You, Me and the Sea – Rowing Across the Atlantic

Two mates, one boat and 3000nm of open ocean. Dan Wise & Ian Yates, aka Team Roaring40s, took on the mighty Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2022 rowing unaided across the Atlantic. Huge support was received from sponsors, family, friends and followers throughout the 3-year journey to the start line in La Gomera, and throughout their crossing.

The pairs’ resilience, determination and pure grit meant they completed the ultra-endurance event in 53 days, 16 hours, 30 minutes, and in the process raised tens of thousands of euros for their chosen charities.

Here Ian & Dan take us through the race from a shaky beginning to a triumphant end.

La Gomera

Two weeks before race day, all teams assembled in the fleet tent for the first briefing. These briefs would happen every day until we left, and ranged in topics from safety, weather, logistics, media training and motivation. The Atlantic Campaigns team run a tight operation. Their goal is firstly to get every boat ready, into the water and off across the ocean, safely to Antigua. A high success rate is key to their mission, and they do everything in their power to help you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

That was abundantly clear in our case. Our boat arrived complete, but after taking delivery of the mandatory life raft, it became clear we’d installed our water maker in slightly the wrong place, preventing stowage of the life raft completely. The only solution was to remove the water maker and reinstall it elsewhere on the boat. Stress ensued, but with a “can do” attitude on their part and ours, we were able to rectify the situation and launch AXEL, albeit a week after every other boat first made its way to the pontoon.

The rest of the 2-week preparation period was a chance to cross off last-minute items, meet other teams, sample pizzas in La Gomera, and witness Harry Kane stick his second penalty over the crossbar.

On launch day, we all set off. One by one, the larger teams first, and at intervals of just a few minutes, the rest of the fleet followed.


We’d been informed by Atlantic Campaigns that there was some unusual activity in the north Atlantic, and for several days we’d all been watching on our own weather maps two low-pressure systems sitting above and to the west of the Canaries. These were disrupting the usual flow of wind and sea coming from the northeast, so our launch sent us directly south, with many boats finding themselves being pushed east towards Africa in those first days. Some teams opted to head in a more deliberate westerly direction; hard work, and with the risk they’d run into further problems should the isobars pack together and cause stronger winds.

We headed south with the intention of navigating underneath any such issues. A friend of ours in Antigua (“Bear”) helped with our routing, and provided a daily summary of what conditions we could expect and where we should aim for. This was a very useful resource to have, and one that all ocean rowers should arrange. However, not even Bear could have predicted the chaos brought on by Boxing Day’s weather system. More low-pressure areas created huge seas, 30ft swells, strong northerly winds, and a barrier running north to south in the direction we wanted to go.

We were forced south. Friends of ours on sailing yachts at the time, delivering to the Bahamas, scrambled to take shelter in the Cape Verde Islands. We retreated to our cabins and let our boat get taken for the ride; there was no rowing to be done in such conditions, and we couldn’t fight the direction in which we were heading. Four long days passed before we were able to kick start our rowing again, put an end to our southing, and head west.

Teams who had opted to head directly west from the Canaries managed to avoid this barrier to a large degree, and so the fleet was cloven in two. Sadly, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the system, and it wasn’t to be the last time Mother Nature tested our resolve.

Survival on board

Rowing across the Atlantic isn’t so much a test of whether you can move oars through water, as seeing how you tolerate conditions and find the mental fortitude to survive on a small boat for weeks on end.

Within the first couple of weeks, an incident that saw AXEL almost capsize on a large wave (snapping an oar and causing us to lose a jar of coffee, some shoes, and other items we hadn’t secured) gave us pause to think about survival. Small details like the boat’s centre of gravity, tying absolutely everything on, and moving about the vessel safely, became suddenly very important. I was guilty of not having taken the sea seriously enough, and from that humbling moment on, I treated the Atlantic with more respect. We decided then and there that, even though an R25 is more than capable of self-righting after capsizing, we would be staying the right way up at all times.

Survival is also about comfort. It was paramount that we kept the cabins tidy and dry (the latter isn’t actually possible, but we made an effort nonetheless) and that the deck remained clean. We both suffered from sores, abrasions, and rashes; all of which would be exacerbated by unsanitary conditions. Fatigue does its best to see you pay no attention to small chores, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Mind over matter

As I watched the two halves of our snapped oar float off into the distance, I felt a pang of weakness. It was the oar my two daughters had decorated for us; motivational quotes and entertaining characters to keep us going. I felt guilty we’d lost it, and suddenly very far from my family. Mental fortitude was one of my strengths, I’d previously thought, but apparently, I’d never tested myself quite like this before.

Later on in the race, as we were counting down the days to our arrival and enjoying the onset of favourable trade wind conditions, our resolve was once again tested. Low-pressure systems were forming where they typically shouldn’t, and we found ourselves being rapidly propelled south again. Two days of these conditions and we’d moved well beyond the southernmost shores of Antigua, struggling to maintain our latitude. We had no choice but to deploy the para-anchor to slow things down.

Where just days before we’d been thinking of rum punch and the warm embrace of our families, we now had to resign ourselves to rowing northwards, against the swell, and fighting our way slowly back to 17º N.

Our reward for achieving this was a period of a completely wind-free, glossy ocean, devoid of waves and current. We slogged for several days at just a single knot, heaving the boat with each oar stroke through what felt like treacle.

We both remember this last section of the race as being the hardest. It took every shred of mental will to accept our situation and stop thinking about an ETA. We’d get there when the Atlantic allowed us to.


Almost two months of solitude and patience were flushed from our minds as we approached Antigua at a pace we’d only dreamed of the week before. Surfing 2m swell at breakneck speeds of up to 4 knots, we hurtled towards the looming Antiguan coast as darkness fell.

Atlantic Campaigns awaited, and as we rounded the corner to English Harbour, a busy media boat rushed out to meet us along with a pilot dinghy to lead us in. We followed instructions, crossed the finish line, lit our flares, and yelled at those standing on the dock. Brains now fully disengaged, we let the whole experience wash over us; mooring at the dock, we wobbled onto dry land with cheers and fanfare filling the air. We were interviewed, we were weighed (having shed over 20kg between us), and we were fed.

Success was ours, and it tasted as sweet as we’d imagined. 53 days and 16 hours after pushing off from the dock in La Gomera.

Written by Lucie Gardiner, Ian Yates & Daniel Wise

Photos by Atlantic Campaigns



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