Tideway Odyssey Duo Target 2020 Atlantic World Record
The race begins in December 2020 with up to 30 teams participating from all over the world. They will battle with sleep deprivation, salt sores, and physical extremes inflicted by the race. Left with just their own thoughts, an expanse of the ocean and the job of getting the boat safely to the other side.
Believers in the power of sport to transform body and mind, they have chosen to support the Youth Sport Trust and London Youth Rowing who both work to promoting the importance of sport in the development of young people.
With Victoria’s rowing background and Saf’s military expertise, they are determined to break the world record for the fastest female pair, set in 2018. Here’s what they said…
How did you first get into the sport?
Saf: I started rowing after university, but only managed a few months because my Army career got in the way (no rowing in Afghanistan!). I started back again properly in summer 2018 and the first time I got back in a boat I realised I wasn’t going to let work get in the way of rowing again.
Victoria: I was actually born into a family of rowers so have been around rowing all my life – I didn’t have much choice about getting into a boat! My grandfather has been a member of Vesta RC since the 60s and coached there as well as at Thames RC and my mum rowed at Thames RC and for Great Britain in the 70s. I first started playing around in a single on summer holidays when I was 7 or 8 and started rowing competitively when I was 15 at Marlow RC. I have been competing and training since then, fitting it in around University and work.
What made you want to row across the Atlantic?
Victoria: The idea actually came about, as most great ideas do, over a gin and tonic at Henley Regatta back in 2018. A fellow Vesta member mentioned that she had always wanted to give it a go and told me all about the race. The thought of getting away from my busy London office job to go on an epic adventure was just too good to pass up!
Saf: Just a little different to the Tideway – though sometimes it can be pretty rough on the Thames! I’ve known about the event for years, and when Victoria mentioned she was doing it, it sparked something and I knew I had to ask about joining the crew
How did you meet?
Victoria: We actually met through the Novice Women’s squad at Vesta, Saf was returning to rowing after some time out and I was coaching. It’s been strange to go from a coach/athlete relationship to training partners but seems to be going well so far!
Saf: I certainly still defer to VC for rowing advice, I went to buy a pair of blades (oars) from a previous crew and asked for a list of things to look at; but for everything else it’s a partnership. By the time we get to the race I hope I won’t need any corrections on my technique and so we can just row as equals. I remember the first time VC was actually rowing in the boat when coaching us and the water was terrible – wind against tide, waves coming into the boat; she stopped the training session and told us just to row back to the club – music to my ears. When I got out someone pointed out kindly that “it’ll be worse on the Atlantic”.
How will your different experiences help?
Saf: I have almost no rowing experience to bring to the boat, but after 12 years’ military life, I know a lot about resilience, about admin and logistics. I know how exhaustion over extended periods affects you, and I know just how hard you can dig in and work when you need to. Victoria knows rowing, boats and marketing (I was banned from coming up with campaign slogans after two particularly bad ones).
Victoria: We are similar in a lot of ways but do have different approaches to tasks and getting things done which we think will work well during the race. The training is a big part of our challenge but even more so is the work that needs to be done behind the scenes to make sure we are properly prepared for the race. I work in marketing so have taken on the website, social media and sponsorship side of things. Saf’s military background means that she is fantastic at managing projects so she has been masterminding the planning of our training courses, equipment, food supplies etc etc.! During the race, I know I will especially value her discipline and resilience in challenging situations.
What will you find the hardest during the journey?
VC: To be honest I think the monotony – we will be doing the same thing, day in day out, for the best part of two months. Oh and also the salt sores, not looking forward to that at all!
Saf: I think, for me, it will be surrendering to the will of the weather. I like to be in control of things but I know that I will have no power over wind and waves and that won’t sit naturally with me. As a result, I’m reading some of Victor Frankl’s writing; he talks of focussing on controlling our reactions to events even when we cannot control the event. The psychological preparation is very important.
What will you miss the most?
Saf: I should say family and friends, but I think it will be wifi! I did two years’ in Brunei away from my family, but being able to email regularly made it easy to deal with. One friend said we should allow people to make us Spotify lists that could be sent out to us, we had to point out the problem of streaming music on board.
VC: I’m really going to miss my nice king size bed!! Also washing my hair, I think it will be one massive fuzz ball by the time we get to Antigua! My family all live abroad (America and Ireland) so I think the fact there is always distance between us will help with that side although I’ll miss my regular catch ups with them!
What sort of boat will you be using? What’s the training like?
We have just put our deposit down on a brand new custom built Rannoch R25 ocean rowing boat which is very exciting. It will be 24ft and have two rowing positions. In a lot of ways it has a similar set up to a fine boat with the span being similar and sliding seats, however the hull of the boat is obviously much wider! There are also two cabins where all of our navigation equipment will live and where we will be sleeping. The boat is self-righting so if we get side swiped by a rogue wave or get tossed around in a storm we will end up upright….eventually! The boat will be ready for us to use in April and we will be training in Burnham-on -Crouch where Rannoch are based. We managed to get out for a week in some coastal singles earlier in the year down in County Kerry in Ireland which was great fun but we can’t wait to get our in our ocean boat.
With regards to land training we’re focussing heavily on weights at the moment, the stronger we are, the more our bodies will be able to cope in the later weeks of the row. Also, taking time to find out where there are “niggles” and strengthening where we have old injuries is very important.
How is the boat different to what you are used to?
Saf: Slower but more stable. We had a day out with Dawn Wood (solo crossing start of this year and second fastest woman to ever cross the Atlantic) earlier in the summer and she really helped us get to grips with how it’s different – it’s the little things, like not having to worry about tipping over or getting used to walking up and down the boat, being clipped on to the safety line.
VC: I found it a lot heavier than I expected and a more load on my upper body. This is even more so the case when the conditions become choppy or we are against the tide. As a rower you are very reliant on leg power so I have switched my training up to focus more on shoulders and back to prepare. You also sit a lot higher out of the water which means no need for feathering or anything particularly technical – dread to think what my technique will be like when I get back in a fine boat once it’s all over!
What does your rowing club think of it all?
2020 marks Vesta’s 150th year and we have a fantastic programme of events lined up at the club. We are looking forward to connecting with members old and new and spreading the word about what we are doing. Everyone at Vesta is supportive, some think we’re crazy, but they’re supportive. We’re excited to close out the 150th year with this adventure under the Vesta banner.
Are you supporting any charities?
VC: Yes! We are supporting the Youth Sport Trust, a national charity which supports children through the power of sport, and also London Youth Rowing who use rowing to encourage disadvantaged young people to improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing. We are especially excited about working with LYR as we can see the great work they are doing for ourselves on the Tideway. I’d encourage everyone reading this to look them up! We are hoping to raise close to £100,000 for these charities.
Saf: Saf: We are strong believers that every young person should have access to sport; it’s not just the physical benefits that sport gives, but it improves mental health and can provide life skills for the future. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to people who have gone through the London Youth Rowing courses and it’s incredible to hear their stories of how learning to row has changed them.
Anything else you would like to mention?
We will be relying on corporate funding to complete this challenge so if anyone is working for or owns a company and would like to partner with us please get in touch!! Once we have our corporate sponsors in place we can really focus on the most important thing which is raising £100,000 for charity! Follow us on Instagram @tidewayodyssey, check out our website www.tidewayodyssey.com or drop us an email for more information on how to get involved firstname.lastname@example.org – we have plenty of sponsorship opportunities and also the options of simply choosing one of our charities as your company’s charity of choice for the year….something that will really help our target.