As a closing note we’ve just received a very generous offer (three actually) from someone to drive us down to Marseille to pick up the boat. An ex-boat builder, fisherman and rower so a handy chap to have around. We just need to take a diversion through Bordeaux. Oh well, there are worse places to go! We’re also in the process of obtaining quotes for the shipping of the boat to La Gomera
So a rather belated update on the past few months and wow, what a busy time we’ve had. I’ll probably break it down into sections for easier reading as the timeline of events is all rather blurry. The last post finished with “the boat” so let’s start there.
With ongoing lockdown issues in France we were really struggling to get down to Marseille to collect Sogno Atlantico. The plan had been to drive down there, meet Lilian and Guilaume, the previous owners, have a good day going through the kit and equipment, see how everything works on the boat, do a sea trial, some more training and then bring her back overland. Unfortunately, France went into another rather strict lockdown and we decided that we needed to revert to plan B.
In April we reached out to all the shipping companies in Jersey in the hope that someone would fancy a challenge. A few people declined and a few pointed us in the direction of Grant at Rozel Bay Shipping. I emailed him and he immediately called the hotel for a chat. He was excited about our challenge and wanted to be part of the adventure. We met with him and soon enough, Grant became our “Logistics partner” and would set to work on trying to get the boat delivered to us in Jersey at minimal cost. Hopefully he will also be assisting us in getting her shipped to La Gomera next year and back from Antigua in 2023 when we complete the race.
Arranging the pickup and shipping of the boat wasn’t straightforward with the strict lockdown and rules in place. The drivers were coming from a job in Croatia and weren’t allowed to be on the roads in France after 18:00 or on weekends but had to be at Marseille dock by 17:00 on a Friday to meet the previous owners and the forklift drivers. By 16:30 they were still on the road so it was all a bit close and stressful not being able to do anything about the situation and just waiting for Grant to ping through a picture of the boat being lifted onto the truck. About a week later she had arrived in Granville. From there Grant needed to arrange for her to be shipped across to Jersey on the Normandy Trader. The excitement of going to see her in the flesh was brilliant. I remember following the Trader on the marine tracker on my phone and as soon as she docked Pete and I went down to the harbour to see her.
Pete had been working hard to get insurance for the boat, primarily for “in transit” in case of an accident but also for when the boat was here in Jersey. Unfortunately insuring an Ocean rowing boat isn’t quite that straightforward as the insurance companies don’t necessarily recognise them as boats without engines and without sails. After a lot of work, he did manage to get insurance.
We’d also been having a load of issues with Jersey Customs and Immigration. I had declared GST and paid the 5% which I loathed doing on such an old boat but hey ho. Unfortunately, Customs wanted to charge more import tax unless we could prove that the boat had been built in the UK. We couldn’t do that. Luckily Grant kindly offered his services on our behalf and managed to work some magic and get it released. Nothing’s ever straightforward. Now what? We had a rowing boat, sitting on a bigger boat, strapped to a mixture of pallets and tyres with no trailer and no tow bars on the cars. Thankfully Grant had also put us in touch with Major Charlie Martell, officer commanding at The Jersey Field Squadron at HM forces (ARMY) Corps of Royal Engineers. I’d met him and he’d offered to store the boat in the short term at their barracks. He hadn’t offered to get it there, but Grant contacted him and between the two of them they managed to get the boat lifted onto their truck and taken to the barracks. Unfortunately, the forklift at the barracks wasn’t big enough to lift her off so she stayed there for a few days until another company could lift her off. We went up for a bit of a clamber with Charlie and Ian from the rowing club. Ian had taken us under his wing as ex rowing club captain and previous Atlantic Rower. Charlie had previously rowed the Atlantic from West to East as a team of four and has attempted to row across the Pacific twice but that’s another story (or two).
Eventually the boat was on dry land, completely secured and accessible. We were given 24 hour access to the barracks, so we set about exploring this weird boat and all of its kit with the first job to empty it out and see what was what. The food within at had been in the boat since November 2020 and had been across the Atlantic twice. I admit we did eat a few of the chocolate bars but most of it was thrown out. I wish we’d kept a few more snacks lying around as we’re always peckish up there in the evenings. We’ve been popping up to see the boat regularly and get used to some kit. We’ve tried to figure out the electrics, the steering system, and a few other things. The seats have been dismantled and rebuilt as the bearings in all 16 wheels had seized with saltwater exposure. The next job was to try and get her onto a trailer. We tried a few lines of enquiry, but nothing came to fruition until we spoke to Paul Caunce of PC boat sales. We met with him at his base in St Helier end explained what we needed:
1.Raymarine – service and give tuition on 4 x S2000 auto tiller units
2.Service and give tuition on Garmin 721 chart plotter & Garmin VHF
3.Identify and locate if we have ais 600 Transceiver
4.Service all electrics and give tuition on repairs
5.Provide use of trailer when required (and mutually agreeable) for display purposes/school visits etc.
6.Service plastimo life raft or arrange replacement at trade price
7.Guide us on how to get the boat looking like new – gel coat repairs, antifouling etc
8.Discount on any equipment we may need – clothing, epirb, replacement electrics etc
He agreed to all these requests and said he’d be happy to help which was an awesome result for us. He has since managed to put the boat on a brilliant loan trailer, with the help of one of his team members (Ben) and Al from the Field Squadron. He’s also been up with his valeting girl Amy to show us what to do to get the boat looking as good as possible without spending a fortune. Pete and I have recently been up and given it a good power wash and spent a few hours polishing the gel coat to get rid of the rust marks and residue from the old decals. It doesn’t look like new as there have been many repairs over the years but with some carefully placed stickers/logos we should be looking good. Unfortunately, once the boat was on the trailer and sitting upright, we noticed a hole in the hull which will need repairing before she can go in the water. We could have claimed on the insurance as this damage may have been done in transit, either from Marseille to here or from Martinique to Marseille but the excess was very high. Work has been completed, courtesy of Chris at GRP Marine and the cost of repair was generously waived.
Lily May on the trailer kindly supplied by Paul of PC boat Sales, and cleaned up with old decals and rust stains removed
We managed to partner with Signtech, a local signage company in respect of working with us on the decals/stickers and their placement. We’d originally thought about getting the boat 3M wrapped but this isn’t necessary and will be very expensive. With the hull repairs now complete, the decals will be completed imminently. We hope she will be ready to go in the water by the end of August briefly before being taken out again for prominent display at the Superleague Triathlon Fanzone.
Behind the Scenes
The website is finally live and can be viewed here www.dragonfishrow.com . Thanks to Phil and Maria of Blue Llama for putting this together, we think it looks amazing. With so many team’s websites out there that all have similar information it’s difficult to come up with something a bit different to stand out but between Blue Llama and Steve from STS graphics they’ve managed to create a good brand.
Steve has been organising merchandise for us, so we started with T shirts and Covid masks and have now placed a secondary order for more t shirts, polo shirts, jackets and more Covid masks which we anticipated needing.
On the Sponsorship front, we had a good push between April and June. We secured our Title Sponsor in D.G.R Slatter (Decorators) Limited which was amazing news. I’ve worked with Derek for about 10 years in that they’ve been our main decorating firm of Dolan Hotels. Derek has always been very supportive of mine and Pete’s challenges. He’s previously paid for my flights to Alaska for my first Iditarod Trail Invitational and he provided Pete a car to use, whilst also making a generous donation towards a raffle prize, when doing his horrendously difficult “car pull challenge”. A marathon distance slog dragging a car!!
We can’t thank Derek enough for coming on board as title sponsor and will do what we can to ensure that he, his family and his business are as involved with our adventure as possible. Whilst we couldn’t officially rename the boat, we have agreed to nick name the boat after Derek’s granddaughter so from here on in, we will be referring to her as “Lily May”.
Pete’s employer Prosperity247 were the next to come on board and they join as Gold Sponsors. Prosperity 24/7 have always been hugely supportive of Pete’s endurance antics, and we were delighted to have them on board and part of the adventure. A huge thanks to Chris Clark and the team for having the faith in us and for supporting the journey. We look forward to working with you over the next two years. Here’s what Chris had to say:
“In December 2022, our colleague, Peter Wright and his good friend, Steve Hayes, two Jersey based part time Endurance athletes, will commence their biggest journey yet by rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic. They have signed up to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge as – Team: DRAGONFISH – testing their mental strength, physical endurance and no doubt, their friendship, to the limits. It should be noted that neither of them are seasoned rowers, far from it!
Peter and Steve met through their newfound love of Endurance events and their thirst for adventure in 2012. They have since gone on to compete in numerous events and challenges, both individually and together. The challenges undertaken together have included a 6-day 250km ultra-marathon through the Amazon Jungle (Brazil), running the width of England non-stop, a 24-hour non-stop cycle ride and running around all the Channel Islands over 3 days. For this challenge, they will be pushing themselves to their mental and physical limits with a view to winning the race and raising much needed awareness and funds for two chosen charities.”
Ashbe Construction were the next to join the adventure as Gold Sponsors. Steve has worked with Ashbe Construction for several years working on hotel projects and they’ve always done a great job. Ben and Les at Ashbe were instantly intrigued and wanted to have some part to play. They were disappointed to miss out on the Title Sponsor spot but happy to join as Gold sponsors. Thanks so much for the support, we look forward to getting you all out on “Lily May”
I met with Nigel Campbell of Mercury Distribution and he was very happy to be part of the journey and offered to support in the capacity of Bronze sponsor. Nigel has previously sponsored me so it’s great to work with him and the team again.
Pete met with Ed Poynton and Duncan Fox from Style Group. Pete is a good friend of Duncan, and he was kind enough to broker an introduction with Ed. Ed and Duncan were excited to partner with us and have offered to support us in the capacity of Bronze plus sponsor.
We’ve also had several people sign up for the 250 club:
Iain Fortune was very generous and signed up for 4 x 250 club spots
His equally generous wife Anne Fortune matched him and also donated £1000
Maria and Kristjan Nommik, Steve Foster, Peter & Pam Hickin, Geoff Turk, HR Jersey Limited, Quantum Kenpo systems, Cathy & Alan Read, AH Engineers Limited and Real Eco Solutions have all joined the 250 club.
Ian Anderson from the rowing club (and previous Ocean Rower) has also made a generous donation.
Thank you to you all for the support, it’s really appreciated.
We’ve mentioned Paul Caunce of PC boat sales and Grant of Rozel Bay Shipping. Kit Chamier of True Food had a mention in the last post. Expedition Foods have offered us some very god discounts on freeze dried meals. Both Pete and I have been using their products for the past 10 years. We’ve tried many but always come back to their 1000kcal
meals. Sonja from Pilateholic_community has been working with us every Monday morning for middle aged rowers focused “Pilates in the Park”. We get some odd looks and it’s not helping our hay fever but we’re enjoying it and getting stronger and more mobile each week. Local Filmmaker Jim O’Garra from ‘Jim n Tonic’ has partnered with us and will be filming our progress along this journey and producing a short film after the challenge. We are very
excited to have partnered with Jim. Be sure to check out his showreel on the website.
I don’t think it was mentioned in the previous post but a friend has made us aware of a £1000 Clipper Bursary available annually through the Royal Channel Island Yacht Club. We applied for this in writing and were over the moon to receive the phone call confirming that we’d been awarded it. A very helpful cash injection that will be used to purchase our new Life raft. A nice article was published here.
That’s about it for sponsors and partners for now but we’re trying hard for more. We’re about 75% of the way towards our goal but really do need more sponsors on board so if anyone can point us in the direction of any potential sponsors we’d really appreciate it.
I’ve already mentioned the Pilates which is really beneficial. We both started Double Top, a local 40 mile Ultramarathon from St Catherines to L’Etacq and back. Unfortunately Pete sustained an injury and sensibly decided to pull out the half way point. I managed to get it done which was surprising given the lack of running training this year.
Focusing on rowing, in the last post I mentioned we’d been out in a couple of singles boats. We did this under the watchful eye of Ian Blandin at the rowing club. This was extremely nerve wracking and a very fast and steep learning curve. One of our boats was stable and the other, not so. A few near capsizes but overall a good bit of experience gained. As soon as we were allowed to row in pairs I was teamed up with another club committee member and keen rower, Anna Tredant who showed me the ropes whilst Pete rowed with Ian. After a few weeks of rowing we were allowed out together and managed to secure a great pairs boat for the season. Again, a steep learning curve but good progress and most importantly, we’re enjoying this new sport.
We’ve participated in a few races now, a friendly early season race to get everyone used to racing again after a year of lockdown. This went OK although navigation was tricky and we overshot the first buoy so lost a bit of time going back for it. The second race out to Portelet was very different with tough but fun conditions. Very lumpy and choppy but a good experience. The third was a handicapped race which we managed to win somehow. I’m not sure how accurate the handicaps were but in saying that we had trained a bit, had been improving and did give it 100%. It was quite nice being chased for the whole race with all the other teams slowly gaining on us. Gave us that motivation to keep pushing.
We used all the above as training for Sark to Jersey which is usually quite a big race on the Calendar. A lot smaller this year, due to Covid and the restrictions in place i.e. Guernsey boats not being allowed to land in Jersey. The race was far more complicated, in terms of logistics, than our usual ones. We needed to source a guard boat to take our club boat out to Sark. Once in Sark, we would wait for the start and effectively row back to Jersey, around 28km. After a few late dramas, we had an offer from Dave Salter to act as our guard boat for the day. This involved an early start, and us finding a way to place our boat on Dave’s. What followed was a lumpy and bumpy journey to Sark. Joining us for the ride was Olly from our recent film production partners, ‘Jim n Tonic’. We enjoyed a good few hours with Dave and Olly on the boat, bobbing around in Sark, waiting for the start. Once the race started, Dave and Olly would flank us all the way back to Jersey. The race itself was our biggest challenge yet, and it was by far our longest row to date. We had a target time of 2:45 in mind but had nothing really to base this on. The first hour of the race was tough going in terms of swell, but we did have the wind pushing us the right way. Eventually, conditions became far better, and the second half of the race was less bumpy. We ended up finishing in 2:33 and were delighted with this. That said, we know we can improve significantly on this and look forward to improving on this time in 2022. We’re now in training for the Round Jersey race, and we are expecting that to be a 5–6-hour row.
Thank you all for your support and thank you in advance for sourcing us new sponsors. If anyone has any questions, suggestions for fundraising/campaign or simply wants to come to view the boat, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
A selection of random photos below