The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records

 


THE BRIGHT SPARK Updates

 

Will Mason and Tim Thurnham

 

November 27th 2001

So here we are at last! After many days of imagining what it would be like and when it would be, the finish has finally come. The weather in the last few days varied from extremely fast conditions to frustratingly slow making the finish time very difficult to predict. In the event we arrived a little earlier than expected causing havoc with the plans of the Bright Spark supporters. After rounding the North Point of the island we found ourselves flying along at four knots (that's flying for us, believe me) for the last five miles. Running on a fuel mixture of adrenaline and anticipation we were able to cross the line at 5 1/2 knots (narrowly avoiding the breakwater). 

After clearing customs in a slightly wobbly manner we were led to a fantastic welcome party in Port St Charles. It seemed like all my birthdays had come at once and I have to say I don't mind staying up here on cloud nine for as long as possible. Everyone commented how well we looked and indeed I have to say, apart from some slightly stiff fingers I have no complaints (yes, even the skin seems to have made a speedy recovery). They even had a pair of scales at the party and found that we had barely managed to shed a couple of kilograms. 

All we have wished for over the last weeks is waiting for us in Gibbes House - we haven't yet been able to make much impact on the fridge here but are working hard at it. 

We simply want to say a huge thank you to all our supporters who have helped us in any way - we have always known that we couldn't have done it without you and have been amazed by the numbers of emails of encouragement we have received. I hope we can see as many of you as possible on our return and share with you first hand a few tales from the Atlantic. 

Will and Tim 

Tuesday November 27th 

Due to the failure of the Ward Evans website to up date with their normal regularity this a copy of the news that was posted on the Bright Spark website on Monday evening. Tim & Will's account will follow in due course 

November 26th Bright Spark is now tantalisingly close, but the last stretch towards and around the top of the island is proving to be hard going because of the currents. We went to welcome in the New Zealand women's team a couple of hours ago, and they said it had been perhaps the toughest day of all (although they looked incredibly fresh). Will and Tim rang just as the NZ celebrations were going on to say that they were 2t0 miles out, to which a further six have to be added for getting round the island to Port St. Charles (the World Cruising mileages don't include this). A Challenge Business boat will be going out to meet them when they get a little closer. They sound in pretty good spirits, but Tim says it's 'like rowing through treacle.' So it's still quite difficult to say exactly when they'll be in and whether the celebratory meal will be a midnight feast, breakfast or what. Will keep you posted... 

November 26th THEY'RE HERE!! After a storming finish (during which they were doing five and a half knots at times) Will and Tim arrived at 9.40 p.m., only an hour behind Comship.com. The treacle conditions that had held them up (and the New Zealand women's team) earlier in the day miraculously subsided, and they took us completely by surprise. Anyway, they're in great shape (even the horrible complaints of their earlier emails have apparently receded) and surprisingly...normal. More to follow from the horses' mouths tomorrow - this is just to let you all know that they're safely here. 

Bright Spark Update 
18 Nov 2001


(Will) 
Crossed the 500 mile to go mark at 0630 today. Celebrated in usual fashion by bolting Thorntons' chocolate until feeling slightly queasy. Good present from Pippa - Mini Rough Guide to Barbados. Useful but doesn't quite match up to the present of the 20 degrees longitude parcel - a very advanced and sensitive piece of meteorological equipment. Called the Weather Predictor, it consists of a length of string with a piece of foam sponge and a bead on one end. The instructions read something like this: Hang outside your window. Sponge wet - rain, sponge dry - sunny, string horizontal - windy, frozen sponge - cold, no sponge - foggy. Funnily enough, it makes a perfect telltale for the wind direction and is invaluable for steering dead downwind. We hung it from the radar reflector where it has remained useful to this day. 

Now Barbados really does feel close - 9 or 10 days depending on the conditions. At about one-third to one-quarter to go, we had many encouraging emails saying how close Barbados was and the end was in sight etc making it start to feel almost like a fait accompli. Then we got back on the oars again and realised that, last quarter or first quarter, 700 miles is still 700 miles and there still remained the small matter of actually rowing it. Somehow, four days later, while the same could be said, right now it feels suddenly much closer. 

Probably the weather has helped. Although hot and muggy again with little wind for Sunday and Monday, the forecast is good, which always lifts the spirits. Also (you will be as glad to hear the end of it as me) the skin has improved thanks to the wind in recent days and continuation of intense washing regime. [On that note, in response to your question, Owain, yes, we have thought of rowing naked and indeed birthday suits have been worn by both of us for most of the second half. Recently however, Tim has been sporting a pair of briefs fashioned at the rear into a kind of loin cloth for extra ventilation. Can't see they'll catch on.] 

Very variable weather recently, still no solid trade winds that we had been promised in the brochure (together with the view and the en suite, but we hear we may get Challenge Business vouchers towards the next race). Two nights ago I was trying to keep my eyelids open during the 2am - 4am shift. Maybe I had unwittingly uttered a request from above to help me stay awake beacuse within minutes I found myself in the middle of a huge thunderstorm in pitch blackness split occasionally by lightning. Pelted with horizontal rain and soaked to the bone, I rowed the remaining hour of the shift barely making a knot, before clambering thankfully into the cabin. Less than 24 hours later, a glorious sunset with a gentle following breeze and glassy water and I'm doing an effortless 3 knots. There followed one of the clearest nights so far. We have become quite used to the number of shoting stars and tend to notice only the brighter ones. Last night I counted twenty in one minute. I never knew there could be so many different types. Long or short, with or without trails, fast or slow, dim or like burning magnesium. The best was one from horizon to horizon, across the whole sky, like a jet leaving a vapour trail. 

During my last shift, I compiled a list of ten things I am looking forward to in Barbados: 

1) Seeing Pippa and my family 
2) Standing unsupported 
3) Walking 
4) Sleeping more than 2 hours 
5) Grass, trees etc.. 
6) 3 hour all over body massage 
7) A cold beer 
8) Any cold drink 
9) Especially a few more cold beers 
10) Armchairs and cushions 


(Tim) 
our "mission control" (i.e. will's father) is about to decamp to barbados to join the growing welcome party. we hope to maintain email ccommunications, but this may not prove possible. at worse, your incoming emails will be read to us over the sat phone, but this may be our last update to you until we cross the finish line. we hope you have enjoyed reading our updates so far. we have enjoyed writing them, and hope they have gone some way to "bring the atlantic to your desktop". if anyone has not yet become a sponsor, it is still possible to donate money (1p per mile = 30 pounds) to the charity SPARKS by printing off a form from our website www.brightsparkchallenge.com and sending it to Helen Farquharson at SPARKS. 

Bright Spark Update No. 9
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 18:12

Have finally got around to writing another update. For some they probably come too often anyway and clog up the inbox.

Been rather hot, humid and generally sticky for the last week. Both of us lacking energy to do much when off shift. Mostly we just lie semi-comatose in the cabin, limbs splayed, gasping with joy at every breath of air that manages to make it into the cabin. I have enjoyed some time rigging several anti-heat devices; one involves my towel deflecting a crosswind into the aft facing hatch - a real life-saver. Today my sleeping bag liner has doubled up as a fantastic canopy over the cockpit. Other than that, we have spent time dumping about 50kg of food in an effort to get to Barbados sooner.

I'm afraid that mostly are minds are still occupied by the dermatological challenges that have presented around our bodies in the last few weeks. Boring I know (can't he just stick to writing about the rowing and the wildlife?) but this is the real life of the atlantic rower, not the glossy magazine (yes, I know there isn't a glossy magazine but you get the point). I spend about 2 hours every day washing and treating various rashes in a pseudo-scientific way with our dwindling supply of creams."Well what did you expect? You are rowing the Atlantic" people may well point out. Simply that, of all the people I spoke to who had done this before, no one mentioned that it would be wise to take more talc and antifungal remedies. I offer this advice to anyone in the unlikely position of reading these updates and still wanting to row across the Atlantic. It doesn't matter how much you have. Take more.

Rob Hamill, winner of the previous race, wrote in his book how he had found a solution to a problem he faced - tendinitis in his shoulder - and named it the Hilary Step (after Sir Edmund Hilary who had found a step up in a seemingly impassable part of his ascent of Mount Everest). Tim and I have referred to this so much during the trip we seem to have needed a Hilary staircase, or better still, elevator. I did make a definite Hilary Step in designing a sort of rope foot stretcher (or stirrups, as Tim calls them) that allows the rower's feet to be placed apart along the rope, as wide as need be to allow sufficient air circulation in the groin. Unfortunately there is no footstrap to steady you so it is necessary to strap a bungee from the actual footplate to your harness which stops you falling over backwards. It looks like some sort of torture device (and perhaps, in a way, it is) but it has at least allowed me to keep rowing this last week andtherefore gained us many miles.

I'm afraid we're back to our groins again. Sorry, you begin to see how it is now. Yesterday, while rowing, I thought of another quote from Rob Hamill's book that was very helpful: no matter how badly off you think you are, therer is always somebody in a worse position. I think this was accompanied by a picture of a bull fighter losing a fight in an extremely painful way. I too began to think of various groups of people who I was more fortunate than. As I had only recently read Birdsong and it was Remembrance Sunday, my mind turned to the trench soldiers of the First World War and from there to Afganistan. Needless to say, my mood immediately soared, although soon tainted by guilt that I had used these people simply for my own wellbeing. All the same it's something I hope I remember long after I have finished this.

Thank you once again for your emails of support and again, sorry we can't reply immediately to you all. Just crossed 800 miles to go! Time for some for mental arithmetic to work out some more markers...

Will

Brigh Spark (update 8)
Sun, 11 Nov 2001 21:52

Dear All

going ok. v v humid still but a few breaths of wind. generally v odd weather. half flattish seas with long swell and F1 ESEv - fastisg but sapping. interspersed with 5-10 min periods of F2-F3 SSE with nasty cross chop - v slow. roll on the trades!

healthwise, skin in chronic status quo. tim;s bum is limiting factor and cause for recent lowish mood. usual other assortment of aches and pains but holding together generally ok by spending 2 hours a day washing and applying various lotions and potions.. resigned to fact that only way to achieve healing is by rowing faster to get to barbados.

gel seat pads now both burst but hopefully workable after several rounds with duct tape. watermaker going great. dumped 30kg food yesterday and today. Seems a waste and is a shame for cooked food but not sorry to see fruslie bars go.

maybe that is why little wildlife seen recently. notable exceptions are butterfly!!! presumably blown from Africa poor thing. Funny white dove-like bird with long straightg thin tail ?caribbean origin. also school of 20-30 flying fish flying together!

will give anotherf happy pill to tim and ask him to write next email update when weather

Will 

Subject: Bright Spark update 7 - the good times? 
Date: Wed, 7 Nov 2001 10:26:07 -0000 

Hi 

you catch us on something of a recovery day. yesterday did not go well. 
for some unknown reason, we just could not make the boat run through the water. we only covered some 43 miles - far short of the 50+ which we have maintained consistently for about the last 2 weeks. our normal boat speed of between 2.5 to 3 knots was down to 1.5 to 2 knots, for the same input of effort. the wind and the waves (the usual suspects under such circumstances) were, although variable in direction, not working noticeably against us. just one of those inexpliceable things. Anyway, today (tue) seems much better. we are back on target for beating 50 miles in the day and there is a light tail wind to keep us a little cool as well. perhaps yesterday was a timely reminder that this race is still far from over. we are still at the mercy of the ocean and its weather. Maybe Will's friend was right, who emailed us to say that this phase from 1/2 way to 3/4 is the hardest part of the race. "hitting the wall" as marathon runners know it. but hang-on a second, isn't there a sense of deja-vu here? before the start, we were told that the 1st 2 weeks would be the toughest - "once past 2 weeks, you're as good as there" they said. then it was the time before 1/2 way - "just concentrate on 1/2 way - it's all downhill from there". and now, we're hitting the wall! just when do the good times start! that's what Will & I want to know! 
In fact, for me, i have to admit to almost enjoying it. the first few weeks were definately not enjoyable. i struggled to come to terms with the 
likely duration of the race. 60 days seemed almost infinite! even in biblical stories people only had to endure 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness! i may have done some bad things in the past, but surely nothing deserving an extra 20 days! perhaps Will - I'll just check: "hey, Will ..." ... well, ok, that's pretty bad. but still surely only 50 days between us. Perhaps before confirming this to be an official "good time", we should review some positives and negatives of the trip so far: 
-ve :we have now covered some 1509 miles from tenerife, in 30 and a bit days, at just over 50 miles a day. Great! better than expected and much better than most boats in the last race. 
-ve: we still have 1114 miles to barbados - and that's 1114 miles too 
many! 
+ve: at 50 miles per day, that should mean we arrive in just 23 days. 
Start booking those all-over body massages now! 
+ve: so far, our only major complaints have been sore bums and painful skin infections in the groin. 
-ve: we would gladly swap almost any other complaint for the excruciating pain around the groin! {Will would even swap a rhinophyma for this - i 
don't understand either, an "in" medical joke i think}. 

+ve: we still have 4 two-man rations of lamb stew in rosemary sauce - delicious, our favourite meal - which we can now eat once a week. 

-ve: these are hidden amongst hundreds of wretched fruesli bars, and will probably take over 4 weeks to locate in the hold! 

+ve: we still have enough fruit cake (a great reminder of home - thanks to our Mums) and Pan Forte (a real treat - thanks to Jereboams of 
Cirencester). 

+ve: we have managed so far to keep our sat phone number secret from my elder sister. the global Iridium system (which has worked brilliantly so far) is still in its infancy and may never recover from such a capacity shock. 

+ve: all the emails we get from everyone are fantastic. "oxygen for the brain" said Will a couple of days ago. {personal note - I must try harder at conversation skills.} 

+ve: the boat has performed admirably - thanks to everyone at Rossiter Yachts. 

+ve: we hope to raise about 25,000 pounds for SPARKS, providing funds for medical research for children. 

-ve: neither Will nor I are likely to ever have children, due to the damage caused by aforementioned afflictions. 

in sumary, perhaps we should count our blessings and not dwell on on our problems. we are in good spirits and are sure to arrive in barbados before too long. no doubt we shall soon be at our desks back home, longing for the peace and solitude of the ocean. the good points will be remembered long after the bad ones are forgotten ... 

Will has just called me our customary 10 minute warning before shift change, and i must now go and spend the next 2 hours rowing this blasted boat slowly, oh so slowly, towards barbados. lucky, lucky me! no, this is definately not a good moment. perhaps i can pretend to be still asleep and squeeze an extra minute's rest onto his shift. just one small minute - he'd never notice ... damn - he saw the light from the computer screen. "ok - 
i'm coming ... roll on barbados!" 

Tim.

From: "Will Mason" 
Subject: Bright Spark Ltd.
Date: Tue, 6 Nov 2001 14:09:31 -0000


Tim recently had to send his apologies to the WR Refrigeration Board as he was unable to attend their recent meeting due to travelling difficulties.
However, he thought that they might be interested in the transactions oftheir Atlantic operation. The Board have kindly agreed that these couldbe forwarded to all suppliers.

*************************************************

minutes of 4-weekly board meeting of bright spark ltd
held mid-atlanic, on sunday 4 nov 01


md's report

first 4 weeks figures show an encouraging performance. the midway point was
passed on fri 2 nov, several days ahead of budget. 4 weekly result is 1,415
miles (i.e. 15% ahead of 60 day budget). the revised journey-end figure of
around 55 days (i.e. end nov) is challenging, but achievable if current
favourable trading conditions persist.

sevice operations are continuing to meet the revised forecast of 50+ miles
per day. some problems are occuring, especially certain unpleasant skin
conditions in particularly sensitive geographical areas. situation is
demanding considerable management time, but should soon be under control.

recent industry rankings place us about 8th, behind some foreign entries,
but clearly one of the leading uk based ventures.


fd's report

current 4-weeks figures compare favourably with both the 2001 budget and the
1997 typical race result. all in all, the revised forecast of 55 days
should be achievable.

                         2001 actual      2001 budget        1997 typical
weeks                      4                     4                       4
miles to date        1,415               1,225                  1,145

analysis by branch shows all locations exceeding budget, with the "mason"
branch putting in a particularly good result.

branch                miles/2h-shift

                      actual          budget          variance

mason              4.8               4.0              +0.8
thurnham          4.4               4.0              +0.4


market analysis

reports from 35 other entries show mixed results. foreign teams are clearly
leading the field, with some spectacular results from australian and nz
teams. [chairman asked for industry analysis report of australasian market
for next meeting.] while other teams were lagging behind, some having
folded already.

market forecasts predict better trading conditions in the southern region
(in which we are now well placed), although the expected seasonal patterns
had not yet become established.


possible acquisitions and over-takings

recent published results for 2 teams ranked just above us, but with more
northerly locations, give results of just 30 miles/day (compared to our
50+). the md expressed a personal view that the management teams of these
rival boats were complete idiots and did not know one end of a f***ing oar
from the other anyway. the chairman suggested action to mount over-taking
bids asap - such steps are already in place.

*********
proceedings were halted for lunch of dehydrated sandwiches, brought in by
the senior managers' secretary. when she asked kindly if there was anything
more she could do to help, the managent team asked for help in applying
cream to a particularly sensitive, but difficult to reach part of the
anatomy. she promptly left, giggling.
*********

pensions

the current management team wishes to announce its imminent retirement on
arrival in barbados, with full benefits. furthermore, we wish to propose
rdd & pgt to succeed us in the executive positions in time for the next race
in 2003.


any other business

the senior non-exec director asked whether all the sponsors were seeing
sufficient returns for their investment. the management team pointed out
that many hundreds of flying fish, together with dozens of dolphin and a few
sharks, were now familiar with the "bright spark" brand image. while this
might not show up in immediate profit figures, the investment was considered
worthwhile. furthermore, the management team wish to point out that it was
the chairman's idea anyway.

the junior non-exec director asked whether the results of the first 5
minutes of the race had been analysed sufficiently. it could be shown by
graphical extrapolation and incorrect aplication of bernouilli's law, that a
slight modification to the rudder design could increase boat speed by at
least 0.1%. the fd's response: no.

the chairman expressed his confidence that the same management team could
row a boat at least twice as long in the next race.


date of next meeting

this could not be agreed exactly, but is expected to be in late nov or early
dec.

location: barbados.

Subject: Bright Spark - half empty or half full? (No.6)
Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 21:33:52 -0000

Dear All

Once again, thank you for all the emails. i keep saying this but they are so important to us. They are our fuel for the mind, which is so much more important than the body. We always knew support back at home would be useful but you can't imagine what it is like to receive messages from you all out here.

Crossed the half way mark today! Been a long time coming since seemingly quick first third. Although obviously it is something to celebrate (and we have with Thornton's and letters again, thanks to Pippa) we both sometimes think how much we have to do all over again. In our hearts we would love this to be the finish but our heads know that we must break the second half down into achievable chunks and knuckle down to it. I suppose we oscillate between these two feelings. I have no doubt that the last 10 days will take care of themselves. It is this next middle phase that will be tough, until we have reached 2/3 gone. We are changing course today to take us further west than previuosly and focussing more on the distance to Barbados rather than the daily total achieved, which will also be a big psychological boost.

I actually wrote that last paragraph yesterday in preparation for today. I must add that spirits have obviously soared since then now we have actually passed the half way mark and the glass is very much half full. Also helped by glorious full moon all night followed by majestic sunrise to herald new stage of journey. Glassy water, fairly fast conditions and another swim have also contributed. Thornton's even better than imagined!

I am hoping that in the second half we will have more time in our off-shift in the day. At this stage we seem to have reached a status quo where things have either been fixed or deemed permanently broken and the number of little jobs around the boat is decreasing. We are lucky in that we have not yet suffered any serious gear failure and hope it continues that way. At the moment we do get some time to listen to the World Service (but annoyingly never at a time when there is anything on which is both in English and interesting) and we have just finished the world's longest game of Scrabble. I have just started my one book, The God of Small Things. More of our time, however, is taken up by washing and attending to personal hygiene in an effort to ikeep the sores at bay. This is not just for comfort but for boat speed - we have already had to take a few shifts off and simply sail (ie. just steer), to help things heal.

Just seen and videoed a 6 foot swordfish which was following us. I think it was a swordfish - it looked like a shark with an 18 inch spear-shaped nose and a white tailfin. Do marlin look similar? So close I felt I could touch it. Obviously as interested in us as we were in it as it followed us for an hour. Decided to stick with tinned tuna for evening meal though.

Sorry again not to be able to reply personally to all your questions but here are some replies:

Lucy: We do stand up quite often actually, it is one of the most comfortable positions in the boat as there are few places to sit comfortably. We have improved at getting around the small space and balancing but it is always risky to balance anything so we try not to. I do spend a long time composing these emails in my head while I am rowing. Trouble is, like Coleridge, I forget what I had brilliantly composed before I manage to get to the computer.

Phil (Battley) - thanks for the albatross joke

Vela - thanks again for the howlers - they are extremely funny

Mike (Lea) - hope it stays quiet for you in the arabian desert

Tom (Amies) - we haven't seen any other boats since we set out apart from the Challenge Business yacht which came to see us on about day 4. We do get plenty of time to think and mull things over - a luxury to most people that I am sure we do not appreciate enough, though I do try. This is really only while rowing in good conditions. In bad condtions, a fair amount of concentration is needed for steering in the waves and off shift, there is always pressure of time to cook, eat, sleep and maintain general health and boat equipment.

Anne and Harriet - thanks for your long email. I miss Kingston Deverill and look forward to seeing you around Christmas sometime.

Gareth (Hicks) - thanks for the info on albatross and flying fish - v useful. Can you help with the swordfish/marlin?

Will


Web links
SPARKS: www.sparks.org.uk
Bright Spark website: www.brightsparkchallenge.com
World Cruising: www.worldcruising.net For looking up race positions
Ward Evans Atlantic Challenge: www.wearc.com For press releases, news from other entrants, list of entries


Sun, 28 Oct 2001 12:07

Dear All

Thank you again to everybody who has emailed us. We really look forward to reading them and it definitely keeps the spirits up. While we would love to reply to you all, unfortunately we have had so many that it would just take us too long; I hope you understand if we just stick to the impersonal update.

Crossed our second line of longitude on Wednesday (30 degrees West) almost exactly one third of the way. Celebrated with parcels of delicious Thorntons chocolates, lavender and variuos letters organised by Pippa and Sarah, followed by quick dip to check for any growth on hull (none, fortunately) We now have about 4-5 days until halfway and will pass 1000 miles done today. Hooray! That's the update on our landmarks. Funny how you can always work out from any time or distance unit that there is something significant, if contrived, about any shift. eg. crossed half way point between 30 degrees West and 2/5 of overall distance.

Last night we were back to bumpy rowing having had very flat seas for the previous few days. The two are very different. The latter can be just like normal rowing, except on a huge lake, with the stars spread out above and only the sounds of the boat. In just a force 4, things become far more difficult. Steering directly downwind becomes extremely hard and the boat seems to gybe through 30 degrees in a couple of seconds. During these conditions, I tend to row much of the time with only one oar, my other hand yanking the steering line behind me. The boat slews and rolls wildly beneath me while I frantically contort and gyrate to keep seated. It reminds me exactly of a mechanical bucking bronco which I went on once at a party. The sea can give you a good ride for your money but at any point it can show you who's boss and, with a couple of vicious unexpected rolls, makes me collapse humbly to one side. One - nil.

One of our supporters has commented that life on board struck a resemblance to becoming a father. It has also crossed our minds too, except that we had thought it more similar to being the baby - lots of baby wipes, wearing mainly nappy rash cream and talc, getting up at all times in the night, being unsteady on our feet, only able to drink from bottles etc... I wonder what Freud would have to say about all this, especially of a man who rowed the last race - with his mother!

The wildlife continues to amuse. Flying fish are the best. We have now collected many different sizes on our deck, from insect sized ones to 5 inches long. They are fantastic fliers. When they catch the wind, they simply take off skipping over the waves and hugging the troughs, like jets avoiding radar detection. They go for a 100 yards or more - amazing. The other day I looked up to see two large silver bellies clearing our mast by a few feet, in formation on some mission many yards away.

The other fish we see loads of is the dorian (at least I think this is its name - it's what we're calling it anyway). It is an archetypal fish, silver and alpha-shaped, straight out of a cartoon fishmongers. They catch the flying fish by leaping out of the water, sometimes up to 5 feet high. only feet from the boat! Tim has tried to catch one with a length of thick cord and a safety pin but I don't think they can be that stupid.

Not so sure about the albatross anymore; Tim says that they are only found in the Southern Ocean. Is this true? Perhaps it was on holiday.

Better get my head down for some rest. There's loads I want to tell you but with my typing skills I wouldn't ever get any sleep. Have to wait till next week.

Thanks for all the support. Please keep the emails coming.

Will

PS. SPARKS say that donations are still coming in for the Bright Spark fund. Most of you reading this will already have contributed but if not, and you would like to, contact with SPARKS can be made either through our website, www.brightsparkchallenge.com or direct with SPARKS at www.sparks.org.uk

Mon 22 Oct 

Dear All 

Thanks for all the emails - it is really good to hear that people are actually following these nutters. 

We have now found a reasonable compromise between speed and sleep. We row in two hour shifts the whole time except for 2 hours between 0400 and 0600 when we both sleep, which gives us both a 4 hour break. We both really look forward to this and find that the next morning we are a bitg fresher than if we had rowed through the night. I think we probably are able to go faster  the next day as a result and don'e suffer so much from chronic fatigue. 

Contrary to what you might expect, we do not have that much time on our hands. Everything we do - cooking, eating, boat maintenance, repairs and generally looking after our health has to be balanced against the benefits of sleep. Having said that, when the cabin is hot and humid and rolling around the only way to get to sleep is to be really sleep-deprived, which kind of defeats the purpose. 

When we are not over-tired, the rowing can be really quite fun. In large seas it is completely different from normal rowing and more like white water rafting, except in the dark. For those who have not done this imagine riding a horse with one hand and stirring a bowl of cement with the other, while trying to balance on a space hopper in a swimming pool and that is probably not far off. On dark nights only the motion of the boat and the noise give clues as to where the waves are. The adrenaline rush seems quite out of place far from any where or anyone to share it with. At night, it seems you are traveling much faster and the shifts go mujch quicker, due to the concentration required to steer directly downwind in the large seas. The last couple days have been lighter winds, force 1 - 4 all from the NE I am pleased to say. The rowing is more languid and easier but it is harder to occupy your mind and ignore the pain from our bums. Tim's way of relieving this pain is tgo slap his bottom after every shift. He says it improves the circulation but I think he is a closet Morris dancer. 

Robin Williams tells me he is forwarding these emails to the CUBC squad. Hopefully this might make their 90 minute pieces seem a bit shorter. Also, it would be excellent training for boat race crews out here. The same principles of staying relaxed and loose still apply and the tideway will never seem rough again. 

It is a real palava getting ready for a shift. We wake up 10 minutes beforehand and go through a routine that (supposedly) takes no longer. We don Sudocrem and shorts below and a white silk longsleeve stained delightful brown by funny sunscreen. Then the broad rimmed hat (with matching stains), sunglasses, harness and line, minidiscman with full battery and least overplayed disc, sandals and accompanying sheepskin inserts for blisters. Then fill two waterbottles with grapefruit or orange drink and select snack. It reminds me a little of the chocolate game, and I have suggested to Tim that, to add variety and n element of surprise, we should only take over when we roll a six. 

Other news in brief as rest time is ebbing away: 

Saw a shark today - mean looking, followed us for a bit. 
Caught two flying fish - ie. they flew into us at night. 
Seen more dolphins and an Albatross (I think) 

I'll write more later. Thanks for all your support and encouragement - it really does help. 

Will 

You can follow the race at our website, www.brightsparkchallenge.com

Fri 19 Oct
Dear All

Hoped to write fair bit today for you to send round. It's been force 6 for the day and a tough lastg night so I haven't got time to do much. Also Tim has a badf sore throat and it not able tol row for a bit. We did 48 miles yesterday and wil do between 30 and 40 today. Bit disappointed because we proabaly will have slipped places but we have to look after ourselves. it is very wearing sleeping shifts and trying to row round the4 clock in this weather. i take my hats off to the kikwis and aussies. at least it is a tailwind so we are able to sail and make progress even when not rowing. tried several homemade drogues, some worked, some didn't.

Overall we just want to get to barbados quickly and will try not to think about the other crews, although it must be hard not to when you are looking at us all on your computers, making our lines slowly across the screen.

Thanks you every bodyh for your your emiails, they are greatg to read and keep our spirits up. Will try tgo work out sme of the conundrums but feeling a bit addled already! Would love to reply to you all personally. maybe when we get a calm day later on. Thinking of you all back home.

Only 100 miles to go before we break the 2000 miles to barbados! I know that proabaly doesn't sound too encouraging but it will do for now.

I'll write again in more clement weather.

Will

11/10/01 1600hrs 

Dear All 
Wind has moderated and seas calmer. Amazing things, sea legs. if i had tried to write this two days ago both myself and the computer would definitely been the worse for wear.

Have tried to establish regime of who does cooking etc.. so we can maximize sleep time. Now Tim is better we should be able to share things out equally. Still heading SW as fast as we can (all of 3 knots) to get into trade winds sometime in the next 2 weeks. Hopefully then we can take things a bit steadier and still be blown along.

The Challenge Business yacht came to see us yesterday to see if we were OK. Apparently we are all quite close still but we haven't seen anybody since the start. They told us we were in the top third and all the other boats had been sick.

Seen lots of African swallows darting round in the waves. Amazing that they know where they are without GPS.

Healthwise all is good apart from inevitable skin problems down below and many aches and pains. Listened to the World Service for the first time today and found out about US air strikes on Afghanistan. Seems a long time since we thought about that situation but now we have time think about that and many more things besides. I put my hay lorry question to Tim: how long does a lorry fully loaded with hay have to drive until all the hay has blown off? Anyone got any conundrums out there for us to mull over as we're rowing?

Just plotted our position on the chart of the Atlantic and vowed not to do it again for at least a week. Far too depressing. Amazingly we still haven't not come across what we've forgotten (for we most assuredly have). It can't be all that important then.

Funnily enough, not much happens in the Atlantic and we're OK that is all i can think of to say for the moment. I'll let you know as soon as something exciting happens.

Will

 

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