Our Boat Recovered

Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2013 – Race Retirements

Brief tour of Sunshine Bliss

Thank you for all your kind words of support. We are very grateful to be home with our families but obviously very sad not to be taking part in the race anymore. Thank you K Line for allowing Sunshine Bliss to divert and come to our rescue. Thank you Captain Norwaldo Raynes and all the crew of Sunshine Bliss for helping us and making us feel so welcome. Huge thanks to Falmouth Coastguard, Spanish Coastguard and all those involved in our recovery from the Atlantic. Merry Christmas to all of you. https://vimeo.com/82612544

Tuesday 17th: ‘The Rescue’

EPIRB (emergency beacon) activated, para anchor deployed, within 20 minutes we were in touch with Falmouth coast guard asking us to call them. We duly did and requested assistance. It was then over to the professionals to see how quickly someone could reach us so, via the Spanish coast guard, a 45,000 ton bulk carrier turned around to make the 2 hour diversion south to rescue us.

We are utterly indebted to the crew of the carrier, her Captain Norwaldo A. Raynes, and hugely generous crew, and to ‘K Line’ her owner. It was never going to be an easy exercise to rescue 2 people from a 24 foot boat up against a huge tanker. It required skill, but without doubt was the most scary experience of our lives.

Picture this huge vessel, 170 meters long, able to run us over like a fly hitting a windscreen, and yet it had to park next to us, against the wind and get lines attached to our boat before we could climb the 30 feet to safety. The situation was made more difficult by sea swell and, once the lines had been attached, the constant battering of our small boat against the huge vessel was terrifying – capsize and injury constantly in our minds.

Ed, situated at the bow of our boat, grabbed to first line thrown to us which came anywhere near, and under pressure, as quickly as possible, secured it to the boat. A second line followed, which Ed again secured, but it then snapped under huge pressure as our boat dropped off waves and constantly smashed against the larger ship. Finally we managed to get a third line attached, and then focused our attention on trying to climb the ladder to get off.
On a very rocky boat, we needed to time our exit to the ladder as Breakthrough was at the top of a wave, and then could drop away quickly taking us clear of her deck. She would then come back up on the next wave with the danger of perhaps smashing us off the ladder, so climbing quickly was essential.

Ed, in a good position, was the first to grab the ladder and instantly seemed to disappear from sight, with huge relief, but also anxiety for Nick. Could he time the transition successfully as well? After scrambling to the front of the boat to replicate Ed’s position, the ladder was in sight. A couple of minutes later Nick made his first attempt, leaving the boat but getting tangled in one of the lines securing Breakthrough. Quickly he was ripped from the ladder, and fell back into the water, under Breakthrough, but now in shock and getting exhausted. All Nick could hear was Ed’s screams to ‘get back in the boat’, which he was able to grab and drag himself aboard again.
Second attempt, and this time, Nick was on the ladder gripping on for life, but still in danger of being hit by Breakthrough as she rose on the swell. Again, all Nick could hear was Ed shouting ‘just *’ing climb Nick, you gotta keep climbing’. Two minutes later and we were both safe; exhausted, emotional, but safe.

That was all 24 hours ago and since then we have had time to reflect. In the next couple of days we will update you on our experiences and hopefully give you some pictures. We are due to arrive in Gibralter at the weekend, and from there home to the UK. It will be an emotional reunion, and we think difficult to adjust and reflect on what may have been. At least we have some time now to help us do that.

Our thoughts are with our remaining rowers to stay safe. May conditions improve to give you all the best possible chance of getting across.

Tuesday 17th December: The Second Capsize

The day began normally enough as we had rowed through much of the night, making c 3.5knts per hour (record speed) in lumpy, following seas. Nick took the first morning shift at 8am whilst Ed mended the water maker (again!). Conditions continued to be windy with large following seas which we were encouraged by.

Things changed dramatically at 9.15am! Winds had continued to increase up to around 30 knots and Nick mentioned to Ed that ‘some of these waves are bloody huge’! Not breakers, but large enough to get the adrenalin pumping. Then the first of 2 waves hit us. The first, probably 30 feet, was the warning for the next one to follow. Probably 40 feet now and steep enough for the Hawaians of you out there in search on huge waves, this one came directly from behind us. ‘Breakthrough’ went bow down and surfed to the bottom of the wave, burying her nose into the trough before the stern of the boat pitch-poled (cartwheeled) head over heels landing on her cabin roof. She then completed a full 360 roll to finish the aquatic display!

Nick was less impressed at the show as he had been thrown under the boat in the cartwheel, only remaining attached to it via a life-saving ankle strap. Ed, in the cabin, described it as ‘like being in a tumble drier full of spanners’ and when he first opened the cabin door again, could not see Nick anywhere. In shock, Nick dragged himself aboard and we assessed the damage – a broken oar, navigation light, water in the bow cabin and in the battery compartment of the main cabin (despite all hatches being locked shut). Water filled the rowing positions and we were now beam on to the weather and waves. We had breakfast (!) and gathered our thoughts/strength.

It’s no easy decision to say that after two years of preparation, the adventure was over, but actually the discussion was short. We were both lucky to be alive, had now survived two capsizes, and were not prepared to take more chances on a third. With low battery power, communications very difficult as our internal sat phone aerial was not working (meaning we had to be out on deck to make calls), we called for help and waited.

How it Was, Monday 16th

After the drama of Friday 13th and the first capsize, we were making good progress with the wind with us for the first time since the start of the journey. Both of us continued to struggle to eat and at times, especially for Ed, this made it emotionally tough on board – should we continue / how can we continue for 40 more days? We recognized the symptoms, though, and forced ourselves to eat, making great progress (c. 66 miles) in 24 hours, holding second place overall and first in the pairs class category.

Safety came first for Nick and Ed, following damaging capsize

The following press release was put out by Atlantic Campaigns this afternoon:

“At 1000 this morning (Tuesday 17th December 2013) Team NEAS Energy, Nick Rees and Ed Curtis reported to the Atlantic Campaigns Duty Officer that their boat had rolled and as a consequence had suffered some damage. The Duty Officers then liaised with the coastguard, the team and the support boat and the decision was made to recover the team onto a container ship passing within a few miles of them. The container ship is now on its way to Gibraltar with Nick and Ed on board. Both team members are physically well and most importantly safe. Family members have been informed.” (Atlantic Campaigns, organisers of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.)

We (families) have yet to speak to the boys directly but are very grateful for the operations put into place by Atlantic Campaigns to ensure their safety. Come home boys.

Sunday morning, 15th Dec. Rowing again

After a long night of wondering how Nick and Ed were faring, we got an email through at 09.30. They had rowed until 9pm last night, then slept for 6 hours. Got back on the oars at 4am, going back into 2 hour shift system, which means both of them had been able to cope with rowing in the blackness. Such a relief to hear from them. Our ‘no news is surely good news’ mantra was wearing thin!

Friday 13th/Sat 14th Dec: Digging Deep

This is the first blog post written by me (Ellen) of behalf of Team Nick and Ed, currently the world’s greatest superheroes.

The boys have been in a bad way for the last 24hours following rough treatment by the sea.

At 5pm last night (Friday) Nick and Ed were on deck, Nick rowing, Ed eating dinner. They were having a good chat apparently! A freak wave described by Nick as ‘enormous’ reared up behind the boat.  The wave knocked them out of the boat and it capsized to the side, but righted very quickly and the boys (who were wired onto their safety lines)were able to get back on board safely.  Nick got back on the oars to try to continue rowing, and Ed went into the cabin – however another wave threatened to roll them again and Nick joined Ed inside. They were then rocketed forward at a terrifying 14.5knots by the waves.

14 knots is aprox. 16.1 MPH, 25.928 kph

This event on top of the punishing conditions they have had to endure mentally and physically over the last 10 days shook Nick and Ed to the point that early this morning they asked the support yacht to attend them.  However after a long and very emotional day of wind-interrupted phonecalls, satellite texts and trying to get them to eat something (have had no appetite), they called off the aid and are back on the oars. The support boat will still go to their area tonight and be close by as a back-up. Atlantic Campaigns have offered sound support to us and them – thank you.

Night rowing is reportedly the hardest, as the cloud cover means there is little moonlight to see the waves coming, before they break over the boat.  So they have adjusted their shift pattern in order to be able to support each other more and have less time rowing alone in the darkness.  We have also been working on providing them with more info – a lot of the comms are not getting through so they did not know how well they were doing, or that lots of the other crews are finding this immensely tough too.

I speak for all those involved in today’s events when I say I am impressed with Nick and Ed beyond words.  Whatever happens next they have pulled themselves through a very hard place.  I am in awe of you boys.

Keep going!

PS. Nicola, thank you. xxx

Wednesday 11th Dec 3.20pm

Not sure when you will get this as we can’t get satellite reception due to cloud cover. Started rowing at 8.20 am after putting sea anchor away. Massive relief to be out of the cabin after 3 sweaty days. By 11am we were joined by a pod of 50+ dolphins which we got on camera – amazing! Now into shift system again and have had first hot meal in 3 days (couldn’t eat due to heat in cabin). Heading SSW now as this seems to be the quickest rowing course with current NE wind. The long awaited NW winds are due around Friday when we can start going more west. Spirits are good but we are longing to turn west to start knocking those miles off!