As we enter the final week of the race, Henry Lupton from Team @SouloGav caught up with Gavan for an indepth chat about him and his row boat Doireann and asks how has he managed to fend off American Oarsmen?!

Gavan thought he wasn’t going to be able to compete with the American Oarsmen given the consistent high speeds they have been achieving in recent weeks. The arrival of new wind however means that Gavan can compete on this not so level playing field and they can keep each other company for the final week. Each are trading mileage blows and despite dropping to with 8nm of American Oarsmen, Gavan has increased that out now to 15nm again. Gavan covered 79nm in the 24 hours from 8am Sunday to 8am on Monday!

Gavan’s routine is based around the 4 hour blocks of the Yellow Brick updates. He tries to row for 3 hours and then break and eat and or nap for an hour. So he will rise at 5am, row until 8, break until 9 then row again from 9 til 12, break until 1 then row til 4 and so on. This get disrupted at times though, and a few days ago he put in longer hours to keep up with the nearby American Oarsmen. An increase in wind with suitable direction on Saturday night allowed him to sleep a bit longer and recharge a bit more.

All in all he feels he is in good shape and is loving the experience. He guesses he has lost about 10kg from his starting weight of 85kg. However that was weight he had intentionally put on for the row so he is back near his normal weight-ish. Refuelling has changed a little though. He has had it with some of the freeze dried dishes, a couple of the flavours were repeating on him in the early days and the remaining packs of those flavours were donated to the fishies in recent days. He also gifted 75 wet meals to Neptune giving him a bit of weight reduction. That huge quantity of treat snacks we saw spread on the pontoon in La Gomera is gone though. At the moment rice pudding along with Kilbeggan porridge are his favourite items on the depleted Doireann menu. At this stage Gavan is starting to crave the finer things in life like a decent wash. I could almost smell him from his description, I can’t imagine what it is like on the 2 and 3 man boats where water is likely more rationed. 

Wear and tear on the kit seems to have stabilised, the tweaks to his oars seem to have worked ok. With the livelier conditions the oars are thrashing him again of course but he is too happy with the higher speeds to be bothered. His surfing experience is of great use in this weather and he managed to grab the camera in time to catch a top speed of 14kts tearing down a wave last night. While the increase in sunshine is giving more than enough power to keep his batteries full he is still being ultra conservative and tends to switch off non essentials unless he needs them. Indeed when he is rowing in moderate conditions he is tending to use the foot steering rather than the autopilot. He has also forsaken his fitted stereo system with outside speakers in favour of his ipod which uses less power.

This monk-like energy conservation practice means his batteries are in super order as evidenced during his daily water generation. Earlier in the race it was taking 40 minutes to make his daily requirements he is now getting enough in 20 minutes. He even manages to make extra some days allowing him to avoid running it on the bumpy days.

We spoke about the autopilots as this is of most concern to me since the burn out of one of them off Loop Head in September. Gavan and I didn’t have time to protect the units from this overheating as we had planned. Nor had we time to fine tune each unit.  Two of them are not displaying correct compass information so he is really relying on one unit for quite a while now. Thankfully he has kept the aft cabin shut the vast majority of the time and told me it was bone dry in there. The auto pilot does throw a wobbly every now and then though and he noticed that when he was swimming to clean the boat that bumping into the rudder tended to send it awry. He had encountered quite a bit of seaweed in recent times and thinks that it sometimes snags the rudder and annoys the autopilot causing him to leap to the stern cubbyhole to tame it down.

So he is geared up for a tough few days rowing in his attempt to stay ahead of the lads in American Oarsmen. They are literally in the same boat as him but a year older. You can see from photos that the Rannoch 20 has two positions so it is suitable for one, two or three rowers. Smaller boats were used in the past by solo rowers but they are not allowed in organised events.  The Facing it and Fresh Dental crews are looking like they will be keeping each other company approaching the islands too.

"I'm focused on controlling the controllables. I know about American Oarsmen but I can't do anything about what they're doing. I can only focus on rowing my boat and pushing myself to the limit to get to Antigua as fast as I possibly can.

My goal before this race was to be the first solo man home and to set a new IRISH record. I'm going to achieve that. I'm fighting hard out here with my body and my mind. I'm focused on the next stroke and the one after that. I've got plenty of water infront of me and I'll be pulling hard each and every minute I've got left out here. I'm gonna get to Antigua with style and raise that flare and tricolour high when I get there!"

Lots of folk have been asking what he is doing next. Since he had never done anything like this prior to the row, there was a good chance he might have been looking towards keeping his feet dry in the future! From the sounds of him at this late stage in the race, he is enjoying himself too much though! It looks like there won’t be any ocean rowing boats on DoneDeal any time soon.