A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step.
It’s become a bit of a cliché, but it’s still true. Most clichés are. Every journey begins with a yearning of the heart and a step taken in the direction needed to fulfil that desire. It’s often the hardest step. Every physical journey also has a beginning. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge begins in the small town of San Sebastian de La Gomera. It’s the capital of La Gomera, one of the islands that make up the Spanish archipelago known as the Canary Islands. To say it’s small is an understatement. It’s only 15 miles across. With a thick, green, verdant cloud forest at its heart the island looks like the setting for the TV series, LOST. Meanwhile, the coast is a completely different world with deep canyons, date palms and desert.
From there, Columbus set sail to discover a route to the East Indies by sailing west. Instead, following in the footsteps of the legendary St Brendan and the Vikings, he landed in the New World. This time, 63 people, myself included, followed Columbus’ route and went west. Following the trade winds and being helped along somewhat by the currents, we trailed the sun to the Caribbean 2,800nm. The wind and currents dictated the final route taken by each team. The trick when rowing vast distances is to try and slip into a favourable current and get the best following winds. The route might be longer but you could get to the other side quicker than anybody else. Fair winds, favourable currents and an iPod with some good tunes, what more could a rower ask for?
The first western ship to enter English Harbour was apparently the Dover Castle, a yacht used by the Governor of the Leeward Islands in 1671 to chase pirates. Today, Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua is a cultural heritage site, marina and part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. It was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, not just because he was a great sailor, but because he actually lived in the Dockyard for three years. This historical and rather romantic location is the final destination of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. I didn’t chase pirates, unfortunately, but I did chase the adventure.