"As I sit at here at my desk in North Yorkshire, looking out the window at the horrific weather our sheep have to endure, I start wondering how Dan and Will are coping with the elements mid-Atlantic in a 23ft. rowing boat."
"This is day 40 of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – possibly the longest 40 days of my life – and possibly another 15 days till it’s all over!
When Dan first told me he was going to row the Atlantic, I thought ‘Idiot!’. It never crossed my mind that he would change his mind as I know how strong-minded and determined he can be. But after telling me that he had to raise £80,000 of corporate sponsorship to get to the start line, I felt a glimmer of hope - surely he will never raise that sort of money during a recession? How wrong I was. His fabulous girlfriend Jo works in PR and knew exactly how to do press releases to raise awareness of the charitable causes. She also did a huge amount to organise a charity ball in London. The money came in, the race was on.
During the charity ball I met Will’s dad Simon. Having never met him before we had a big hug, and I immediately felt a rapport. Here was someone in exactly the same situation as me, going through the same emotions – we both had tears in our eyes, and while trying not to make fools of ourselves agreed to stay in touch.
I travelled to La Gomera for the start of the race on my own. My husband had to stay at home to look after those pesky sheep and cattle. He would have loved to come but thought he would save his time off for Antigua.
On the ferry from Tenerife to La Gomera I saw two girls looking excited at the sight of a rowing boat in the harbour. Feeling very alone I went to talk to them and see if they were anything to do with the race. They told me they had been in the race two years earlier and wished they could do it again! Obviously a couple of nutters! They had met Dan and Will and assured me they would be fine. Thanks girls, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that.
Jo met me off the ferry and took me to see Dan and Will and the boat. This was the first time I had seen the boat, it was out of the water and it looked so small to be tackling the Atlantic. The cabin was SO tiny, I couldn’t imagine how these boys (both over 6ft) were going to fit in. I was so excited to see them but yet again emotions got the better of me and there I was crying like a baby again.
Back at the hotel on the island was Jo’s mum Judy and Jo's godfather and his wife – it was great to have such support and they looked after me beautifully. Will also had the support of his dad, sister and godparents.
The next day Dan’s brother and sister-in-law arrived on the island which was great for me as they are both very chilled and helped enormously with keeping emotions in check.
Atlantic Challenge - the race organisers - held a meeting for ‘family and friends’. There we were told what to do in case of an emergency at home, and what to expect when we meet them in Antigua. This was all very helpful and it was reassuring to be given telephone numbers of those that can help.
Atlantic Challenge also threw a terrific farewell party the Saturday before the start. Lovely to see how well all the teams had got to know each other (it was also great to see Will’s dad Simon throwing some great shapes on the dance floor with his walking stick).
The start date was delayed by two days due to an impending storm. This was upsetting for everyone as we would miss the start of the race – but probably a good thing for Dan as he would get a chance to get over the farewells before the start.
The storm arrived with a vengeance! We tried to occupy ourselves by going out to lunch to a village the other side of the mountain. Unbelievable rock slides and lightning made the journey pretty eventful to say the least, but most of all set us all wondering how the boys would cope with weather like this out at sea. We arrived back to find the front of our hotel flooded.
Tuesday 3rd December arrived with bright sunshine. This was the dreaded day we would say goodbye. After breakfast I saw one of the girls from team Atlantic Inspiration saying goodbye to her mum. It was hard to see how emotional it was and I knew I would find it just as hard. We had arranged to meet the boys at the marina after we had dumped our luggage by the ferry. Dan invited me to write a message of inspiration inside the cabin on the boat. As I eyed up the size of the hatch into the cabin, I knew squeezing my sizable body through it would be impossible (also I did not want to be the cause of the boys having to withdraw from the race due to large middle-aged emotional mother wedged in hatch and needing cutting out!)
Giving Dan a hug goodbye was so hard – I was longing to say all sorts of things like ‘look after each other’ and tell him how proud we all were of him – but as you can imagine no words came out just tears streaming down my face. I turned to walk away and saw Simon doing exactly the same thing…
Dan walked us all to the ferry and we said our goodbyes. It was completely hideous – Dan crying, Jo crying, me crying but luckily his brother holding it together pretty well. I can honestly say it was up there with leaving him at boarding school for the first time!
Anyway since then we have had 40 days of highs and lows including two capsizes and two telephone calls. They are currently lying in 4th position and hopefully will make it to Antigua later this month. We could all really do with a sunny holiday!
In the mean time - to all other mothers of the rowers in this race ‘I salute you’ knowing what you are going through. May our babies all return safe and sound."
Mother of Dan Howie