One of the great annual endurance events in the world got underway yesterday as the 2016-2017 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge began in the Canary Islands off the coast of northwest Africa. Over the next two months, 12 solo, two-person, and four-person teams will row across the Atlantic Ocean to the finish line on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean Sea, covering some 3000 nautical miles (3452 miles/5556 km) in the process.
The rowing crews departed at 9:30 AM local time from the harbor of San Sebastián de La Gomera with a large, and loud, crowd to see them off. As you can imagine, the teams were pretty excited to get underway, but they didn’t leave without a bit of trepidation. Most won’t see their loved ones for awhile, as the two-person teams are estimated to take roughly 50 days to cross the Atlantic. Of course, the four-person squads – which includes an all-women’s team from the U.K. – should go a bit faster, while the solo racers will take longer.
One of the teams from the U.S. consists of brothers John and Kurt Suchwartz, who managed to catch some media attention when it was learned that they would row the Atlantic naked. Of course, experienced rowers know that this isn’t completely uncommon, as it helps to lower the level of friction and reduces blistering. Still, it made for a salacious headline or two leading up to the start of the race.
Now that they’re underway, the teams will face everything from perfectly calm, lovely weather, to potential tropical storms, heavy waves, and high winds. It’s all part of the challenge of course, but that won’t make it any easier to complete.
You can follow the progress of the teams in the weeks ahead at race’s official website.