‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

By Matthew Craughwell, Skipper of Sara G 

There is always a reverse culture shock after coming home from expedition.  A week after returning from five weeks on the Atlantic Ocean and I am slowly adjusting to the pace that we all live-by: you don’t really notice how frantic it is until you live away from it for a while!  

I am still finding myself reliving those hours when we really discovered what kind of team we were. After 27 days and nights at sea, we were just over 500 miles from Barbados, when without warning we capsized and spent 14 hours in a life raft before being rescued by the Taiwanese cargo vessel ‘Nord Taipei.’  

It was an unexpected and hugely traumatic end to the expedition, but the way all six of us reacted confirmed that we were a truly solid team. By ‘solid team’ I mean it’s easy to work as a team when things are going well or even starting to become difficult, but it’s only when things are really going against you that you need to look around at the people you’re with and know that you can count on those looking back at you!  

The skills and training we had undertaken before the expedition certainly paid off. In particular the sea survival training meant that the whole team made clear decisions.  However, it also took the ability to perform and stay focused under the most stressful situation that I could imagine.  I credit each and every one of the team with the ability to remain focused.  Without this attitude the outcome could easily have been different.

Whilst a part of me is sad not to have completed the expedition as expected, I have to look on the brighter side of things knowing that we survived a situation that could very easily have cost us our lives.  In the first moments after the capsize we were all looking at the upturned hull of ‘Sara G’ as she sank lower into the water – from that point to getting back to dry land at Gibraltar to see friends and family is a story that will stay with all of the crew forever. 

‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’  I’m sure this experience will certainly make each of us stronger!  Whilst I had hoped never to be tested to this extreme, I was certainly relieved to find that I was able to do what was needed as skipper to make sure of the best outcome.

The crew all owe a huge debt of gratitude to The Sincere Industrial shipping company and each of the 22 crew on board the Nord Taipei – your efforts to rescue us will never be forgotten and the friendship shown towards us was just amazing.  Huge thanks also goes to each of the sponsors who made the Atlantic Odyssey expedition possible. Despite the unexpected outcome, you can be proud to be a part of this story.  Thanks also to the quite incredible amount of public support during the expedition and rescue.

“Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.”  quote from ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

Note – Matt completed an interview with Talksport during the trip back on the Nord Taipei. The interview brings the capsize to life and captures Matt’s thoughts on the unexpected turn of events. The interview starts at 2.08.

I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t hear it coming.

By Mark Beaumont, writing for The Independent

January 31st at 10:55am and I was rowing hard in the final five minutes of my shift.  Ian, as always was in front of me, Yaacov behind and we were going fast, just over 500 miles from our destination in Barbados.  The swell and winds were coming from the east and it was an average, fairly predictable sea.  I was completely dry, which was as good a gauge as any as to how big the waves were.  My thoughts were on what I was going to eat during my two-hour break and looking forwards to a short sleep.  None of us had slept more than 90 minutes at a time in the 27 days since we had set out from Morocco. 

Despite the huge fatigue from four weeks of very hard rowing, spirits were high as the trade winds had finally reached us and for the last 48 hours our speed had picked up considerably.  We were tantalisingly close to World Record pace – just another six days.

I didn’t see it coming.  I didn’t hear it coming.  The boat pitched up without warning, the stern cabin in front of me lifting quickly as a large wave sped under us. Sara G then pitched wildly to my left.  I instinctively let go of the port side oar and held onto the metal safety rail like it was a monkey bar.  There was an awful moment in equilibrium as we perched perfectly on our side. In all the huge seas we had seen, she had never been this far over and yet I still thought she would self-right.  I can’t remember anyone calling anything, I can’t remember much at all except I was then upside down, in the water and fighting to get my shoes out of the rowing straps.  They were stuck.  I managed to pull my feet free, leaving both shoes tied in and kicked for the surface. Read more…

To read the remainder of this blog please go the Independent…

Atlantic Odyssey Update

Update from the Atlantic Odyssey support team

On 30 January 2012 at 11.00 am the crew of Sara G who were taking part in the Atlantic Odyssey challenge to row from Morocco in North Africa to Barbados in the Caribbean capsized.

Its crew included Captain Matthew Craughwell, Ian Rowe, Aodhan Kelly, Simon Brown, Yaacov Mutnikas and Mark Beaumont – all six members were safely evacuated.

The crew were 27 days into their journey when the 36ft (11.1m) vessel overturned just 520 miles from the destination port of St Charles.

Sara G was hit by a large wave 1.5 minutes before the rowers completed their shift change which was performed on a two hours on – two hours off basis. The wave rotated the vessel 180 degrees causing it to immediately take on water causing it to capsize within ten seconds.

In the next fifteen minutes the crew secured the life raft and attached it to the boat. They set-off their alerting alarms which initiated a response from Falmouth Coast Guard.

The crew did try to recover the vessel but due to the speed of the water retention, this proved unsuccessful.

The crew spent approximately three hours recovering on the raft before Matthew Craughwell and Mark Beaumont returned to the vessel to recover equipment to aid the rescue attempt.

At 1.10am, the crew were rescued by the Nord Taipei, a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship and are proceeding to Gibraltar where they are due to arrive on February 9.

Matthew has managed to speak to the BBC. Listen to his interview here.

Crew Picked Up

The Atlantic Odyssey team are safe. They were picked up by the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship Nord Taipei in a rescue co-ordinated with help from coastguards in Falmouth.

Whilst the base team are still waiting to hear from the crew members when further information about their ordeal can be obtained, it is known that they are currently en route to Gibraltar where they are expected in early February.

Atlantic Odyssey Update

Earlier today the Sara G capsized. Whilst information is scarce at the moment the crew have managed to contact their shore contact. All crew are said to be safe and well, and tethered to the Sara G in a liferaft. A cargo ship is currently on route to pick up the crew with an ETA of 1.00am tomorrow.

Further information will be provided once they have been picked up and greater detail can be provided.

Hoping to inspire other people

Ian, Mark and Yaacov

On Friday Ian spoke to Stuart and Natalie on the Heart breakfast show with the tune We are Sailing playing in the background.  Ian explained that the winds had picked up a little then died away again however; the crew continue to lift their spirits with all the setbacks. He went onto say “the world record is the cream on the cake but the main thing is getting across the ocean and if we can do some good on the way, raise some money and inspire other people to do stuff, then that will be a massive result”! Listen to the full interview here. 

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