An ocean is uniquely vast. The Atlantic Ocean covers 21% of the planet. It could fit the entire Asian continent into it twice, with millions of square miles to spare.
Rowing across it is an almost unfathomable task – often requiring over 3,000 miles of rowing, expending 5,000 calories per day, battling with 20-ft waves, two-hour sleeping shifts, and millions of rowing strokes. Less people have rowed across the Atlantic than have reached the summit of Everest, or travelled into space. It is a rare trial of physical and mental strength, coupled with considerable logistical challenges.
Yet it is a challenge that has never ceased to attract adventurers.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has become the most famous ocean rowing challenge, starting on December 12th in La Gomera and finishing Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua. It consists of around 30 teams of between one and four people. This year On the Shoulders of Giants is a four-man team who are rowing in aid of Motor Neuron Disease and adults with learning disabilities, and have dreams of the overall win.
‘All of us have done big challenges in the past,’ says On the Shoulders of Giants team member Rauri Hadlington, ‘But the biggest challenge I’ve done lasted a week. The Atlantic Challenge will be a week-in-week-out ordeal that usually takes in 3,000 miles of rowing. Who knows how you’ll respond to that? The end isn't going to be in sight for a really long time.’
The mental and physical challenge will be significant, with the team having to rotate in two-hour shifts of two. Meaning that each rower only gets a maximum of two hours of sleep over the period of around 40 days it takes to complete the challenge. ‘The hardest part is probably around 36 hours into the row, because you don't get into the rhythm of the sleep pattern for that first night,’ says Rauri, having already sampled some of the challenges of sleep deprivation in his training rows. ‘So in that period things are quite challenging.’
The team will also need to make important navigation decisions out on the water that could make the difference between winning and losing. ‘There's a bit of a split in the field as to whether you try and stay further North and minimise the amount of the distance that you row,’ Rauri explains. ‘Alternatively you can go further South to pick up better conditions, knowing that you’ll travel further but you can travel faster. It’s the type of decision you have to make based on conditions on the day and then live with for weeks of rowing even if it ends up being the wrong one.’
Alongside a world of physical, mental and logistical challenges, rowing an ocean requires a very specific selection of clothing with unique performance and comfort qualities. It’s here where ashmei, naturally, has been an eager and willing partner.
Dressed for the task
Clothing may seem like a minor consideration when rowing an Ocean, and indeed so much so that many rowers opt to not wear any at all. It’s not uncommon to spend days rowing without any clothing to stay cool and reduce chafing.
‘The naked thing... some people are really into it. Some people aren't,’ says Rauri, with a slight air of skepticism. No wonder, then, that the team opted for an ashmei outfit.
‘One of the probably biggest things we have to deal with in December, given where in the world we are, is heat and the sun,’ Rauri explains. ‘So being trying to stay cool, but also being protected from the elements is a really important part. It's a bit of a nightmare if you wind up getting sunburned on day three, because that's just going to affect everything from then on – how well you sleep, how comfortable you are on the oars and really every element of the challenge.’
With the changeable conditions, savagely hot days, and not a hint of shade in the middle of the ocean, the selection of kit for the team has been vital. ‘We’ll be using both the Merino long sleeve base layer and the Merino long sleeve jersey because both of those are SPF 50,’ says Rauri. ‘I quite like wearing the base later on its own as I like the round neck, but the zip on the jersey is great for getting a bit more ventilation.’
‘The jersey – even though it's long sleeve, and it's wool, is actually really good for the height of summer. It was pretty comfortable to be wearing it up into the high 20s. I'd also often still be wearing one of the long sleeve base layers underneath, as it manages temperature relatively well out on the water,’ he adds.
‘The wind jacket is something we can throw on a sort of a ‘spray layer’,’ says Rauri. The Windjacket features a C0 DWR treatment, offering water and wind resistance while remaining environmentally friendly. ‘This is great for when you're getting spray off the water, or if it is windy. It just gives you a little bit of protection from the elements.’ says Rauri.
‘We’ve used the hoodie overnight a lot on our training rows, when it gets a bit cooler overnight. The hoodie is nice and warm, but it’s also not too loose fitting so it doesn’t get caught on anything,’ Rauri adds. Featuring a Merino looped fleece lining and a durable fabric front, the Hooded Sweatshirt maintains the rower's optimum temperature, whilst performing for the thirty plus days at sea.
While the challenge of a transatlantic row might not seem like a source of environmental concerns for many onlookers, On the Shoulder of Giants have chosen ashmei partly because of their focus on sustainability.
‘I read up on sustainability issues, and ashmei has spoken a lot about the eco-benefits of using wool as a biodegradable material and the importance of responsibly sourcing the materials,’ says Rauri. ‘We are definitely conscious that our team is trying to manage the carbon footprint of the campaign as much as possible. In the past some teams brought four t-shirts, wore a t-shirt a week, and then just threw them away. The first week’s t-shirt becomes the next week’s rag.’
‘Our approach to it is that we've each got three sets of kits, each set of kit is going to include a long sleeve and a short sleeve t-shirt, a couple of pairs of boxer shorts, a couple of pairs of socks, and a pair of rowing shorts.
We’ll keep updated with the OSOG team as they embark on their incredible transatlantic challenge. If you’d like to support OSOG’s MND and adults with learning disabilities charity, please click here
Men's Merino T-Shirt
Men's Merino Hooded Sweatshirt
Men's Long Sleeved Merino Zip Top