The first of a series of updates by Kevin Thornton on the progress of Gavan as he solo rows his way across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

Who needs an alarm clock when a pod of dolphins decide to swing by & have a play with Doireann.”

After an epic past 30 hours of rowing in high seas, Gavan was in fine form this morning. Not only had he overcome his biggest test on this epic challenge, his beloved Connacht Rugby had scored a last minute try to defeat Wasps! He's now recovering from the thrill of surfing his row boat Doireann out on the high seas in the Atlantic Ocean on swells of 30ft whilst he and Doireann reached speeds of 13 knots. Recovery involves a series of critical checks and assessments of not only the boat, but his body and mind... more of that later.

For those of you unaware, 12 teams set off across the Atlantic in the world’s toughest row last Wednesday, December 14th.  There were 4 solo competitors and the other 8 entrants consisting of a variety of teams of between 2 -4 members. Gavan was one of those solo entrants. At the race start Gavan commented:

“A 5,000km long row is the equivalent of going around Ireland three times. I’ve worked out it’ll involve at least 1.5million strokes and I’m hoping to do it under 60 days. To do that, I’ll need to row 100km a-day. That is what I have trained for. That is what I am prepared for and that is what I am ready for. Bring it on!”

Gavan is in 4th place currently. He is clear of the rest of the solo competitors, clear of the teams of two and mixing it with the teams of 3 and 4 persons.

Since the start, Gavan has kept us updated through twitter, texts and emails and what a journey he’s had thus far. It was a quiet first few days on the ocean and Gavan tried to settle into the challenge after a hugely emotional departure from la Gomera, where a host of family and friends had gathered to see all the competitors off.

 “Sun just gone down, 1st few hours on the oars done. Not ideal winds just yet. 10 knt NW. Huge emotion leaving la gomera today”

“Day 2 here. Breaking myself in. Fickle winds ystrdy & this morning but clear of the Tenerife wind shadow & flying! This morning was a slow grind but now the winds have really kicked in, averaging over 4knots.”

“I've rowed alot in the last 18hrs,some great winds out of N/NE & I was surfing the wind chop getting over 3 knots.”

It’s been quite a contrast in environments for Gavan. He went from a very busy, safe, open, and supported base in la Gomera to a very quiet, potentially dangerous, unsupported and enclosed space on Doireann in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s taking time to adjust but he’s enjoying the experience and keeping himself busy rowing and doing maintenance work on the boat. Things such as making water from sea water, cleaning the solar panels and running through his list of critical equipment checks along with listening to podcasts and his beloved tunes. He has to be careful though as power is limited. His only supply comes from the solar panels. If it’s an overcast day… power becomes an issue and he has to be mindful of that.


Sunset Gav

First of many of theses epic sunsets. It's been a hard few days adjusting to ocean life but getting easier


Prior to the race start a strong favourable weather pattern was predicted to begin on Friday the 16th and carry through for 30 hours or so. Gav knew this and planned to be ready for it. On Day three that predication came through and winds were well and truly with him. Gavan took full advantage, covering over 60nm in one day.

Into day 3 >60nm in the last 24 hours! So far so good, been a hard few days adjusting to ocean life but it's getting easier. Still can't believe the start how intense the build up and to finally set off was such a relief yet a stark reminder that I'm going to be on my own for a very long time!

Gav’s surfing and diving experience added to his meticulous preparation, drive and sheer guts drove him on through the battering wind and rain. Time and again he scaled the sheer gradient, popped over the top of the fluid mountains and skied down the slopes on the far side. Due to the unpredictability of the waves and the currents within them, Gav has an autopilot which he can use to help steer the boat. However, using the autopilot in such conditions can put too much strain on the device. While Gav was enjoying the speed he was getting he became concerned about the autopilot. He made the call to turn his off and relied upon his skiing and surfing skills to navigate his way through the storm.   

His mentor Henry Lupton has been in contact with Gavan on daily basis and gave us some information on what we were seeing on the tracker through the storm and the concerns he had during that time.

 “You may have seen some of the boats putting out drogues or swinging right around in directions if they deploy the sea anchor to sit it out or to get some sleep. The risk is if the autopilot doesn't keep you with the wind the boat will go sideways and roll over. It's a balancing act now between keeping fresh and getting the most from the wind while being careful not to break bits or tire himself. I'm expecting the YB tracker will show a few slowing a lot to ride this wind out. I anticipate Gav having a ball tearing down waves munching on billtong !”

Sandy Loder from Peak Dynamics has been working with Gavan on his mental preparation and his performance preperation for this row and shared some of the advice he gave Gavan these past few days.

 “He needs to be as efficient as possible. Use the surfing to conserve energy, yet maintain high speed. So he probably won't get much sleep. He must keep eating even when busy.”

His drive and determination through that period has helped him take advantage of a tricky situation and he has leaped forward  and is now mixing it with the teams at the front of the race. Sandy is happy with the start that Gavan has made to the race but knows there is a lot yet to come!

If he can attain a good position in the first week, then get some recovery, he is ready to make a move if any of the boats start to catch or pull away from him. He has done really well to now , but he has many days left.”

 “Tunes on full blast! y'all better be dot watching!”

And dot watching we have! We’ll leave you with a tweet from Gav and ask you to stay tuned here or follow @soulogav on social for updates on his journey!

There has been huge interest online for Gavan’s journey and you can be part of the dot watching family by logging into…

contact or Kevin Thornton on 0863571714 for any enquire