 9 hours of the road trip, Fletch talked in depth about the challenge, the current oarsmen and the incredible stories of those who have competed in the race. By the time they reached Palm Beach, Fletch had his crew. What he didn’t know at the time, was that Sarge was a ‘yes’ as soon as he saw how much Fletch believed in the challenge
On April 12, 2018, our motley crew assembled for our inaugural team meeting at Ravesis. Over a few refreshing ales, we shared our hopes and dreams, cementing our commitment to officially enter ‘Rowed Less Travelled’ in the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Since that fateful day, we’ve embarked on what has been an all-encompassing preparation process. We’ve been steadily building our time on the erg (rowing machine) from what initially seemed like an eternity of 30 minutes, up to a few hours at a time. In terms of time on the water, it should be stated that three out of four of us had never rowed, and Gracey hadn’t touched an oar in well over a decade.
Fortunately we’ve generously been offered the tutelage of rowing god Tim McLaren, an ex-Olympian and veteran coach of several Olympic teams. Whilst it’s fair to say we set the bar exceptionally low on our first outing at the UTS Haberfield Club, there has been consistent improvement since then. We’ve also taken immense solace in the fact many Talisker participants have ever rowed prior to taking on the challenge.
In addition to the physical training, we’ve been grinding away at the gargantuan logistical side of campaign. This has seen us create and manage the team Instagram and website, register a company, go deep on corporate and tax law, build sponsorship presentations and plan our calendar of pre-race events amongst many other laborious tasks. Whilst it’s been like having an extra full time job at times, it’s also been good fun and deeply rewarding. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect to date is the incredible support and amazing people that we’ve met along the way. The staff at the Black Dog Institute have been particularly helpful, and we can’t thank enough our legendary mentor Gearoid Towey. As a three-time Olympian and world champion rower who himself embarked on the Atlantic crossing a decade ago, GT’s advice has been instrumental.
So what’s next on the cards? In the following months it’s all about us ramping up our sponsorship drive and buying the most significant asset – a boat. We’ve got our eyes on a couple, and the sooner we can pull the trigger, the sooner we can get her over to Aus for some practice time. The other major milestone is our 24 hour rowing machine challenge, which we’re stoked to have secured the space in front of North Bondi Surf Club for. It’s going to be brutal, but is an incredible opportunity for us to drive more awareness via foot traffic and media attention.
We’re hoping everyone will be around on Jan 5, 2019 to get behind us or even jump on the spare erg we’re planning to have alongside us!