Ocean rowing boats are rather unusual vessels and there are very few people that build them. That's why one of our very first meetings was with Charlie Pitcher, Angus Collins and the team from Rannoch Adventure.
Charlie and Angus are fantastic - as well as being specialist boat builders, they are also both record-breaking Atlantic rowers and expert ocean rowing coaches. We knew as soon as we met them that if anyone can get two Grandads through the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC) it's them.
However, there was a bit of a shock in store for us - the cost. Apart from a purpose-built boat, there's a significant amount of mandatory training and equipment required for all TWAC entrants. Then there's the cost of storing and transporting the boat, including marina fees.... a trailer and a vehicle to pull it.... shipping to La Gomera and then back from Antigua. PAGES of stuff adding up to around £125k. Youch!!!
Just look at our faces when we realised what we were taking on!
AUGUST 2017 - STARTING FROM ZERO
It soon became obvious why most teams plan a campaign like this at least 2-3 years in advance. We needed to make a decision... should we hang on for TWAC 2019 and give ourselves an extra year? After a big heart-to heart, we agreed that we're not getting any younger so we decided to go for it. We paid our race deposits and entered TWAC 2018, leaving us with just 16 months to find funding, buy a boat and learn to row it...
So this is it... there is no going back now. Whatever happens we are determined that on 12th December 2018, we will be rowing out of La Gomera towards a great adventure, raising thousands for charity and attempting to stake our place in the record books...
Back in August, this momentous decision immediately presented us with two major obstacles - money and time. Understandably, our wives had requested from the outset that we did not fund this expedition from our pension pots, so we needed something more tangible than a lottery ticket and a rabbit's foot and we needed it fast. To give us any chance at all, we needed to raise at least £50k in a matter of weeks to enable us order the boat and be training on the water by March 2018 latest.
When you commit to something like this, it tends to consume your life. However, we also have 'day jobs' and family comittments so it was time for some military discipline and lots of long, long days... We also needed to 'look the part' with a proper corporate sponsorship proposal. Again, Sally came up trumps. Within a week, we had a polished proposal document, a shiny new website, social media feeds and business cards. How could anyone refuse us...?
But it's a strange thing... you start this process with an idea of who might support you and actually, the reality is very different. We've had some surprising rejections and we've also had some wonderful surprises. We quickly learned that 'cold approaches' don't work but conversely, friends, family and our charities have really stepped up and introduced us to some great sponsors. We were also particularly delighted to secure significant funding from the Parachute Regiment. In return, we will be rattling buckets for them at various events and naming our boat 'Utrinque Paratus' - the regimental motto meaning 'ready for anything'. Appropriate don't you think?!
Our crowdfunding page has also really touched us; we have received some fantastically generous donations from friends, family and colleagues all wanting to do their bit to support us. We're thinking about ways we can say thank you for those many donations which together make up a significant sum - maybe a roll of honour on our boat!
In December, after four intensive months of non-stop phone calls, emails and meetings, we reached a crucial £50k milestone, which means the boat is now on order and she is being manufactured as we speak! It's only the first hurdle but what a hurdle! Christmas felt like party time but we've got to keep up the momentum, so New Year, New Start!
Our main aim now is to cover our remaining costs before we launch our charity pages and get on with raising thousands for really worthy causes - which is, after all, why we are doing this! We still need to find around £50k but we are trying to reduce that figure by begging and borrowing (not stealing!) as much as we can. BattleAxe Sportswear are currently producing some free 'team kit' for us, including 'Grandad-branded' performance sportswear, polo shirts and track suits, which is unbelievably generous. The wonderful people at Port Solent Marina have just this week offered to give us a free berth, so our 'funny little rowing boat' will soon be safely tucked up in a lovely marina nestling amongst some very snazzy yachts and surrounded by luxury waterside homes and restaurants! Thank you so much guys, we can't wait to get involved with 'marina life' and support you in return.
If you are at the London Boat Show this weekend, you may bump into two Grandads on their (creaky) knees at various trade stands... Maybe, just maybe, someone will take pity on us and throw a life raft, a desalinator, a jetboil, an autohelm and some ocean-going foul weather gear our way... Bring on the haggling!