Gavan is now 15 days into his mammoth solo row across the Atlantic. He is having a stellar performance and is holding the third place he attained during the first week of the race. He is ahead of all the Teams of 2 and 3 people and currently sits just behind two teams of 4. Gavan has been regularly speaking to his support crew throughout the past 10 days and here are some of his thoughts so far.
Q. Gavan, how are you enjoying the row so far? You’re killing it out there!
A: This must be the longest and grandest race out there. It's just on another level compared to anything else I've done. I've the potential to be out here for months. There could be up to 2 months between the first and last boat. The logistics, planning and cost make this more extreme than anything else I've done but I’m loving every minute of it!
Q: It’s Christmas time and you’re headed farther and farther south. What’s it like being out there at this time of year?
A: Well firstly, the reason I’m headed south is based on historical weather data and long range forecasting. On balance, there is more wind south of the direct route than along it. Also, the further I head south and west the warmer it gets so the past week has meant that it’s felt like anything but Xmas. The days of the week are pretty much irrelevant but the guys at home are probably experiencing that at this time of the year too haha! That said, I was rowing with a Christmas hat on Christmas Day and I got in for the traditional Christmas Day Swim to mark the occasion! I also took some time out to make calls to family and friends… some of whom must have thought I was a prank call from India and didn’t answer!
Q: How have you found sleeping out there on Doireann? How’s the practical side of the rowing been going for you?
A: The cabin here on Doireann is nice and cosy, there's a mattress and I'm usually so knackered from rowing that I sleep well. We’ve had numerous days where we’ve had 5m groundswell and 25 knot winds. A lot of the fleet had never experienced seas like this but I’ve been all over it, catching huge rollers and maxing out at 12 knots flying down the face of these ocean swells, it was hugely exhilarating.
I’ve had a few niggles on the injury front but I’ve been sticking to my exercise routine from Emmett in Galway Bay Physio to keep me in good physical health. I'm managing and treating the cuts on my hands and shins due to the constants banging of the oars on the unstable seas. It's all part of Ocean Rowing! I'm a trained paramedic though and so I'm well able to look after those little issues.
On the practical side, I look after Doireann and make checks on here routinely day in day out, sunrise, sunset! I've had to be very cautious of the power I'm using and the water supply i have on board. The weather has been stormy and cloudy, so It's not been the best power porducing weather for me and the solar panels! I've also had the Khalima blowing in from the Sahara... a sand storm in the middle of the Atlantic! How weird is that! I've had to be careful with my eyes, my open cuts and again the power as the sun can't get through the hazy sand to easily and as we all know... sand gets EVERYWHERE!
Q: You’re in third now and you’re surprising a lot of the dot watchers at home with your impressive performance to date. Have you come across any of the competitors out there at all?
A: I saw some of the other boats during the first 6 hours of the race, but since then I've not seen another soul. We have AIS (Automatic Identification Software) on board where boats show up on my chart plotter(GPS) so over the first few days I could see some boats around me. I even contacted some by VHF radio. By now, we are well spread out and I believe the nearest boat to me now is 20 nautical miles. I'm currently punching well above my weight and sitting in 3rd overall with 2 four man boats well ahead of me. I'm tussling with a 3-man boat and there are other 3 man boats behind me. There is a lot of people behind me back home and they are mad for watching the tracker and the updates online. I get fed those messages of support from my team and all those messages keep me going through the dark and lonely nights. There is a support yacht out there somewhere but I've not seen it yet, it could be days away.
Q: You’ve literally got a boat load of food out there. How has it been managing the calories and what’s your favourite snack?
A: I've a varied mix of snack foods to go with my dried meals, most packs are different so each day I could pull out a pack with random sweets, protein bars. dried fruit and nuts. My favourite treats are Irish Biltong and Kilbeggan oat biscuits.
Q: Any shocks or surprises out there so far?
A: I was woken up during a nap on the on a few different days by a pod of dolphins. I sleep right at the water line so I could hear their sonar, about 20 of them came by for a play with my boat Doireann, who needs an alarm clock?!? It was flat recently after all the stormy weather and so I got my lanyard on and got in for a swim… I also took the opportunity to clean the hull of any growth that could slow me down. That was a bit surreal! I also got a shock one morning during the week, I was dosing in between rowing intervals and Doireann hit something hard… that’s not supposed to happen out at sea! I leaped out of the cabin and over to see what had happened and to check Doireann for damage. Luckily it was just some Ocean debris. It was solid but not sharp and after a thorough check, I was happy that Doireann was ok. I’ve been on the lookout ever since that and I’m paranoid that something bigger or sharper might bump into us now!
Q: Do you want to hear about the news or be kept up to date with the world?
A: Apart from the messages of support I’m not bothered about the News. The only thing I get updates on is the scores from Connacht rugby matches and news about family and friends, apart from that I'm sure the world is getting on fine without me! That said, I was so stoked to hear about the arrival of Ronan and Kari’s twin girls Annabel and Cornelia. They’re still in hospital and I’m thinking about them every day out here! Oh, and congrats to Emmett on the arrival of baby Jonah too!
Q: The question that everyone wants to know Gav… how are you going to get the boat home?!
A: I’ve had a lot of people asking me what I’m going to do after this challenge… I've not made the final decision on that but I’m committed to being an adventurer. That’s what I am now. I've realised this was the best decision in my life to do something like this, just yesterday evening as the sun set I could see a convective storm developing way off in the distance. It could have been hundreds of miles away, I felt like I had this entire world to myself so with the freedom this place allows it may not be the last ocean I want to cross, stay tuned!