The World's Toughest Row

What it takes to compete in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge

The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is the world’s toughest row. Participants from around the world must row over 3000 miles across the Atlantic in a rowing boat. To make the challenge even harder, waves measuring up to 20ft high are also thrown into the mix and rowers must navigate these while dealing with sleep deprivation, salt sores, and other physical extremes inflicted by the race. Rowers are also left alone with their thoughts with no view of a finish line, only the vast view of the ocean in front of them. Sound like something you’d sign up for? We spoke to one team who couldn’t wait to get going.

Dark Trio are made up of 3 men – Gareth, Charlie and Aaron, and on December 12th 2022 they, along with 43 other teams, began their row. Competing and just finishing the race is a feat in itself but the Dark Trio boys set themselves some pretty tough goals. Not only did they want to win in their category (3 crew team), they also wanted to beat the current fastest 3 crew team time, set by team Broar, who finished in 35 days, 9 hours and 9 minutes in 2019. The fastest row across the Atlantic was a 4 man team, The Four Oarsmen, who finished in 29 days, 14 hours and 34 minutes in 2017.

So what type of person does it take to sign up for a challenge like this? 

We asked Dark Trio what made them want to take part in the first place. Gareth told us, “I first read a book called Hell or High water by James Cracknell and Ben fogle which had a real impact on me. Since the age of 18 I have waited for the correct time in my life and career to attempt a crossing. The team goal, in essence, is to be as competitive as possible, whilst ensuring we enjoy this experience and deepen our friendships.” They are rowing to support Minds UK and aim to raise over ten thousand pounds. This will help the charity support the younger population of the UK, suffering from mental health issues.

I bet you’re wondering how anyone can prepare for such a big challenge, we were too! The team let us know that “the training has been intense racking up hours on the C2 rower and lots of time in the gym, working on our strength to ensure we start fit and healthy. We have spent over 160 hours on our boat out at sea. The diets haven’t changed a great deal as we all enjoy eating lots of food. We have tried to make sure we don’t go into the race too heavy but not super lean.” From speaking to past rowers, Dark Trio discovered that mental robustness is another important thing to prepare for the row. To ensure they are ready they told us, “the team has spent a lot of time considering how we may deal with our own challenges. We have been talking through them and building psychological anchors to help us not come unstuck during the row.”

We asked Dark Trio how they were going to keep up with the day to day essentials of eating, drinking and sleeping during the race. They said, “We carry dehydrated rations that we add hot water to and then eat, my personal favourite is the Expedition food Chilli Con Carne. Ask me again after the row this may change! We also have snack packs with various goodies in there. The sleep is a difficult issue because we are not expecting to enjoy a great deal of it. We have the bow (Front) cabin and the Stern (Rear) cabin which are small, but they provide shelter from the elements and offer a snug sleeping spot. Drinking water is pumped from the sea through a high-pressure pump and it’s desalinated before we get our drinking water. The water maker is an essential bit of equipment. It takes 300 litres of sea water to get pumped through the filter for us to receive 30 litres of drinking water.” We also wanted to know what safety equipment they will have on board and what happens in an emergency? They told us that, “Atlantic campaigns run a tight ship when it comes to ensuring that teams are prepared for the challenge physically and mentally. They make sure that you are equipped to deal with almost every eventuality. We carry a life raft for the most extreme of situations, we also have short range VHF radios and the AIS system- this essentially shows other vessels that may collide with us our position.”

Gill are proud to be Dark Trio’s apparel sponsor, they told us that they approached us for help because “we needed clothing and equipment that we as a team, could rely on and felt that Gill was a no brainer.” We have sent them a wide range of kit to support them on their row including, our OS2 Offshore Jacket and Trousers, UV Tec Shorts, T-Shirts, Hoodies and Race Caps, to prepare them for all the weather that will come their way.

They came to Gill HQ back in August 2022 and we were lucky to get a tour of their boat ‘Shaka Sisi’ and the chance to talk to them about their upcoming challenge. At Gill we are all rooting for them and will continue to keep an eye on their progress, if you would like to as well just follow their Instagram page: @darktri0 and if you would like to donate you can do so here.

You can keep track of all of the 43 teams taking part by following the Atlantic Campaigns Instagram, Facebook and TikTok page and by downloading the YB Races app, which allows you to follow their exact location. Search for ‘Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2022’.