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AN INTERVIEW WITH 'ON SHOULDERS OF GIANTS' ROWING TEAM

AN INTERVIEW WITH 'ON SHOULDERS OF GIANTS' ROWING TEAM

Pelotan are delighted to announce that we will be supporting the On Shoulders of Giants rowing team, during the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, otherwise known as the worlds toughest rowing challenge.

The challenge? To row the Atlantic as quickly as possible, ultimately looking to win the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge whilst raising awareness and money for two infinitely important and under-resourced causes. Together they will take on rough seas and a hot, tropical climate that will constantly expose them to the sun and its UV radiation. Designed specifically for endurance athletes, Pelotan will provide the team with maximum protection, whilst enabling peak performance – from sunrise to sunset and ensuring that no matter what obstacles they face, sunburn won’t be one.

We had the chance to catch up with the team before they set off on the challenge of a lifetime.

Pelotan: Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about the challenge?

OSOG: The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a 3000-mile unsupported row from La Gomera, Canary Islands to English Harbour, Antigua. The row will take up to 40 days, rowing 2 on 2 off, 24 hrs a day

Pelotan: Can you tell us about your team name ‘On Shoulders Of Giants’, and what it means to you and the team?

OSOG: On Shoulders of Giants is about recognising that we have only made it this far thanks to those who have supported us through out our campaign and those who have gone before. We also hope that we are giving something back through our charities, both of whom help to support people be more independent.

Pelotan: Preparation is key to any major sporting event/challenge, how has the team prepared for what is going to be extremely physically demanding?

OSOG: Physically, we have been training in the gym and on rowing machines for the past 18 months and have been out on the water all summer clocking up around 200hours of actual rowing time. We have also worked with coaches and a psychologist to prepare mentally. The truth is, the challenge is one big unknown so the key strategy we have agreed on is having an open and honest dialogue about how we’re feeling at all times. Hopefully, that will enable us to get on top of things before they become a bigger issue.

Pelotan: Can you tell us what a single day may consist of, and any unexpected challenges you may face when on the boat?

OSOG: Our normal shift pattern will be 2 hrs on, 2hrs off. There are times when this will change due to conditions but we aim to stick to it as much as possible. In your “on time” it’s all about a consistent effort on the oars and when you’re off, you need to look after yourself and the boat. Looking after yourself includes being well hydrated, eating, resting and dealing with any little niggles. With regards to the boat, it’s a small space so you need to keep it clean and tidy in the cabins and on deck. We will also need to make water daily with an onboard desalinisation unit. At times we may have to make running repairs to our oars, gates and seats and about once a week we’ll have to get in and clean the hull, the underside of the boat!

Pelotan: Nutrition and hydration will be important, can you tell us what your daily intake will be?

OSOG: We have 7-8000 kcal per person per day in a mix of high calorie shakes, dehydrated meals and snacks. We will get through about 10litres of water per person including the water we use to make up our meals and shakes.

Pelotan: What are the most important pieces of kit that you will have onboard?

OSOG: Safety-wise, we each have a harness and tether to keep us clipped on to the boat at all times in case we go overboard. We are carrying a life raft and have life jackets and emergency survival suits should the worst happen and we have to abandon ship.

The water maker is also a pretty key piece of kit as without that we’ll dehydrate very quickly which would be really dangerous. Everything on board is powered by 2 car type batteries which we charge with solar. Whilst losing power wouldn’t be catastrophic it would mean having to hand pump water and navigate manually, as well as losing all of our communication apart from one Satellite phone that we can charge with a separate solar panel.

Pelotan: How can the unpredictable weather conditions affect your overall performance during the challenge?

OSOG: The dominant conditions are extreme heat, meaning hydration is key. At this time of year, the prevailing winds should be in our favour however periods of low wind and calm seas we may have to increase our effort in order to maintain speed. In terms of waves, we expect swells of up to 10 metres. Our boat should be able to surf on following seas which is good for speed but you have to be careful not to overcook it and risk capsize. The boat should self right if it does go over but we don’t feel the need to test it!

Atlantic whiskey challenge

Pelotan: How can extreme UV exposure from the sun affect your overall performance?

OSOG: It’s important to protect ourselves from the sun. At its simplest level, sunburn would be uncomfortable and interfere with our rowing effort as well as our sleep. Sunburn would also accelerate dehydration which is already a huge concern. On a physiological level, our bodies are already going to be under a lot of stress and we want them to focus on repairing and refuelling tired muscle, the tissue damage caused by sunburn would detract from this, using up valuable resources.

Pelotan: How important is it that access to food, water, sun protection etc is as convenient as possible?

OSOG: There’s a lot of kit to carry and packing the boat has been a massive 3D game of Tetris! When you’ve only got 2hrs to rest you want everything to be at hand so you can get your head down as much as possible. We’ve prioritised our storage to make sure things we need to have to hand, like sunglasses, hats, extra layers and wet weather gear are easily accessible. We keep the Pelotan spray by the door in the cabin as it’s great for quickly getting a layer on before you go on shift. Being able to spray directly on to the skin it stops your hands getting too greasy which helps with grip on the oars. On deck, it’s important to be able to minimise time it takes to do things, so our water bottles are mounted as close as possible and things like sun cream that we need to apply regularly have a dedicated pouch. The Pelotan Roll-On is great for being able to apply directly one handed, while keeping the other hand on the oars and if you have to put it down quickly it doesn’t leak and make a mess of the deck!

Pelotan: How do you mentally prepare yourself for 40 days on the boat?

OSOG: The honest truth is, I’m not sure you can really prepare mentally! We have run through potential scenarios on board and agreed how we might react. Throughout the campaign there have been highs and lows, both relating to training but also around logistics and fundraising. We have developed some problem solving strategies that will come into play a lot on board. Ultimately, something we have discussed a lot is that we have chosen to do this. We know it’s going to be tough and that’s what we’re in it for. Reframing those dark times as an opportunity to find out what you’re made of is what it’s all about. We feel very fortunate to be able to take something like this on so you have to choose to enjoy it.

Pelotan: What is your motivation and inspiration to undertake this challenge?

OSOG: Aside from being a rare opportunity to experience something really incredible, we are inspired by our 2 charities.
The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation is a charity set up by former Scotland rugby international, Doddie Wier, following his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease, an incurable degenerative neurological condition a good friend of Rauri’s died of a few years ago. They help fund research into treatments for MND and also support sufferers to be more independent.

Pursuing Independent Paths is a grassroots charity that Dan is a trustee of. They support adults with learning disabilities achieve independence by teaching life skills and helping them find employment.

We have seen first hand the incredible work these charities do and are so grateful for everyone’s donations to them.

Pelotan: How has the support been so far?

OSOG: In what has been a difficult year we have been blown away by the support we’ve had. We are lucky to have some incredible sponsors who have helped to cover the costs of the campaign either through financial donations or providing kit and equipment. Our families have also been amazing dealing with us being away for days and weeks at a time through training and putting up with us talking about not much other than ocean rowing for the past 2 years! Down at our training base in Lymington, we’ve loved having the public come and ask us about the row, the support there has been amazing. We have raised nearly £20,000 for our charities so far and are hoping to keep that total climbing into Antigua and beyond!

As proud sponsors, we wish them the best of luck and would like to encourage everyone to continue supporting them and their two chosen causes. Find out more HERE