Cross Row

life of lia

Cross Row

Cross training means different things to different people, but we can’t think of anyone besides our friend Lia Ditton who would row across the Atlantic to cross train for a RTW sailing race in Open 60s.  Here’s the story from Lia as she prepares to leave the Canaries tomorrow.

Finally the penny has dropped and I’m excited! The boat is ready. I’m ready. I can’t read my rowing partner’s mind, but hopefully he’s ready too. Tomorrow we will be setting off to ROW across the Atlantic.

The mere idea of crossing an ocean – some 2600 nautical miles from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean Islands, by boat, any boat, is a difficult proposition for many to grasp. For that boat to be a small 23ft boat propelled only by oars is mind boggling even for me!

In the last ten years, I’ve logged some 75,000nm at sea; crossed the Atlantic on 8 occasions, 3 times while racing single-handed. Before each solo start, I was nervous, anxious – because it was upwind across the North Atlantic (The Faraday Mill OSTAR 2005) or because hurricane Katrina was forming in the South Atlantic or because 2 million people had come to see the start and the month was November and it was going to be ROUGH (The Route Du Rhum 2006). Today I feel relaxed.

I can’t explain right now, why I want to row across an ocean. Hopefully, I’ll know why by the time we arrive in Antigua. I can offer you some ideas- that I am curious as to what it will be like to physically exert myself for 12 hours in every 24; to touch the water with every stroke; to be so physically involved in propelling myself from A to B. In August 2005, while hurricane Katrina grew momentum, I was professionally routed to the latitude of the Azores high. For 15 days I sat on a glassy sea and fish came to visit. Whales tried to mate with the middle hull and at sunset the sky broke out into a stunning spectrum of colour and the night was peppered with stars. Until then I had only skimmed the surface. I had raced across the Atlantic.

Our crossing tomorrow will be so comparatively slow that algae will grow on the boat’s bottom if we don’t get in and clean it off and hungry fish will appear to eat the things growing if we wait too long! I have had dreams where a school of dolphins tow us like Santa’s reindeer away from storms; dreams where whales roll over to eye us up and dreams where Antiguan birds swoop and drive, chirping and squawking at our imminent arrival…

Ultimately I won’t know what it’s like to be out there circling the oars, dipping their heads in the water, dragging them through it and then lifting them out to begin the sequence again. Will the rhythm become a metronome in my head? Will I get bored? Or will it be serene?

Since I touched down in the Canaries on December 6th 2009 and met Mick, my rowing partner for the first time, I have been so blinkered by the work list, trying to prepare the boat for every conceivable eventuality, that World news, my banking and replying to emails about unrelated things has slowly all faded into the hinterland. For one month I have been striving towards one single purpose: to prepare to row an ocean.

After the rowing race, my year will be dominated by my Barcelona World Race 2010 campaign. Leaving Barcelona for Barcelona, non-stop and round the world, the Barcelona World Race 2010 is a double-handed sprint in ‘Open 60’ sailing boats..

For me, the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race will be mental and physical training, since the race will be of similar duration to the Barcelona World Race – 2 to 3 months at sea and likewise with only one other person onboard. At 13.30 GMT tomorrow, January 4th 2010 that training will begin. 

Follow our progress at www.oarsomechallenge.co.uk