First of all, congratulations. How did it feel finishing in front of your family and friends?
It was epic, awesome. The whole two year period has built up to that, and it felt incredible to finally be there.
The race took a lot of preparation – was there ever a point where you thought you wouldn’t get out on the water?
I don’t think so. Once the preparation began, I was quite confident to be honest. I just thought ‘well, if this breaks, I’ll do this differently’. I had a lot of small things to watch out for and came up with loads of situations in my head. I knew that there was no way I wouldn’t get there.
What was the hardest part of the race?
The hardest part was probably the cross and head winds. I don’t know if I expected that; I didn’t really prepare for it. On those days, the boat just felt really, really heavy and that was a real challenge. When every stroke feels like a deadlift and you know you’ve got another fifteen hours to go, that’s a really grim thought to be honest. I just found that anything would really annoy me – blades would whack me as they rolled in their gates and I’d just start shouting. It’s easy to get frustrated.
Rowing at night can be really dangerous as you can’t really see what’s happening. If it’s a crosswind at night, the boat can literally be swamped and you don’t really have much warning. During the day, it’s much easier to judge and adapt. I wouldn’t call it scary, just unexpected. There were two nights when it was particularly bad, and I just figured that it wasn’t worth carrying on so I stayed in my cabin. Looking back, I’m pretty glad I did that as the cabin is the safe place.
How daunting was the solo part? No company, complete solitude for weeks?
I suppose it means I have to row more each day, which is tough. I’d be rowing up to nineteen hours a day – on average, it’d be around sixteen and that would really take it out of me. Some of the guys who were aiming to win it would row for three days straight just to steal a march. They’d have teams of people working out weather patterns and when to go crazy whereas I just wanted to get across to the other side.
Another big difference is not having anyone to talk to. I had really generous communication packages which meant I could ring up pretty much anyone whenever I wanted to, which was a huge help. There were a few days where I missed talking to someone and I’d be feeling down, and then I realised I hadn’t spoken to anyone in 24 hours. Human contact is so important, just to keep you sane.
How proud are you to have done this in memory of your Father, and did that knowledge help you whilst you were out there?
It definitely pushed me on. Ever since my father got ill, I wanted to do something and raise some money. I told him about it at the time, although I hadn’t planned anything. It spurred me on a lot. I’ve raised, at a conservative estimate, around a quarter of a million pounds, which is just incredible.
Other than the above, why did you want to become the youngest person ever to row across the Atlantic?
Getting the record was just the icing on the cake really. I wanted to get the record to attract more sponsors fundamentally. Rowing the Atlantic has been something I wanted to do for a while, and the record is an excellent addition to help pull in media interest and sponsors. It’s a brilliant feeling.