200 miles is a lot of ocean to cover. (Photo: Daniel Silva)
With no sails and no motors, just pure manpower and determination, I rowed from Barcelona to Ibiza.
With a team of four others — Jonah, Conor, Ellis, and Nick — we took on the NOMAN Campaign’s row to end HPV, a unique 200-mile, nonstop rowing race where two teams are pitted against each other to raise awareness about cancer prevention. Needless to say, it was an incredible experience.
The start of the race in Barcelona. (Photo: Daniel Silva)
We raced in two identical 24 ft. (7.3 m) ocean rowing boats, which were fitted with two rowing seats, two small cabins, and precious little room for error. The NOMAN Campaign race is a compact 72-hour race if the winds are with you. It is about speed, teamwork, and physical and mental endurance.
We each burned around 25,000 calories during the crossing and were constantly drinking 6 to 8 liters of water in the 32-degree heat. I had always wanted to try astronaut food, however now I feel a keen sense of sympathy for our guys in space. Once racing, we ate freeze-dried food made hot by pouring boiled water over it – quite difficult at times on a rocking boat — and ate it as quickly as possible.
It takes grit and determination to keep going when you can’t see land on either side of you. (Photo: Daniel Silva)
A key component to the challenge is the camaraderie felt between the boat mates. I felt a wild contrast of emotions from one hour to the next during the race — experiencing incredible highs and elation at an achievement, hitting a fast speed (around 2.4 knots) gaining ground, and then suddenly swinging to the other end of the spectrum.
An amazing moment occurred one evening when Conor and Jonah were on the oars and we crossed paths with dolphins. We were out in the quiet of the sea with very little around us, the sun was setting, and then we saw a dolphin jump beside us!
Of course they made a couple of new friends. (Photo: Daniel Silva)
At times, we faced bleak moments when we felt exhausted, hungry, and slightly seasick, but we banded together as a team and pushed on. Ocean rowing is unlike anything else, and it is more about looking after one another than anything else. Maintaining momentum out in the sea is a key component of the race. Navigation is one of the complications alongside the others, such as tide, currents, and wind. On our second night we hit some hairy weather and found the boat rocking heavily in the pitch black, with bigger waves than we’d seen before.
Ultimately, you’re rowing for you, your team, and everyone out there who has donated and is supporting you and our cause. We were rowing for the many people affected by HPV-related cancers and raising awareness of HPV. To date, our race has raised more than £100,000 for the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation.
Even with the tough moments of searing heat, saddle sores (our backsides are still a bit achy!), seasickness, and blisters along the way, it was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible achievements for anyone willing to dedicate themselves to it.
If you want to support the charity we rowed for, the NOMAN Campaign and the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation, please visit www.nomancampaign.org or @nomancampaign on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”