There is something, almost primal, about watching a rowing boat, powered simply with hearts and minds, harness the energy of the seemingly relentless sea.
This weekend I was invited to join Atlantic Discovery for their second two-day training session. I was honoured to meet Ellida for the first time, the most important member of the team. She is a beauty; with long clean lines, grace and strength, and a backbone of experience: 2018/19 will be her fifth Atlantic crossing.
A glimpse of their dream
First on the agenda was a session of open ocean drills at Weymouth on the Dorset coastline. My task was to take some photographs of the team on the water. From the moment we left the protection of the harbour walls, the brisk breeze and bumpy sea made the boys come alive: their eyes lit up and they braced themselves for the rough water, carefully alert, feeling the boat respond beneath them, learning how she handled the swell, surfing a few waves and, of course, finding time for selfies.
Watching them from my privileged position on the support rib, I felt a deep sense of awe and respect. And, I understood. Atlantic Discovery, and the beautiful Ellida, are going to cross the Atlantic together. This is what they have all signed up for. The adventure. The challenge. The hardship. The extreme journey. The exhilaration of meeting the elements head on.
Today they glimpsed their dream.
After a fantastic morning on the water, the boys stripped and polished Ellida and finished the day with a frank discussion about where they were as a team. I was impressed. The team only formed a couple of months ago and they are very different people. They were honest and mature in the way gave feedback to each other and, I felt, began to the lay the foundations for growth. It would seem that this team understand the importance of communication - a critical success factor for their mission.
"I hate boats!"
Sunday was spent with ocean-rowing legend and multiple world record holder Angus Collins in his capacity as project manager at Rannoch Adventure. Between me and you, this guy has a cuteness factor (oops sorry, coolness factor) of 10.
He gave Ellida a thorough going over - checking her equipment, giving advice on how to maximise efficiency, and he spent quite a long time upside down with his head in one or other of her hatches. Hilariously, I heard him mumble on at least two occasions: "I hate boats!". Considering he has racked up 10,000 miles of rowing - in boats - this greatly appealed to my sense of humour. It's clear Angus LOVES boats and knows every inch of them!
Observing Angus sharing his passion for adventure and endurance, and hard earned learnings with the team, and seeing their absolute absorption in his every word, it was clear his coaching and advice more than hit the spot. The training session left the team inspired and motivated - a real high point in the early stages of their adventure.
At one point Angus asked the team what their objective for the race. There answer was a surprise to me: it appears Atlantic Discovery has a competitive streak. Oh my. This journey just gets more and more interesting.
Watch this space @virtualstowaway Penny Bird is a professional photographer and writer documenting Atlantic Discovery's incredible journey.