The annual World's Toughest Row (formerly the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge,) held in early December, serves as a testament to human endurance, camaraderie, and an unrelenting quest for adventure. Participants come together with a singular objective: to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. This remarkable race is not only a test of physical strength and mental fortitude but also fosters lifelong friendships and creates unforgettable experiences.
Each team embarking on this journey will row 4,800 kilometres (3,000 miles) from Spain to Antigua, putting in more than 1.5 million oar strokes and burning roughly 5,000 calories per day.
In 2018, The Four Oarsmen, a four-person team, completed the fastest Atlantic crossing in 29 days, 14 hours, and 34 minutes, serving as an inspiration to all future teams. Mark Slats holds the record for the fastest solo row across, completing the journey in just 30 days, 7 hours, and 49 minutes the same year.
Participants from around the world gather in the village of San Sebastian, located on the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. Preparation for the challenge is a communal effort, with teams and individuals supporting each other in gearing up, exchanging tips, sharing stories, and providing emotional support to one another.
Known for its extreme depths, the Atlantic Ocean is 8.5 kilometres (5.28 miles) deep at its lowest point, and waves can tower up to 20 feet. With its unpredictable weather, daunting waves, and relentless currents, it presents an array of challenges that test the limits of the rowers. As teams embark on their journey, they face sleep deprivation, salt sores, and physical extremes. Rowers must navigate not only the treacherous waters but also their own thoughts in the solitude of the vast ocean.
Overcoming adversity is a fundamental part of the race. The physical and mental toll on participants is immense, but it also forges bonds that go beyond mere competition. While battling sleep hallucinations, and hunger, rowers are also experiencing camaraderie and self-discovery—especially the soloists.
Upon completing the gruelling journey, rowers join a small, exclusive community of individuals who have experienced the profound adventure of crossing an ocean. The mental and physical endurance required for this feat results in a life-changing achievement. Whether they row as a team or venture solo, every participant emerges from the experience with an unshakable sense of accomplishment.
Three teams of Mustang Survival ambassadors are taking on the World's Toughest Row this year. Learn more about them:
Liz Wardley (Solo)
Image courtesy of: Georgia Schofield
Team Salty Science (Team of 4)
Rowers gear favourites: