Can you imagine rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, on a tiny boat with 3 complete strangers? Nope, we’re not quite sure we can either!
Endurance athlete and blogger, Laura Try, jumped at the opportunity to do just that, taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – a race from La Gomera in the Canaries all the way to Antigua - in hope to raise awareness of the growing issue of single-use plastic, something which is having a devastating impact on our beautiful oceans. Our lovely little plastic-free tea temples joined Laura and her 3 other teammates on board, and after 43 challenging days, they became the first all-female team to cross the finishing line – let’s raise a cuppa to that!
Earlier this month, Laura popped over to teapigs HQ for a chat about her epic adventure, inspiring us all to take on new challenges along the way.
what made you want to take on this challenge?
I was originally asked to join a team in 2015. Back then I didn’t even know where the Atlantic was – I’m cringing at actually admitting that! Sadly that team didn’t work out but the idea stayed in my head for all that time. I love pushing my physical and mental boundaries and being in nature. There’s something very special about doing something so difficult and yet feeling so relaxed and content because of the surroundings.
how did you train for it?
I’d row on the rowing machine for 30-60 minutes each morning. This wasn’t so much about the physical training but the mental aspect of getting up early and getting straight on the rowing machine. Sometimes I’d go to bed in my fitness kit just so I had no excuses when I woke up! In the afternoon I did weight training, too. At the weekend, usually Sunday, I’d row for 2 hours on the rowing machine which killed me, but I thought if I can’t do this then how am I going to row across the Atlantic?
what did your friends and family think when you told them?
They weren’t surprised as I take part in endurance events all the time. Admittedly this was the biggest and most dangerous to date, but they supported me and felt excited. When I was doing the crossing, people could track us live across the ocean on an app. My family were absolutely addicted and it was lovely to have them involved so much!
what was a typical day like on board?
We’d row for 2 hours and then have 2 hours off. I’d wake up 10 minutes before my shift, get dressed in our tiny cabin, then head outside and use the bucket….. which was the toilet! Once I started rowing, I didn’t stop for 2 hours. We were in a race and were determined to do the best we could. Once the 2 hours were up, I’d swap with my cabin mate so I could take a break. Once a day I’d check the email and satellite phone for messages and check the navigation equipment to make sure everything was functioning well.
what home comfort did you miss the most?
I really missed vegetables! I eat really healthily when I am at home, and on the boat we ate dehydrated ration packs. They were reasonably ok, but after 6 weeks all I wanted was a big salad and fresh fruit! Apart from that, I didn’t really miss much. I was grateful to be in a very special place that not many people experience. Being away from the creature comforts, technology and madness of the modern world is what made the experience so special.
what was the most challenging thing during the trip?
One day the wind changed direction and was hitting us on the nose which meant it was pushing us back in the wrong direction. We decided to row 3 people instead of 2 to fight the wind. We were told it would only last a few hours, but 9 hours later we were still rowing and only going 0.5 knots (similar to 0.5 mph) and 6 of those 9 hours were us rowing with our left oar only! When the wind finally changed we were exhausted but triumphant because we had not lost our place in the race.
what is one stand out memory from the whole trip?
I was fast asleep in the cabin during the day and was woken up by my team mate… “Laura, Laura, we are surrounded by whales!” I jumped out of bed instantly (completely naked!) and went out on deck to see a family of whales right next to the boat. We all stood on deck gazing in amazement at these beautiful, graceful creatures swimming within metres of us – that was by far the most magical moment on the trip!
what was it like adjusting to everyday life back home after the trip?
It was very overwhelming and took about 3 weeks to adjust. Despite the challenge being tough, we had little to think about and our minds were relaxed on the boat. But there was so much to think about back on land; mobile phones, making ourselves look presentable, housework, laundry, work, social media, the list goes on.
what do you hope people take away from hearing your story?
Throughout the trip we saw so much wildlife but sadly we saw more plastic than animals. Each day we saw something floating in the ocean, from bottles, to buckets, fishing nets and microplastics. We were as conscious as we could possibly be with what we took on board which is why we chose teapigs as our tea of choice. We hope that the publicity gained for the challenge will encourage people to think about what plastic they use in their life.
what challenge is next?
I’d love to do another ocean crossing, perhaps the Pacific Ocean. The 2 hour rowing shifts are so gruelling but being out in the middle of the ocean, at the mercy of the sea and Mother Nature, is extremely liberating. My body gets so tired during these challenges but my brain comes back full, healthy and bursting with a love for life.
what’s your go-to teapigs flavour?
On adventures, I love lemon and ginger because it gives me a lift and some warmth when I need it. At home, I love yerba mate with a slice of lemon. It keeps me energised during my day and during fitness training.
What challenges have you set yourself this year? Let us know @teapigs!
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