A popular question over the last few days is "how are preparations going?". It's a good question and not a straightforward answer. There are multiple levels of preparations required for such a venture. The most obvious is physical preparations, or simply put, training. For the last couple of months I've been rowing 3 or 4 times a week on the water at our local club. It's only the Med so the conditions are nothing like the Atlantic but I do believe the improvement in technique and the hardening of hands will serve me well next month. On top of that I've been doing weights, circuits and of course rowing on the Concept 2 to bring the training to 7-9 sessions per week. It's probably not as much as I would have ideally liked but renovating our lastest acqusition in Cannes has been a priority and so much of my time has been spent there since early December. In some ways though training in the evening after a hard day of physical work on the site is good preparation for the Atlantic. At least I hope it is!
The second aspect is mental preparation - getting your head around the challenge ahead. I don't think you can ever really consider youself 100% mentally ready for such a challenge given the unknowns and unpredictable nature of the journey. Sailing the Pacific Ocean in 2012 has given me a big head start as I've seen a big Ocean in heavy weather conditions. It's not a nice place to be at times but it should be manageable given all the safety kit and experience at sea we have on board. Working in a watch pattern (2 hours on, 2 hours off) is also something I experienced whilst sailing and a routine I actually quite enjoy. You never have longer than 2 hours to go until your next rest and a 90 minutes (1 sleep cycle) sleep can be surprisingly refreshing leaving you time to get dressed, eat etc. So I have a good feel for the routine already. The pain of sore hands, bum, muscles, salt sores is an unknown but one I am at least aware of in advance and I hope prepared for. The boredom and repetitive nature of the days and landscape I am somewhat ready for and believe that rowing in a team of 4 will make things so much easier - hours and hours can be spent chatting away endlessly about random topics without access to google to simply answer the questions and can be surprisingly fun! I have met 2 of my teammates but don't know them well so getting to know my crew and sharing past experiences should give many many hours of entertainment to pass the time.
There's obviously a lot more to it than that but I have now been preparing for this for nearly a full year and in that time have grown comfortable with the task ahead and all it entails. I haven't been able to think much about life after arrival in French Guiana, focussing instead on everything we will need to do between now and then. For now I remain surprisingly calm about what lies ahead - hopefully this will continue for another couple of months!
The final aspect of preparations is the "admin" - my least favourite part of the whole thing! There is an enormous amount of logistics involved with rowing across an ocean and although Ralph, our Skipper, has taken care of most of the boat-related logistics, there remains a lot for us to sort out too. From getting the right personal kit to packing it all correctly, to having the right vaccines for arrival in French Guiana - there is so much to do. On top of all related to the row itself I'm trying to do as much work as possible to ease the burden on Helen while I'm away - basically trying to anticipate and do in advance as much of the next 2 months work as possible before I go. And everytime you think you're on top of it, you remember a whole load more stuff you need to organise before you go! The good thing about this part of the preparation is that the minute I step on to that flight to Portugal on Wednesday afternoon, my ability to do any more admin is pretty much done, so that will feel like a weight off my shoulders. Unless of course I realise I've forgotten my passport!
So in summary, I'd give myself 8/10 for physical prep, 9/10 for mental prep and about 7/10 for admin. But the reality is I won't know at all how well my prep has gone until we start rowing - and then of course it will be too late!