Today, 55 rowers from across the globe took to the water for the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2020, a 3,000 mile rowing challenge across the Atlantic Ocean. The annual race looks to draw out the wild spirit in ‘everyday people,’ encouraging them to achieve extraordinary things.
Beginning in the Spanish port of San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands and ending in Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua-Barbuda, the crews will spend between 30 to 90 days at sea where they could face commanding waves, extreme physical challenge, and nature in its purest form from spellbinding starry skies to dolphins in their natural habitats, and a whole host of marine wildlife as they row the 3,000 miles to Antigua.
Over 21 international teams–including four-man crews, all-female and solo crews–from countries including the United States, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Great Britain are taking on the race under strict COVID-19 protocols after years of preparation.
This year’s U.S. team is a hybrid of U.S. and U.K. friends. Known as Latitude 35, the team is comprised of New Yorker and Captain Dixon McDonald, Jimmy Carroll, Todd Hooper and Jono Mawson. Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky one one of Latitude 35’s main sponsors on this life-changing endeavor. Much like Talisker’s founders who rowed to Scotland’s Isle of Skye to open the distillery almost 200 years ago, Latitude 35 will spend the next thirty or more days re-wilding their spirits as they fully immerse themselves in nature’s elements.
“I grew up in New York City, on the 7th floor of a 16 floor apartment building in Manhattan,” related McDonald. “I did not grow up next to an ocean, I had never rowed until about a year and a half ago. I hadn’t spent more than five and half hours on a rowing machine until I started training for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. That said, I love pushing the limits of what’s considered possible and this race seemed like the perfect challenge to do just that.”
Prior to the 2020 race, the Latitude 35 organization has seen two other teams set off on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge–once in 2015 and again in 2016, when the team broke the record for the fastest four-man crew to row across the Atlantic in just 35 days, 14 hours and 3 minutes.
To reach the start line, teams have had to demonstrate similar levels of vigor, determination and strength of character, as they’ll require at sea. The crews have worked tirelessly to secure partners and donations, while training to prepare to row the 1.5 million oar strokes needed to cross the ocean.
Talisker Single Malt Scotch Whisky’s support has also allowed Latitude 35 to participate for a good cause as each rower has a unique and personal motivation for racing. Latitude 35’s members are rowing to raise money for four charities that are close to each of them: Achilles International, Brian Cross Memorial Trust, Not Forgotten Association, and the Pelorus Foundation.
“Talisker was founded in 1830 by two wild spirits–the MacAskill brothers–who rowed from Eigg to Skye in search of the perfect location for their distillery so we can say that Talisker Whisky is truly Made By The Sea,” commented Natalia Montigny, Head of Global Marketing for Talisker. “Every year we are touched by the incredible stories and determination of those taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We wish them all the best as they undertake this epic journey and look forward to welcoming them back and raising a toast to their accomplishment.”
Carsten Heron Olsen, CEO of Atlantic Campaigns, added, “It is great to see our teams set off today on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Their determination and enthusiasm has been unwavering. After months of working with partners and the public to raise money for some amazing causes, the 55 rowers today get to take to the water and continue to inspire people across the world as they take on a journey most could not even imagine. ”