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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Friday, 5 October, 2001, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Atlantic rowers set for 3,000-mile race
Britain's Comonte brothers in the trans-Atlantic rowing craft
Britain's Comonte brothers look forward to the long haul
BBC Sport Online's Alex Trickett previews the gruelling Atlantic Rowing Challenge, which starts this week.

Sir Steven Redgrave has achieved most things in the sport of rowing.

He has won Olympic gold medals in five consecutive Summer Games and has more world titles than fingers.

But the great man has never rowed across the Atlantic unaided.

Few people have, of course, but on 7 October, 36 intrepid two-man teams set off in the second Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge to do just that.

Unlike most of the other teams, having shared bunk beds, we do have experience of living on top of each other
Dominic Comonte
British competitor
Leaving from Los Gigantes in Tenerife, the 72 competitors - male and female - will row for up to 12 hours-a-day and for 3,000 miles overall, before finishing at Port St Charles, Barbados.

En route they may have to contend with 50-feet waves and will certainly face harsh storms and cold weather.

The race is expected to take anything from 40 to 100 days.

When it was first run in 1997, the winning team, Kiwi Challenge, finished after 41 days at sea, while one straggler did not reach land until two months later.

The 2001 race features entrants from 13 countries.

Among them are Dominic and Crispin Comonte, two British brothers from London.

The Comonte brothers in action
Pull together: Team effort for the Comontes
Their boat, Team Nutri-Grain, has been developed with assistance from BBC Technology, but the brothers are not exactly sure what to expect when racing starts.

"We have no idea how we will react to each other in the conditions and circumstances we will be facing," said Dominic Comonte.

"However, there is no-one I would trust more to row while I am asleep.

"Unlike most of the other teams, having shared bunk beds, we do have experience of living on top of each other."

There will be no bunk beds in the middle of the Atlantic, however.

Instead, every team will eat, sleep and live on boats that have been designed for safety and endurance more than for comfort.

  Boat specifications
Length: 7.1 metres
Beam: 1.9 metres
Total weight: 750 kg
Crew: Two
Each boat is 24 feet and conforms to a design standard that gives every participant an equal chance of winning.

Teams must fit their own water desalination unit to provide them with drinkable water and must also carry all of their sustenance in the form of freeze-dried food packets.

High-tech equipment will also be at work.

In 1997, one boat issued its distress signal after an electronic failure, prompting a 36-hour air-and-sea-search.

This time around, solar panels will provide energy for communications via satellite phones, navigation equipment and, in some cases, portable CD players.


Sir Chay Blythe, who has long been associated with global sailing events, is confident that the Atlantic Rowing Challenge will be safe and successful.

He rowed the North Atlantic himself back in 1966 and devised the inaugural race.

Sleep deprivation, nausea and blisters are almost certain to torment all competitors, but most are expected to complete the course.

The retired Steve Redgrave will not be among them.

But with his penchant for comebacks, who is to rule him out of attempting rowing's greatest challenge some time in the future.

See also:

28 Aug 01 |  Funny Old Game
Robbo sticks his oar in
27 Aug 01 |  Other Sports
Best ever for British rowers
26 Aug 01 |  Other Sports
Britain take second in Lucerne
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