Rarin’ to row on Atlantic adventure

Dwarfed against an ocean-going tanker, this is the boat that could break the Atlantic rowing world record.

Dwarfed against an ocean-going tanker, this is the boat that could break the Atlantic rowing world record.

Photographed using a mobile phone shortly after launch from Leith in Scotland last week, the vessel is being crewed by a 14-strong team, three of them from Norfolk.

Now known as Ocean Rowing Events Challenger, she is the fastest ocean rowing boat in the world, having held the Atlantic record for 15 years under her previous name, La Mondiale.

On board at launch were Norfolk men Julian Barnwell, Mike Tooth and Liam Hughes. They helped power the boat towards the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club at Lowestoft, arriving on Sunday afternoon.

The challenge was a real-life training exercise ahead of the planned December 15 launch of the team's Atlantic attempt, which will not only try to break the record of just under 35½ days but will be a head-to-head race with a four-man American team in a multi-hull boat called Orca.

Mr Barnwell said yesterday: “Our backsides are a bit numb, but it was an excellent chance to show what a wonderful boat La Mondiale is. We are shell-shocked, but it was an exceptional trip.

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“We were given a fantastic demonstration of what the mental challenges ahead of us are. We now know what we have got ourselves into. We got a good insight into various issues, such as sleep deprivation and how important good banter is.”

Mr Barnwell said the team was well aware in advance of the row how good the boat was, but the experience of the past few days had bolstered their confidence.

“It was a remarkable trip. We knew she was fast before we went, but now we know just how good a boat she is,” he said.

The crew used the original oars from the record-breaking French team of 15 years ago, although when they tackle the Atlantic challenge they will have custom-made oars ready.

The vessel will now stay at Lowestoft for some weeks for further sea trials.

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