This Christmas was my first without my 21-year-old son, Luke, who is currently half-way across the Atlantic in a tiny rowing boat. He and his best friend Jamie (the 2 Boys in a Boat) are taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and if they complete the race they will break the world record for the youngest team to row the Atlantic.
We were so pleased to hear from Luke just before Christmas and learn there had been a vast improvement in the weather conditions. Up until then, the weather had been awful with horrendous wind, waves and rain. The race is hard enough without those challenges too (previously we were told that heat and sunburn would be the biggest problems!). We missed Luke hugely over Christmas, but this news really lifted our spirits and was the best present we could wish for! Luke and Jamie were so grateful to have the chance to warm up a bit, dry out and air their poor, sore bottoms!
In a radio interview on Christmas Eve, Luke even described the intense pleasure they had from the tiniest things like a dehydrated shepherd's pie, a sip of Baileys or listening to something uplifting on their iPods! You can read a couple of their blogs from their Christmas and New Year here and here. It is amazing what marginally less ghastly conditions did to their spirits (don't forget they were still rowing 12 hours a day, two hours on, two hours off - so all of this is relative!).
Unfortunately, this relief over the festive period was short lived. At the beginning of January, the weather has returned to the horrible conditions of the initial weeks of the race. The boys were back to spending day after day wet, cold, sore, terrified at times, being soaked by rainstorms and seawater, and being thrown around the boat by huge vicious waves. The latest conditions are almost worse for the boys, hot and slow because there's less wind and there are big waves coming from the wrong direction, caused by the weather system we have been enduring here. It's harrowing reading in Jamie's blog that they are once again feeling really low and that they also had a near miss with a container ship (not what any mother wants to hear!).
Yet we must look on the positive side. Luke and Jamie have both been extraordinary throughout this incredibly tough period. They have remained positive and never complained. We also get the impression that they are starting to become more accepting of the elements. Yes they feel angry and frustrated at times, but they are starting to realise that being angry about certain things - like their waterproofs not being waterproof - won't get them anywhere. And it makes me very proud to hear that!
The boys are fiercely competitive and are always trying to increase the speed of the boat. And it's paying off, they're currently positioned first of the pairs boats in the race! But the main objective for me, and all of Jamie and Luke's family and friends, is a safe completion of the race - that will bring with it a world record which is surely enough! Plus the boys have already raised almost £160,000 (wow!) for Breast Cancer Care - the only UK-wide breast cancer support charity.
This challenge was never going to be easy. Four teams have already had to abandon their boats and at least two are still suffering serious electrical and mechanical problems. But Jamie and Luke keep going. They have passed the half-way point and in 24 hours should have less than 1000 nautical miles to go (33 days at sea and counting!) and all we want is for them to make it safely to Antigua. Oh, and a little bit of sunshine would be nice too!
You can follow Jamie and Luke on Twitter @2boysinaboat or on their website 2 Boys in a Boat where they will be blogging throughout the journey. You can also watch their progress on this race tracker. The 2 Boys in a Boat team would like to say a huge thank you to their supporters including Duracell, WeSEE.com, Reed.co.uk, Buzzacott and Sidley Austin