11 Apr 2005, Palmeira, Cape Verde Islands
I´ve moved from my winter´s endurance training into a very enjoyable phase of my preparations for the race - ocean familiarisation. For the next 6-8 weeks, home will be a Sigma 38 yacht called Steamy Windows, on passage from the Cape Verde Islands to the UK via the Azores. This is a perfect opportunity to get my sea legs, check I don´t suffer from seasickness, put my navigation theory into practice, learn about marine technology, and generally get used to life on the ocean wave.
Before I left, I staggered through a final hectic round of meetins with potential sponsors, in the optimistic hope that financial matters will progress in the right direction (i.e. net IN-flow) during my absence.
Then I picked up the rucksack I´d packed in Leeds over a week, several counties and one house-move ago, and headed for the airport. I´ve been reluctant to fly every since I found out about the huge environmental impact, but there was no other way to get to Cape Verde in a realistic timescale.
Arrived on board Steamy at 2am last night - Russ skilfully managing to get one exhausted new crewmate and her rucksack down the rickety jetty and into Steamy´s tiny dinghy, in the dark, without mishap.
I crawled into my cabin, wondered how I was going to sleep with the unaccustomed movement of the boat... and that was my last conscious thought before falling inot a deep and much-needed slumber.
06 Apr 2005, Kensington
Diana Hoff is the only British woman to do it solo. Her husband has done it twice. Her daughter tried to do it, but had to be rescued after two weeks. Do what?
Row the Atlantic, of course.
Fresh (or distinctly otherwise) from my latest round of torture, I mean testing, with the sports science lab in Hatfield, I hastened to London to meet the Hoff family on the eve of departure by the two senior Hoffs to compete in the Marathon des Sables.
After this and my meeting with Rosie Stancer yesterday, I'm feeling much more informed about the unique challenges and rewards facing endurance athletes, and well and truly inspired to persevere in my endeavours to join their ranks.
06 Apr 2005, Essex
Rosie Stancer, polar explorer, is a cool lady and a wonderfully warm human being. I was introduced to her by a mutual friend, and over dinner at her house last night subjected her to an interrogation about how to prepare for extreme physical endeavour.
It's been invaluable to learn from someone of her experience, who has proved that when it comes to feats of endurance physical size is less important than an indomitable will to succeed.
02 Apr 2005, Oxon/Devon/Hampshire/London/Leeds
I now have a boat, a home for the summer, two new sponsorship deals, a radio interview, and a lot of new friends. It's been a good week.
Things are hotting up as I dash around the country trying to tie off old loose ends and start new balls rolling in the last few days before I leave for Cape Verde and my sailing trip on Steamy Windows.
Quick summary of the last week:
Monday - met Damian West, top bloke and 2001 Atlantic Rowing Race veteran. Guided tour of his boat, and loads of helpful advice and contacts. Great dinner with him and his fiancee Harriet, but stayed up too late and drank too much damson gin.
Tuesday - Damian/damson hangover. Forced self to go for run to sweat it out. Meeting with Jill White of Yukon Tourism to line up dog-mushing experience in Canada post-row. Spent evening in Tetbury with Womad Stevie, who transfused me 1000 songs for my new iPod.
Wednesday - down to Devon for photo session on board Solo with Mick Dawson of Woodvale, to get pics to go with forthcoming mag interview. On to Exmouth for long chat with Justin Adkin of Rowsell and Adkin boatbuilders re the structural work to be done on Solo while I'm away. R and A built the hull of Solo and are THE ocean-rowing boat specialists, and Justin is also an entrant in this year's race, so he's quite the guru. Then on to Portsmouth to stay with Dave and Jane of Polaris fame...
Thursday - up at crack of dawn for 7.30 a.m. interview with Julian Clegg at BBC Radio Solent. I'll be a regular guest on the morning show - next broadcast will be via satphone from Steamy Windows somewhere between the Azores and England, on 11th May. Then a meeting with Furneaux Riddall (watermaker sponsor) in Portsmouth and on to Emsworth for a highly enjoyable meeting with James Hewitt of Tacktick - see the Sponsors page for the outcome. Then quick bit of househunting, resulting in finding my PERFECT home for the summer - a gorgeous old cottage in the heart of the village. Take a look! Quick drinkie with Owain Evans, father of Russ, the skipper of Steamy Windows, to pick up a vital part for the generator, then on to London and the Ocean Rowing Society HQ in Camden...
Friday - meetings in the City to plan a business/charity breakfast, and to see various potential sponsors, then off to new Apple superstore in Regent Street to upgrade my Powerbook so AT LAST it will speak to my iPod... then on to an evening seminar at the ORS to glean yet more information from Those Who Have Gone Before.
Saturday - drive back to Leeds, and contemplate pile of stuff to be sorted and packed ready to move to Emsworth next week. Decide it's all too much for now, and collapse in a heap.
Tomorrow's another day, but for now I think I deserve to sit down and enjoy a small glass of wine and a big sense of accomplishment.