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The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - Atlantic Mavericks

Meet ocean rower Roy Dixon (Atlantic Mavericks), as he talks to us about the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, team dynamics, and their daily diet. This is the first in a two-part blog update from experienced ocean rowers.

Expedition Foods (EF): What is your occupation? 

Roy Dixon (Atlantic Mavericks): Dentist

EF: What is your sporting background? 

Roy: Rugby for the Army and fly fishing!

EF: When did you get involved in ocean rowing?

Roy: In May 2017 - a gang of us took a Lodge in Ullapool and I agreed to join the team after the visit to the Glenmorangie Distillery.

EF: How did you get involved with the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC)?

Roy: As above - we felt we had to participate in TWAC to reassure partners that it was serious with a focus on preparation and safety.

EF: What training did you do for your TWAC2019 row?

Roy:

  • Learnt to row.
  • Joined Shropshire Adventure Rowing Club and completed the Celtic Challenge in May 2019 - row across the Irish Sea in Celtic longboats.
  • Coastal rowing in proper sculling boats.
  • Completed the requisite 120 hours in our boat, mainly in Cardigan Bay.

Atlantic Mavericks

EF: What gear did you bring on the TWAC?

Roy: Took guidance from the Ocean Rowing Course(s). By the time we had all of the ‘essentials’, there wasn’t a lot of room for anything else.

EF: How much food did you take on the TWAC?

Roy: We had to meet the requirements for TWAC2019 and produce a calorie plan - in my case this was 5,400 calories, in a combination of set meals and snacks.  Meals were a combination of Army “compo”, Expedition Foods freeze-dried meals and individual snack packs. 

EF: Can you describe your daily diet?

Roy:

  • Breakfast - Army muesli or homemade porridge packs with added dried fruit
  • Lunch - Army Compo, these were usually wet rations and usually consisted of a main and dessert, boil in the bag; occasionally 1,000 calorie freeze-dried meal
  • Dinner - 1,000 calorie freeze-dried meals
  • Snacks - tried to eat something in every break; my snacks were a combination of nuts, biscuits, flapjack and protein bars

I struggled to hit my 5,400-calorie target and I felt we had too much food onboard as none of us managed to eat enough to reach our targets.

EF: What were the high points of the row?  What were the low points of the row?

    Roy:

    • Highs:
      • The whole row.
      • Day three - when we overcame the problems from day one (below).
      • Arrival in Antigua.
    • Lows:
      • Not many, my partner had been advised to produce a letter for when I felt really down, but I never read it.
      • Day one was a challenge as we ended up drifting helplessly in a crippled boat (all seasick, one auto helm not working, snapped daggerboard, line wrapped around rudder).

    EF: How were the dynamics within your team on the TWAC?

    Roy:

    We had 3 aims:

    • get across safely
    • enjoy the experience
    • remain friends at the end

    We did achieve these aims, there were some challenging moments, but as skipper, I made decisions in accordance with the wishes of the crew. 

    EF: Did you ever think you would not make it?

    Roy: No - even after day one, we could still achieve our aims

    EF: What would you do differently next time?

    Roy:

    • Different team - more emphasis on rowing ability
    • Look at rations
    • Spread navigation tasks
    • Change clothing

    EF: What was the most worthless piece of gear on the expedition? What was the most valuable piece of gear on the expedition?

    Roy:
    • Worthless - fishing rod; binoculars.
    • Best - seat made from 5 layers of yoga mat; cost £3.99, but priceless - aside from electronics and comms stuff.

    EF:  What was the scariest moment of the row?

    Roy: None really - we tipped up sideways a couple of times. 

    EF: What did it feel like when you reached Antigua?

    Roy: Fantastic.

    EF: It wasn't long ago, but has your life already changed since TWAC2019?

    Roy: Think world events have rather overtaken this question, didn’t really have time to get back to normal.

    EF: What do you have planned next?

    Roy: No plans for adventure but a normal world would be nice.

    EF: What is the key to success in ocean rowing?

    Roy: Realising that the sea is in charge, only worry about what you can change.