Leaving La Gomera harbour for the last time on Wednesday morning for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, there was quite an odd feeling amongst all four of us. After fourteen months of relentless campaigning and physical exhaustion, the whole occasion should have seemed far more real. As we departed, the local school children had turned up amongst hundreds of other locals, and were singing James' name from the minute we arrived on the pontoon to the minute we were out of sight, rowing into the Atlantic. There were quite a few emotions amongst us, but the locals and other teams had really taken our campaign to heart, to the point that a group of local artists had started their own mini-fundraiser for us, so the tears that flowed have been more attributable to the departure, rather than for what was to come.
And that was it. We began to curve around the south of the island leaving the harbour behind, and with it went the sight of any other boats.
A pod of dolphins joined us along with (what could have been) a whale as we took the bend, almost eerie as they floated motionless on the surface of the water, but they didn't hang around for many photos.
Darkness moved in and with it our first taste of the Atlantic at night, which provided one of the most spectacular events any of us have seen. As the sun descended into the sea to the West of us, the moon suddenly appeared from the waves to the East, so bright that once it reached its full height above us it was even possible to read the writing on the back of our food packets. A truly amazing sight that forced us all to stop and watch.
Over the following days we made a lot of ground, at night-time in particular as we came to work out that the boat is more stable when hitting waves straight on rather than attempting to steer around them. We have learnt a huge amount about the boat and its capabilities, all which we aim to send back to you in short video form over the coming weeks.
We are sorry for the lack of updates over the last week - we have a power issue whereby our batteries will not store energy, so we have to ration for the time being. Auto-helm and water desalination are at the top of the list of priorities each day as cloud cover could appear at any moment rendering them useless, and with that music and cameras are placed firmly on hold for the moment, although with a quick glance at Sam's iPod library before we left, this may be a blessing in disguise.
We have had some incredibly tough nights so far, none more so than on Sunday night where with two rowing 2 hours, then hand-steering for an hour through driving rain and waves using nothing but a handheld compass, to be left with under an hours rest before beginning the cycle again, we are keen to avoid a repeat as you can imagine.
But despite this, the incredible moments we have shared have been far more frequent.
Blasting through 25knot tailwinds in a completely straight line for hours on end, two rowing, two looking straight up at the stars which must have been in their millions, with no need to do anything else but keep the stern of the boat in line with a row of stars - something that we can truly say we will never experience again.
We are close to finding a real rhythm on the boat - sleep, food, stretching, electrical power, cleaning amongst tens of other tiny tasks that on land seem effortless but when on an ocean in a tiny rowing boat, are the only difference between a good day and a bad day.
The next few weeks will be very exciting as we turn westerly for the Trade Winds and start the long grind Westwards, so will be sending more and more written and video blogs back as we go. We have heard there is an army of followers glued to our YB Tracker - I don't know if you all quite understand how much this means to us four and there is yet to be a message of support that has not shed a tear or two so please keep them coming!
Rory, Harry, Toby and Sam