ORS BARBADOS 2001 NEWSLETTER
|Issue #1 Issue #2 Issue #3||
5 December 2001
|From David Shannon, our Special Correspondent in Barbados|
results here in Port St Charles since last writing are:
part of the race was of course not between boats but between outstanding
It is clear form this brief summary that all crews competed to the last. Let nobody say that this rowing is not long, that it is not tough and at least for these finishers that it is not a race.
199 miles to go Christian and Sun were aware that Rory and Alex were
close behind and chasing. From
then on they were looking back, especially at night to check whether
tiny riding lights were coming into view.
However on approaching the forbidding North Point they checked
positions with the escort yacht. Atlantic
Warrior is 17 miles behind they were told.
Were they interested in any other yacht they were asked. Oh yes, how is Team Manpower doing they enquired.
Team Manpower is seven miles behind you came the unexpected
reply. Having negotiated
North Point and being escorted over the last few miles they decided the
threat had not materialised and they better make themselves presentable
before arrival. Christian
was happily shaving when a conversation with the support vessel went
something like this:
Ahoy Yantu. Can you
see our riding light?
Oh yes thank you. You
are a comfortable 200 meters North of us.
We are just taking a break.
Roger Yantu. (Pause for effect)
We are also escorting another vessel the same distance North of
(Overhear to the sound of shaving water flung over the side) *
*** ** **** *** (in Chinese which was readily interpreted as:
Sun!! GET ON THOSE OARS!!!)
two crews approached after nightfall. Nevertheless over fifty people packed the breakwater at Port
St Charles peering to sea and feeding on rumours and hope.
Christian and Sun’s supporters were exceptionally quiet having
heard how Ian and Richard had kept up their blistering pace to claim
eighth position. Eventually
a small riding light was discerned heading for the harbour entrance.
For all of twenty minutes fifty people held their breath until
the colours of the craft were visible in the entrance light.
Suddenly whoops and screams from Christain and Sun’s supporters
rent the night air. There
were their men – rowing fast and steady into glory.
Not only is this the first Chinese vessel to have accomplished
anything remotely so outstanding in rowing, but eight is a very special
lucky number in China. We
all hope that their achievement will be widely reported and recognised
amongst their many compatriots. May
the luck they made stay with them in whatever they put their hands to in
24 minutes later Ian and Richard were stepping ashore having produced
one of the all time ocean rowing feats of gaining in just three days all
but 75 miles on another superb crew.
What a moment, what a welcome.
is this challenge about? Superb
achievements by exceptional people.
the next morning emotions were again high as Lieutenants Shannon and
Wilson of the Scots Guards rowed into tenth place to regimental tunes
carrying far over the water from the fully dressed piper, Corporal
McQuinndle, standing at the tip of the Port St Charles’ breakwater.
These two with no previous experience of ocean rowing had proved
themselves amongst the world’s finest.
Like the others they had overcome all the problems of getting to
the starting line in Tenerife and then forged an effective team in this
toughest of environments. They were warmly welcomed by relieved family and friends
book could be written about the lessons from this race.
One common theme heard from all crews is their wonder at the
constant variability of the ocean. No
two days are the same, no two shifts on the oars are the same, no two
winds are the same and frequently no two waves are the same.
Some sense of this can be understood at the impact of the change in
weather on about 29 November. Although
these crews were all collecting closer together for landfall, some
experienced immediate help, for others the benefit did not arrive until
two days later and for some the initial effects were contrary.
indications of variability were the changing colours of the ocean, from
blue to green to grey and back again over relatively short distances.
Currents that turned from helpful to adverse in time between two
glances at the indicator, so that the same effort could producing 3 knots
could suddenly only achieve 1 knot.
Even the waves' effects were perplexing. Due to the marvels of GPS instantaneous speed-readings were available to some. Surfing on the front of wind driven waves was evidently usually the way to pick up speed. However, on occasions it was found that the water on the back of the following waves was moving forward fast with the result that boat speed after the crest had passed was quicker than when being driven down the forward slope. It was largely sensitivity to these ever-changing conditions and flexibility of response that distinguished these crews who have made the crossing in less than sixty days.
Not The Package!
crossing would be complete without a good anecdote. Many abound, often
told with disarming self-deprecation by these high achievers.
A common theme is how pain was experienced, faced and overcome.
Continuos rowing on little sleep in such an exposed environment,
for more than fifty days day and nights puts outrageous strains on the
mind and body. All felt pain, all faced it and all overcame it. Some more
memorably than others.
Ziegler’s pains started with a very sore foot, the result of a minor
accident. His shins and
knees then became bruised and painful followed by sores over most of his
skin and compounded by an arresting case of “tennis” elbow. Any one of these would be enough to keep most people from
their work for a week. Together
they faced him with a mountain of pain and determination to climb every
shift, twelve times a day.
this ordeal he had one constant prayer – please not the package
between his legs. Well
of course that is where sweat and friction accumulate in ocean rowing
and inevitably soreness in the backside gradually extended forward and
got worse until the only position John was comfortable was on all fours
with the breeze giving some relief to the awful burning between his
thighs. By this stage John had worked his way through the medical
chest. Skin creams,
anti-histamine creams, Vaseline and anti-fungal creams followed each
other out of the bag and onto his skin without any benefit.
The condition went from bad, to worse so that even this hardened
man found the pain unbearable.
his wits end, unable to sit or stand or lie down he cast himself into
the tiny cabin and cried out for relief.
Now ever since Androclese removed a thorn from the lion’s paw,
good stories evidence that what goes around comes around. Being one of the most delightful and friendly crews at
Tenerife, John and Tom had not surprisingly been presented with a small
gift by two Russians. So in
his agony John’s hand fell on nothing else but a bottle of 40 % Vodka
and into his mind leapt the idea of pouring this on the package,
thinking at the worst he could set light to it so that the burning
sensation would at least have a limited duration.
Happily the cooling and drying effect of the alcohol started the
healing process, shortly extended by the supply of baby-wipes from the
After that the other pains, though real enough, could be faced down in a new perspective. The rowing went on regardless and like all the other rowers John arrived a victor of the ocean and of himself.
Port St Charles joke No. 42
The outstanding mutual support between rowers continues with any rower and their support teams making every effort to be present to acclaim every new arrival. It should be noted that Jon Gornall is a welcome and greatly appreciated part of this fraternity. A toast heard at a beach-bar last night amongst a group of rowers and supporters was “To those out on the ocean and still to finish. May they arrive safely and swiftly”
tourist image of Barbados includes sandy beaches, lush vegetation and rum
punches. Stand at North Point
and a very different image presents itself.
Here the winds and currents that move unhindered across three
thousand miles of ocean reach land. Even on still days the rage of the
suddenly confined elements raises plumes of spray fifty or one hundred
feet into the air. The hard rock is undercut by the sea by up to
fifty-foot deep gashes. Rock
pools exist high on cliff tops and only a few stunted trees fight for
survival. No-one is prepared
to make this desperate area their home.
Offshore are highly dangerous reefs and ocean currents eager to
carry unwary craft another hundred miles to the Windward Islands.
Hence the waypoint for turning this key landfall is well offshore.
incongruously a weathered signpost at this exposed tip of Barbados points
out the direction of distant lands including
USA, Britain, Spain, Holland, France, China, New Zealand and
Australia. In this
inhospitable spot just before dawn or sometimes at night can occasionally
be found worried rowing tream supporters from these and other distant
lands. Darkness makes the
tiny riding lights of the ocean rowing craft and the support vessels
visible so anxious eyes sieve the darkness for the comfort of a tiny
speck. Reflected stars fool
the senses and the minds fight not to dwell on the fate of any small
vessel that cannot claw its way off the overhanging rocky cliffs.
Supporters’ faith in the skills of the rowers and in providence is tested here more than anywhere else during the crossing. Only after standing here with uncertain hope can one appreciate the relief and comfort of grasping the loved rower once safely ashore in the calmness of the sheltered Barbados West Coast.
Ocean Rowing Society
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