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Duncan Roy is no stranger to endurance rowing, with two world records in ocean rowing and two world records on a Concept 2 rowers under his belt, it’s safe to say he knows his oars from his elbows. He and three team mates were due to set off in June to row the Great Pacific Race as part of the Latitude 35 team. However, even the isolation of being in the middle of an ocean can’t escape the global pandemic, so the team was forced to postpone until next year.
With all the hard work and training that they had put in, Duncan and his fellow team mate Gus Barton, had itchy feet and keen to capitalise on all their hard work. Over the course of the past few weeks they have put in long nights, pulled in every favour and are now about to embark on rowing around Great Britain, unsupported and raising money for two charities close to their hearts.
We tracked Duncan down and chatted with him (whilst he was packing) before they set off this weekend
How different will a round the coast row be from an ocean row?
“Very! With an ocean row, you can get stuck into a (albeit gruesome) routine with a 2 hours on, 2 hours off shift pattern. In a couple of days your body adjusts to the new routine and the boat itself, the challenge then becomes a physical and mental marathon. Whereas, with the GB row, there is so much more to consider, from some of the fastest tidal changes on the planet and busy shipping lanes, to rocky coastlines and unpredictable weather. It’s an incredibly technical row.
If the tides are with us, this will give us an opportunity to make good time, get ahead and potentially get some rest. However, if the tide is against us, it’ll most likely mean rowing 2 up for 6 hours without much of a break. Luckily, we have fantastic support landside as Angus (also a member of the original Latitude 35 crew) will be our weather router. He was my weather router on my second Atlantic Row, so I know we are in good hands”
Are you aiming for another World Record?
“The current record is 41 days 4 hours and 38 minutes for a pair, so naturally we’d love to break that. However, our main focus for the row is to raise as much money as we can for our two amazing charities; NHS Charities Together and Sport in Mind
Our choices behind these charities are personal ones; my partner Yeen is an ICU nurse and has been on the ‘frontline’ of the COVID-19 pandemic. What she and countless others have sacrificed to battle something no-one knew anything about a couple of months ago is just awe-inspiring. Sport in Mind is a charity very close to Gus’s heart. The charity uses sport and physical activity to help improve the lives of those experiencing mental health issues. So, if we can give back and do something meaningful in a time where we could have just rested, then that’s a huge motivator.
We do also have a deadline to finish by 1st August, as Gus’s brother is (hopefully) getting married that day and we’ve promised the bride that he will be there! No pressure then.”
How different do you think the row will be seeing land for the whole challenge?
“Having done our research on this, we were surprised to read that having land on our horizon for the whole row actually heightens the feeling of isolation. You’d have thought that being in the middle of an ocean would be harder mentally, however you can just crack on and you know you have to keep going until you see land again. With the coast always in our sights, when you have a mental low, the easiest thing to do is just row into the nearest port, have a hot shower, some decent food and then get back out there. It’s going to take a lot of mental resilience to keep that temptation at bay. The rules of the challenge state that we must circumnavigate Great Britain completely unaided and that we must stay within 12 miles of the coast.
It does come with some perks though, like being able to FaceTime our loved ones, create some really great social content and just to be more digitally linked in. It can also mean that some of our sponsors could head out on a boat and cheer us on too which will be a great morale boost.”
How have your preparations changed from your original challenge to this one?
“Once Gus and I got over the deep disappointment from not being able to row the Pacific, we knew that we needed to adapt to the current situation and put all our efforts into this challenge. First things first, we needed to find a boat to charter as the Latitude 35 boat is currently in San Francisco - that’s one hell of a warm-up starting point! We’ve worked tirelessly to get everything in place in a very short window, but the ocean rowing family are extraordinarily resourceful and everything has fallen into place. We knew we had done all the prep we needed for the challenge, so it was the admin to bring it all together that had to change.
It’s been very important for us to follow the current guidelines for the pandemic as the last thing we would wish is to be a risk to volunteers at the RNLI for example, should we need rescuing. Gus and I have both tested negative for COVID-19 and have self-isolated before setting off, as well as completed, comprehensive risk assessments.
The very best of luck to you both and we'll be following your progress on your tracker found here