Their preparation was only a year in the making, (a fraction of the time that the usual rowers train for this kind of task) and despite impossible weather systems, a close encounter with an freight liner and a midnight capsize, The Tempest Two have returned to home soil after 54 grueling days at sea. On the way they experienced intense highs, delirious lows and life threatening conditions and we’ve been catching up with the guys and picking their brains about their successful mission – the highs, the lows and what’s on the horizon for the adventurous duo.
Q: What was the best bit?
A: Tom: Hard to pin-point a ‘best bit’, but for me there were certain nights where the moon was full, the stars were bright and the rowing was fast. There were times where I would stop rowing and simply look around, and would find myself smiling to the thought of ‘what are we doing here? A moment of pure clarity, and a feeling of content.
A: James: Seeing the pilot boat after 54 days at sea. Only at this point did I allow myself to think we had made it after all the complications along the way. To come through it all together and reach Barbados was incredible. There were times I thought it may not happen, which only made it sweeter when the moment arrived.
Was there ever a genuine fear of death?
James: Not really, but there was one time that we actually came extremely close. We were in the routine, knuckling down for a long stint when a giant cargo ship cut straight across our path. Luckily we were headed slightly south of the bearing that we were due to be traveling on – if we we’re it would have been a different story. That was the closest, but we wouldn’t have known about it anyway, we literally would have been wiped out.
If it wasn’t death, what was the main fear when you were out there?
Tom: Rather than a fear of death, there was more of a constant fear that something really menial breaking on the boat. Like a key rope snapping or losing both sets of oars, one of those tiny things could jeopardise the entire trip. We had put all that effort in, but the reality out there is that something completely out of our control could have just sent us packing. We were less worries about our bodies breaking and more about the boat itself.
What about the capsizing, surely that was a bit of a nerve-breaker?
James: At the time we weren’t event thinking that we might die when it happened. It was more of a case of going through the motions – we were pretty efficient and matter of fact. It was like “shit, this just happened, but we need to get on with it otherwise things will get a whole lot worse”.
Tom: It was just completely surreal. At the time it really didn’t seem that bad, and within 10 minutes we were laughing about it – emotions took on a different nature out there.
Were there times when the friendship was strained?
Tom: It honestly couldn’t have been better. Before we set off we spoke to as many people as possible who had either attempted the row or done something similar. Pretty much every person we spoke to told us we we’re going to want to kill each other when we were out there, to the point where we spoke to one person who admitted that they seriously thought about chucking their partner over the edge at night (we won’t name any names).
James: In terms of an environment where tension can grow it was about as extreme as you can get. But I think that most people who do these kinds of things are experts in their field, so essentially you have a two egos on board and that’s where the frictions start. But it was different for us as we didn’t really have any idea what we were doing. We were almost bound together by a sense of naivety. When something went wrong we weren’t clashing over how we should fix it, we were more focused on working together and figuring out the best way of actually solving the problem.
Did the good times outweigh the bad while you were out there?
Tom: I’d say percentage wise it was probably 70-30. But we’d only really give ourselves 15 minutes to feel sorry for ourselves, and most of the time that was related to the weather. When we’d get stuck in a storm it could be a bit demoralising, and even more-so when we were so close to the finish line and we’d get stuck in terrible pressure systems. It was like no matter what we did, we were going backwards. But that’s when we’d just look at each other and be like, this is shit but we need to dig in and get through it.
James: It was incredible how quickly you could go from feeling as happy as you’ve ever been to feeling completely ruined just because the wind changes – it was like turning a light switch on or off. Then sometimes it was the complete other way round. We’d be sat in a storm for ages, looking at the counter and we just weren’t going anywhere. Then a slight change and it would be high fives all around and completely buzzing, it was almost euphoric at times.
Tom: Yeah, or sometimes we’d find a bag of chocolate and just lose our heads completely. It was the small things really, the experience was pretty bipolar but there were definitely more peaks than troughs and the peaks always meant more as well, so it was almost like the lows were worth it to feel the highs.
Can you sum up the experience in 3 words?
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