Wed, 26 Feb 2020
THIRTY-FIVE days, 19 hours and 50 minutes.
That’s how long it took businessman Kevin Gaskell’s Ocean5 team to row across the Atlantic – breaking the world record for a five-man team in the process.
The crew arrived in English Harbour, Antigua, on January 17 after five weeks of continuous rowing, finally laying down their oars with a mixture of pride and relief.
The team finished fourth overall – and first of the five-man teams – in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a 5,000km row across the Atlantic, starting from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12 and finishing in the Caribbean.
Over the course of their expedition, Mr Gaskell, from North Sydmonton, and his crewmates – his son Matt, Will Hollingshead, Chris Hodgson and Sam Coxon – battled through storms powerful enough to snap their carbon fibre oars clean in two, as well as swells the size of football grounds.
The team also witnessed some of the best natural displays Earth has to offer, including the full depth and breadth of the Milky Way unaffected by light pollution and shooting stars resembling fireworks making their way from horizon to horizon.
Reflecting on the experience a month on, Mr Gaskell – who has previously trekked to the South Pole and climbed some of the world’s highest mountains – admitted it was one of his toughest challenges, but he was already missing the experience.
The chairman of iCaaS – a software company based in Chineham, near Basingstoke – said: “Physically it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done – it was relentless.
“For 36 days you never stopped, never caught your breath, never got more than an hour’s sleep.
“The rowing was okay, we trained for two years – it was dealing with the lack of sleep.
“That was the biggest killer.
“We all had moments where we were hallucinating, talking to people who weren’t there.
“I was totally convinced I was speaking to my daughter at one point, that she was sitting next to me and we were having a conversation.
“The rest of the guys thought it was hilarious.
“We got to see something that most people never see.
“We saw the Atlantic from the perspective of a little boat.
“The seascape would change every hour. You’d be in rolling swells which could be as big as a football stadium.
“It’s like sitting in a bathtub on the centre spot of Old Trafford, surrounded by water the size of the stadium.
“You keep looking at it thinking ‘Oh my goodness’, but you become accustomed to it.
“We saw a surfing shark, a whale, dolphins, turtles – the whole experience was fantastic.
“I loved it.
“Has the magnitude sunk in?
“No it probably hasn’t. I miss the experience. It’s been my life for the past two years and I’m really missing it.”
Although the team were originally targeting a finishing time of around 45 days, they were informed halfway through they were on track to beat the five-man record of 36 days and 19 hours.
Mr Gaskell continued: “Breaking the record was quite extraordinary.
“When we spoke to the organisers, they said ‘you know you’re on for a world record, don’t you?’ – and then we just went for it.
“We changed our shift rota, we rowed harder, we didn’t take breaks and we hardly stopped to take a drink when we were rowing. It was great.”
So what now for the adventurer?
Having stated at the end of the row that he would never do anything like it again, four weeks later the 61-year-old is already contemplating his next endeavour.
“I fancy doing something on my own – something solo,” he said.
“I’ve got ideas for things I’d like to do but I’ve done the poles, done the mountains, done an ocean – what’s next?”
The Ocean5 team are raising money for Plastic Soup Foundation – a charity targeting plastic pollution at source by preventing it from entering the environment and the ocean – and have so far raised more than £100,000.
To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/the-ocean-5/donate