After spending nearly three months away from the UK and nearly two months at sea, we hear first-hand from Dan and Will what they've been up to since hitting dry land.
How do you feel now you're back on solid ground and getting back to normal life? Is it a bit surreal?
Dan: Yeah it is, it feels good.
Does it feel like the row never happened?
Dan: Yeah it does, like it was a distant dream - or a distant nightmare! But it's really good to be back on dry land because we've got so much free time now. It's amazing, I've been seeing friends every evening and we don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to train or row. it's nice to have had a big adventure, but it's nice to bosh it on the head, put it to bed and move on.
Your training was taking up so much of your time before, wasn't it? So it's not just about suddenly being back in England, but it's also coming back to a different lifestyle than you had left.
Dan: Well we were getting up at 5am most mornings and doing presentations, charity work and raising awareness in the evenings. Going to events and trying to raise corporate sponsorship took up a huge amount of time. So all of a sudden we haven't got any of that stuff to do except, a few interviews here and there, reply to a few emails and people calling up about prizes they won at our black-tie ball. But apart from that there's not really much to do. So it's an amazing feeling having that freedom at last.
Have you actually done any exercise since you've been back?
Will: When I was in Antigua, I went swimming as I felt quite restless. To go from 12 hours of rowing every day, to absolutely nothing but eating, sleeping, drinking and chatting about it, it's quite a contrast. Since I've been back in the UK I've actually picked up a pretty nasty cold, and my asthma has got quite bad. During the row I never had to use my inhaler more than once, as it was such fresh, clean air but getting back to London, it's suddenly taking its toll. Therefore I'm taking a break from the exercise for a bit. Though saying that, I'm planning on going back to rugby training next week1
What was your first evening back when you got onto dry land?
Will: They give you a burger and chips, whether you want it or not. You get on land and then after about 20 minutes of interviews and chatting to family, they produce this table and lay it with a romantic little setting and two big portions of burgers, chips and salad, and then everyone gathers round to watch as you're meant to eat this food. It was the first hot meal we'd had in 53 days, we then each had a rum punch - it was really, really strong, which was really nice too!
Was there ever a point in the race when you thought you weren't going to finish or thought about throwing in the towel?
Dan: There was one point after the second capsize where we could have capsized numerous times - it was pretty miserable, just being on tenderhooks the whole time and waiting for the next capsize. There was about ten minutes where I was thought 'I want to get off this boat now, this is really dangerous', especially when we heard one of our competitors had been rescued by a cargo ship. We got on the sat-phone, spoke to a few people who have a lot of experience in the race who said people have been through far worse. For example, a girl in the Pacific capsized 16 times in one day! We had only capsized twice so they said get on with it basically. There was probably only a brief moment then, but I always thought we'd finish the race unless we had an issue with a part of the boat like the rudder breaking or something like that. But even then we said 'We'll get out and swim, we'll push the boat if we have to!' We were both pretty determined to get to the finish no matter what it took. I never thought we wouldn't make it.
What was the high point of the trip?
Will: High point...? There weren't many. There were a lot of low points though! Talking to family was always nice. Surfing waves, that was really good fun - we had a competition to see who could get the highest speed surfing off a wave.
Dan: Seeing whales was the high point.
If you were doing this challenge again, how would you do it differently?
Dan: I think we did pretty well. I think we could have put more resources behind it in terms of the effort we put in. We didn't have much spare time so I suppose if I did it again, I'd quit my job. But we couldn't really quit our jobs because we needed money to survive! Ideally you want to have more free time and if we had managed to find our sponsors earlier we would have had more time to prep the boat. But I think we kind of did the best we could in the circumstances we had.
How did you feel about winning the pair's category?
Will: Amazing! It was basically what we set out to do, to win the pairs. One team we couldn't compete with because the design of the boat was just too fast for us. Then there were two fours boats and when they were up against really tough conditions they were able to just make their way through it, when we were just getting pushed back because we didn't have enough power on our boat. So the next option for us was to win the category and that was what we focused on for the rest of the race. We always set out to be competitive and that just got us back on the oars at the end of each break - it was like 'get on the oars, pull as hard as you can'! It helped us get to the finish as soon as possible. But it was a tough battle. There were seven teams in the pair's category. About four or five of them were really gunning for the win. It was tough and we always knew it was going to be, then when things started breaking and we went through storms that started pushing us back we had doubts, but we just kept going.
Can either of you see yourselves taking on another extreme challenge in the future?
Dan: Personally yes, but probably not for a very long time, and probably not something that takes two and a half years to prepare! Maybe something smaller, which you can bash out in a day. Nothing that's going to take up that much time again. I'm still quite raw from this challenge!
Will: Yeah, I definitely would but exactly the same, I wouldn't do something that's going to take two and a half years out of my life. It would have to be something that's prepared for you where you've just got to train for it. I would go extreme, something like the South Pole or the Marathon Des Sables. But like Dan said, not for a couple of years at least.
Dan we hear you've got some exciting news to share with us?
Dan: When we landed in Antigua I proposed to my girlfriend Jo. It was far too risky taking the ring with me on the row, one capsize and it would be gone, so my mum brought it out when they all came to greet us. We hardly had any time to ourselves for the first few days. About the fourth day we decided to go for a walk to a secluded beach, the timing and setting couldn't have been better!
Anyone in particular you'd like to say to say thanks to?
Dan: Everyone who has donated or supported us throughout the past two years, it has and will continue to make a real difference, all of our family and friends for putting up with our early morning training and strange shakes we concocted.
Will: Jellyfish were amazing!
The ones you saw in the water or us?
Will: We actually thought we saw some Jellyfish in the water and then upon closer inspection they turned out to be a load of plastic bags. It was really disappointing! But all joking aside the way you kept on top of everything - Facebook, Twitter, blog posts all constantly being updated around the clock, it was exactly what we couldn't do and that complemented us perfectly! Your effective work really helped keep people involved in our challenge and kept the donations coming in. Thank You.
Thank you and congratulations to Team Atlantic Row 2013!