Top three essentials to take on an Atlantic crossing?
Eli: Good wet weather gear; lots of small iPods which can be easily charged; and chocolate-flavoured protein cookies.
John: Tights; foul weather gear; wet wipes.
Scott: Sudocrem; memory foam seat cushions; more Sudocrem!
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
Eli: More about electrics! You have to have back-ups for everything and you’re totally reliant on solar power and high tech ethanol generators. I relied too much on other people for all that. I understand it now; I wish I did at the beginning.
What’s the one question that everyone asks?
Eli: ‘How was the row’. And, ‘would you do it again’.
Would you do it again?
Eli: No. But I am living it again by coaching the girls’ team who are preparing for this year’s challenge.
Nico: The only reason I would do it again is to attribute what I learned on this campaign to the next campaign.
Worst thing eaten on board?
Eli: Porcini mushroom daal; that was disgusting. No, wait, even worse than that was cold spaghetti meatballs which tasted like the cheapest generic canned food you can buy.
Scott: All of it; only the snacks were enjoyable.
John: Daal, spinach and rice which resulted in uncontrollable flatulence.
Any advice for others taking part?
Eli: The same advice given to us by the ocean rowing course we took; it’s better to be a cautious pessimist than an eager optimist.
Nico: If you’d asked me the day after I got in I’d say don’t do it. But when I look back at the whole experience from start to finish it’s such an incredible chapter in my life. I would recommend to anyone thinking of doing it to do so and to take as much as you can from the experience. Give it all you have; you can’t do it half-heartedly, you’ve got to be really driven and commit a lot of your time to training.
There’s only so much you can prepare for a challenge like this – what was the biggest surprise along the way?
Eli: How bad the weather was for so long. For 20 out of 30 days there were rain showers every night. That was really hard because it was cold; we felt so miserable. We were surprised by how rough it was too – we nearly capsized four times. We are all experienced seamen and we felt the weather was extreme.
Silliest conversation on board?
Eli: Nico and I were listening to an audio book of ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne. It was narrated by a guy with the most ridiculous accent and Nico and I spent a huge amount of time mimicking his posh English accent. We would use the accent to describe the things we saw around us. John and Scott had really had enough of that.
What was the closest you guys came to an argument?
Eli: We had some little ones caused by sleep deprivation, exhaustion and dehydration; stuff we would never argue about normally, like having to switch off devices used to communicate with people back home to save electricity. Our ethanol charger didn’t work so we left it in the Canary Islands. It meant we didn’t have enough electricity to make water so we had to lose our autopilot and do more hand steering. It was stressful; there were two other teams next to us the whole time.
Eli: Because we had to hand steer we weren’t sleeping as much as the other teams. One day I could see a bridge in the clouds. It felt like we were rowing under Brooklyn or Hammersmith bridge. I knew it wasn’t there really but my mind was telling me it was.
Best wildlife encounter?
Eli: Minke whales came and hung out with us quite a few times. One time they were there for a whole hour; we watched them surfing the waves, close enough to touch.
What did u miss the most?
Eli: My son. And a dry bed. Imagine what it’s like being wet for 25 days, 24 hours a day.
Scott: My wife and my toilet.
Any frightening moments?
Eli: Lots! Once, two huge waves threw the boat on its side. We saw 25ft waves frequently. There were a lot of times we were really worried for the amateur teams. There was one day in particular we all said there could be fatalities. In fact, one boat went missing for a bit and another caught fire.
Weirdest dream on board?
Eli: A bunch of German Shepherds trying to attack me on Jabberwock Beach. It felt so real I told Scott not to go in the cabin.
Scott: My aunt who’s passed away spoke to me.
John: All of my dreams were pretty weird; the one I remember most was giving instructions on how to open the hatch but I was talking to the bulkhead and not a person.
Any mantras that kept you going?
Eli: I couldn’t think of it as 3,000 miles so I focussed on the two-hour shifts instead. Even that felt like an eternity. I just kept reminding myself I only had an hour left, or half an hour, or five minutes.
Best rowing tunes?
Eli: DJ Quixx gave us half a million songs and DJ Tanny gave us an iPod so together they filled our boat with music. There was a lot of classic reggae. Nico had an iPod with dancey, trance stuff from Monte Carlo; me and him loved that.
Scott: ‘Sail’ by Awolnation.
John: Zouk. [French Antillean Carnival music.]
What was it like coming second to a bunch of amateurs?
Eli: There are no amateurs in the top five. In England, the Four Oarsmen could go to various seminars, they were able to meet with teams that had taken part before, and they’d done a huge amount of preparation and study. For the entire three weeks in the Canary Islands before the race started they seemed to be working around the clock, sanding and tweaking the boat. They’re all very smart guys and huge too! Their legs alone are enormous. The challenge is 60 per cent legs, 20 per cent core and 20 per cent arms and shoulders.
What kept you motivated to the finishing line?
Eli: Wanting to win for the country. The only reason we were there is because I was approached by a Jolly Harbour homeowner who’d seen the way watching Team Wadadli take part in the challenge the year before had united the country. He’d been tracking Team Wadadli the whole way and gone to English Harbour and seen the country erupt when they arrived. He just wanted to give something back to the community so he put up funding to see Antigua represented again. That’s pretty frigging fabulous. So that was never far from our minds.
What was the highlight?
Eli: Sensory deprivation is real; out in the Atlantic there are only see so many colours you can see every single day. We saw no greens or oranges, you see no land and you don’t hear things like birds. When we came round the corner towards the finishing line in English Harbour and saw all the people and heard all the superyacht horns, it was too much for us to take in, it’s like a blur, your brain can’t process it. It was a high for sure. It’s amazing experiencing all that love from so many people; you could feel the country’s pride which was what it was all about.
Most important thing you learned.
Nico: It was so nice to be back on land it has made me appreciate life again and all the little things so much more.