Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | September 15, 2012

Dreamed It, Did It – talk this Friday!

You know the dream – find out HOW (and why) they did it…

Helena and Richard are doing a talk about their Atlantic row on
Friday, 21 September 2012 at 7.00pm (come and see the boat in the playground from 6.30pm)

At Kingston Grammar School

You (and any friends) are warmly invited to attend, but entrance is by pre-booked ticket only, so please reply if you would like to reserve one (or more).

P.S. The real star of the show, Didi the boat, will be there too.

Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | March 14, 2012

Back at work… and THE most wonderful tea cosy

Well, R went back to work yesterday and H today, after our unique career breaks. We are so grateful to our employers Kingston Grammar School and for keeping our jobs open for us.

The prize-giving for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has just been announced for 12 April – in the marvellous location of a function room up one of the towers of Tower Bridge – how cool is that?! Photos will duly be posted on our Facebook page!/pages/Atlantic-Rowing-by-the-Smalman-Smiths/181213971901309 and we’ll report by blog too!

But in the meantime, our friend Elaine Laverick, who suffered from OARS severely (her symptoms didn’t even abate whilst abroad in a ski chalet looking after her grandchildren, and really, you can’t get much more of a distraction than that!) has had a Team GB tea cosy signed by all of the women and men’s lightweights currently in GB squad and has donated this excellent and unique piece of homeware to us to auction in aid of the Huntington’s Disease Association. Wow!

Elaine’s daughter, Elise, won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens with Sarah Winkless, whose mother has been suffering from Huntington’s for many years and inspired Helena to choose the HDA as her charity for our Atlantic row. Sarah will sadly develop the disease too.

Sarah says:

Helena and Richard had a dream – a huge big scary goal of cross the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Barbados in a small rowing boat, with just their own will and man power to get them there. Brilliantly they achieved it in 75 days, 1 hour and 29 minutes. Not only did they achieve this, they decided to support HDA, the Huntington’s Disease Association.

I cannot thank them enough for doing this, because families who live with the spectre of Huntington’s know about things that are big and scary, they may have watched family members ‘change’ as the disease kicks in, effecting mood, memory and movement. They may have been told that they are at risk of the disease, there being a 50//50 chance of each child inheriting the gene that causes Huntington’s. They may even have been tested for that gene themselves and when it was found they had it, been told that there wasn’t a lot that could be done, all the doctors knew what that meant that at some point they too would start showing symptoms. I know this from personal experience, Mum has Huntington’s and I have the gene.

It is organisations such as the Huntington’s Disease Association that help families such as mine access the care and support they need to cope with the everyday challenges that this illness can present. They also help educate doctors, families and friend about the disease so that they can best support the person suffering. Finally they also support research that can help us understand the disease better, create more effective treatments and possibly even find a cure. Please get involved in this raffle and support a great cause.

So please email us at tigerteam.atlantic with your bid for this wonderful Tea Cosy in aid of Huntington’s asap and definitely before 7pm this Sunday, 18 March! We will then contact the winner with how to pay. If you’re the winner, every time you put it on your tea pot, you will know that it’s not just warming your tea, but someone’s heart.

Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 22, 2012

Finish day + 3

Hello to all our wonderful supporters again – Helena here this time in haste (it’s amazing how the day can get frittered away when you aren’t sticking to a rogorous rowing schedule). We have been quite overwhelmed by the wonderful comments you’ve all been making by email, and on our Facebook page, blog and the Talisker site, and it’s taking us a while to get through catching up with all this media, whilst also cleaning out the boat ready for shipping (now done).
But, we HAD to get this picture up now – a surprise, wonderful gift of champagne, gourmet crisps and shampoo (all 3 perfect to meet our needs!), tied up with black and orange ribbons, which was delivered to us here at the gorgeous Sugar Cane Club in beautiful Barbados, from Mel and Graham. Thanks, guys! wow. Mel is a college friend of H’s who only dabbled in rowing for 1 term, but embraced the what we were up to fantastically, becoming a great addition to our land team in efffect. She generously hosted our site on her company server, and added pictures to it passed to her form Land Team Lisa.
We’ll be back in the UK (IGatwick) at 6am on Sunday and will be blogging more coherently again then. IN the mean time, the final thing we have to say is a big well done to our friend Lydia Swift of Bedford RC who won the “when will they arrive” competition. The Talisker whisky will be with you next time I see you, mate!
Posted by: ericandlisafroggatt | February 20, 2012

Arrival on land pictures


Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 19, 2012

The arrival

R – Sunday morning.

Now mostly recovered and back to normality, it all does seem to feel like a bad dream, horrible cliche that that is. As I write this, about 18 hrs after getting out of the boat, the horrendous waves, the fear, the feeling of being trapped, the heat, the boredom, the worries, the pain and the discomfort are all forgotten. All I remember now is the fantastically easy last couple of days and the euphoria of the arrival. I can see now why so many ocean rowers tell us how great the whole experience is, often do it again, and encourage others to try. No, no, no – do not let either of us think about doing this again….”if you ever see me in a boat again, you have permission to shoot me” as the great Sir Steve said. BUT we are very keen to get back to normal civilised river rowing, which will feel so strange. My 14 kg single scull might feel odd now I have got so used to 1000kg and I suspect I will be very frightened of the balance and might even fall in!

On our final night at sea we did quite a lot of rowing and also got pushed a long way even when trying to sleep. Conditions were so perfect for the last 24hrs at sea that the sea current and wind were pushing us rapidly down exactly the line that our GPS showed towards the offical finish line and making it so easy – except that we arrived so much earlier than everyone on land was expecting us. The support yacht only found us in the last mile – which, like the first mile all those weeks before, was done rowing together at a very lively rate exhibiting our fine rowing skill. If only all the bit in between had been so easy. It was just unbelievable, after all our navigation problems and fears of ending up in Florida, that we could get ourselves to Barbados, let alone almost exactly hit the centre point of a mile-wide offical finish line from a starting point 3000miles away.

A great suprise was to see Lisa, our great friend and fantastic co-ordinator of information flow during our time at sea, on the yacht at the finish – with her great camera too, the result of which is that you can already see pictures on our website of our last few strokes. Mostly out of sheer laziness, and as we had not much earlier expected to arrive at dusk, we accepted a tow for thr 8 miles from the finish to Port St.Charles. This turned out to be a fantastic decision, as it meant that we could arrive at the Yacht Club before it got taken over by wedding, and so be able to have a proper arrival celebration. And so it was. My mother, in her late seventies, had made the most exotic trip of her life to come a meet us, accompanied by Helena’s stepmother Elisabeth (who is rather more used to the Carribean), which has just been so wonderful.

Amazingly, getting back to people, land, showers, toilets etc seemed to much easier to adjust to than expected on the days when I had felt like a forgotten long shipwrecked near corpse floating in a tiny coffin. Admittedly, I wobbled drunkenly for a couple of hours, had a bizarre ear problem, and I was vague and unable to cope with decisions and having to be interviewed and congratulated by everyone immediately upon getting onto land. Gemma Campbell (Woodvale organiser) was, as always, just fantastic, moving us (literally, as we stepped off the boat) from photo shoot to interview to immigration office to food to bar, all far too quickly for me to cope but with all with patience and tact. Once finally allowed to get to a hotel, to shower and change I felt pretty normal again – I even shaved off the beard before dinner last night as it was a bit of a messy thing with too many grey hairs. Even going to bed, eventually, felt really wonderful but yet not that strange. However, waking up only a few hours later and trying to walk to the loo, the floor swayed all over the place and the walls tried to hit me. Having so wanted so badly, for so long, a proper bed and cool air to allow a proper sleep, I can’t. I’m up long before dawn craving a real cup of tea and reading some of the newspaper cuttings my mum had brought over for me.

Weight loss? We found some scales at the hotel… Helena seems only to have lost a few kilos, but I have lost over 10kg. (Yes, lwt again, 70kg, but to my suprise not the 67kg I got down to to race about 14 years ago..). Metabolism is an odd thing – not just as H was barely eating at sea whilst I was at least happy eating when I could – but also that we have lost a lot of muscle that was not required, rather than the middle age flab around our hips.

Although we are the last crew from the official race to arrive, by quite a long way (something we are not used to in “normal” rowing), our thoughts and hopes are on some others still to cross and those who did not complete. Of the pairs that might have been a similar speed to us on early evidence but got recovered back to land, and of Tommy the solo rower who might have been company for us and who is now doing well having restarted a month ago (being solo must be so scarily lonely, but having other boats in a “race” might have helped – and he no longer has that). And of Simon Chalk and the Titan crew who are about to set off on a record attempt – we wish them all the best conditions – see

Posted by: ericandlisafroggatt | February 18, 2012

No words just pictures..


Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 18, 2012


It’s been confirmed. The Tiger team have crossed the finish line in 75 days 1 hours 29 minutes covering a total distance of 2751nm. They’re now accepting a tow from Aurora (support yacht) and we soon be back on land for the first time in more than 2 1/2 months!

Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 17, 2012

Day 75: A surprise visit!

We feel like celebs (in a good way)! H was rowing along about an hour ago, and R was having a quick rest in the cabin when, for the 2nd time today H heard the sound of an engine and spotted a light aircraft approaching from the South (a prop plane had flown over earlier, but kept going out to sea, coming back about 10 mins later). It then started circling us, and H eventually realised that we needed to turn OFF Harry Potter (chapter 36 out of 37!) and turn on the VHF! But imagine our amazement when we immediately heard a deep man’s voice with a lovely Caribbean accent saying “Dream It Do It” – that’s Us! He said he looked forward to seeing us in Port St Charles some time tomorrow, and after a couple more circuits flew off home to Barbados. We were too stunned to think of all the questions we would have loved to have asked, like “how do you know about us” and “how long will it take you to fly back”, but we really hope the gentleman will come and introduce himself tomorrow so we can thank him for the MASSIVE boost this visit gave us!

In somewhat disappointing news for those of you planning on watching the web cam in PSC tomorrow evening, I’m afraid you won’t see us… It seems that the Yacht Club, whose landing stage the webcam looks out on, is being used for a wedding that day, and inexplicably, the wedding planner hasn’t included the arrival of 2 smelly rowers in a tiger boat in the entertainments and general decor, so we’re going to be coming in to the fuel pontoon, wherever that is, in PSC instead. We were given the option of waiting out at sea for another night so you could see us come in, but guess what, we declined that one… Sorry! There WILL be photos though, don’t know when.

NB When we do come in, please don’t then keep sending messages to the satellite phone – best to add comments to the blog or email the Gmail address that’s on the Contact page of

Today started a touch lively, though not very, and then flattened out a lot, so steering would be easy if the foot steering mechanism wasn’t getting so worn out it’s a bit temperamental! Still, it should just about last to the finish line which is just off the North Point of the Island – then it’s about 8 miles to PSC, and Aurora will probably tow us for that so we have a better chance of getting to PSC in daylight.

Another great boost we had today was hearing that R’s Just giving page has reached its target and at the time Mel texted us, H’s was only £72 off its target. You are all SO kind and generous, we really do appreciate it, and know that the charities do to – the St Mungo’s people have texted us regularly to tell us so!

Finally, good luck to the KGS Senior Girls, Lydia and everyone else we know competing on Sunday at what I’m afraid the umpire community affectionately refer to as “Hammersmith Tots and Tarts Head”…

Linda – panic not, there is no way we’ll get there before Tabitha is 9!

Various people have mentioned their celebration plans – if you do raise a glass to us, and can take a photo, do send it to the land team at tigerteam.atlantic as it would be lovely to have these and also put them up on the site (Chris, could you pass on to Mel, perhaps)?

Gemma – if you get this, thanks for letting us know about Aurora’s schedule. I think there’s a text that hasn’t got through yet as I think your texts are longer than 160 chars and are getting chopped up by Iridium as I’ve got “ght as well adjust timings as necessary for u?” and one ending “RU rowing”…

Back to the oars – yay!


Thanks to Gemma from Woodvale for passing on the photo the pilot took – Land Ed


Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 16, 2012

Day 74: Slow, slow, not quick, slow

First of all, happy wedding day to Andy and Tash!

Second, today’s conditions have been rubbish for progress yet again. bit lively in the morning, but calmed down by lunchtime so that it feels like rowing through glue and we’re back on the 30 mile days again. With the wind forecast to be lower tomorrow though a little higher on Saturday, there is little chance now that we’ll even get in during daylight on Saturday.

Cath – thanks for reassurance about wacky waves at 100 to go!

We will try to experiment with rowing further into the night tonight, but it’s clouding over, and well, it’s REALLY dark out here when this happens! We have been reliably informed that we might start seeing the glow of the island from about 80nm out, which would be tonight.

Saw a few more interesting birds today, and also a large cargo ship passed astern of us which entertained us for a bit.

And whilst we’re talking about slow things, our “Jetboil” water boiling camping gas stove has now been renamed a “cessna boil” as it is so slow – nothing to do with the gas, but just its efficiency has been wrecked by gradual infusion of salt.

Linda, yes, there are some crazy souls who row more than one ocean, or even the same ocean twice. The baby-soft feet and weight loss SOUND great, but walking will be awful, and the weight loss has all been from the wrong places on me at least! Am concerned that your youngest daughter has her affections too easily won by a curved sausage…

Everyone – Baz has set us a fiendish anagram which is quite beyond me in our current state – “Rectally unintelligent twitcher”, it is “what we’re doing now” and it is 4 words, 9, 6, 3 and 8 letters. Can you help!!!

Short blog tonight as need to go back rowing. Stick with us!


[The Mum’s have arrived safely in Barbados – now just waiting for H&T to join them – Land Ed]

Posted by: Helena Smalman-Smith | February 15, 2012

Day 73: Don’t count your mother carey’s chickens…

NB Mother Carey’s Chickens is another name for Storm Petrels).

You’d all got used to the idea that we could do 45 or so nm a day and had been calculating our arrival based on that, and congratulating us on our super effort. Actually, as we’ve said on numerous occasions, we do much the same each day, and it’s the conditions that predict whether we do 0, 20, 30 or 50nm in a day.

The great ocean rower Gerard d’Aboville who rowed the North Atlantic and Pacific solo once said “I did not conquer the ocean, It just let me pass”, and without a doubt on this voyage, almost every time we have felt that we’re on a roll, the ocean reminds us that it’s in charge – the wind swings in the wrong direction, our rudder breaks, one of us gets injured, or as today, the wind ramps right up, the waves go crazy accordingly, and quite possibly we lose some beneficial current.

Some of you have rightly observed from the Talisker site that we are now moving into shallower water – this was bound to spell trouble as it makes waves shorter and spikier, and combined with strong winds (16-22kts) happening today just when we got here, we had waves in 3 major directions, and had to put out the bight to have any chance of continuing to point west, but you still spend most of your session steering rather than powering ahead, and the bight is a brake anyway. For most of this morning, the texture of the water’s surface was like one of those Christmas cakes that has the spikey white icing – but spread over a pile of profiteroles not a flat cake!

Tomorrow, the wind is forecast to be right back down again, but it usually takes an extra day for the sea to calm down after a blow like this, so we may be even slower tomorrow as we continue to struggle with messy seas, but have less helpful wind.

Lydia – no, there is no fixed distance from Barbados when we will start rowing through the night – it depends on conditions, time of day, whether there is cloud over the moon (and it’s only a crescent moon) which would lead to this being done within the context of “stay safe”.

Many thanks to all today for messages and donations (Graham, Chris A and Flash Bristow).

Charleses – Jackie from Thames Valley Skiff Club wisely suggests that the tube station for the clue “Beehive” must be “High Barnet”! No idea about the E. India one – we’re not good on all of those Jubilee line extension etc stations – can you put us out of our misery?

Geraint – there is no way that beard is even coming back to the UK never mind lasting to the dinner on 3 March!

Roge – yup, beer, food, shower, bed – you got it and all in the right order.

Saw 4 shearwaters today fishing for flying fish and squawking excitedly – they’ve all been silent up to now. Also saw the vapour trail of a plane for the first time, which was significant.

Fingers crossed we get a better run tonight – 7nm last night was just the start of today’s disappointments!

Chris – thanks for your routing reassurance – very useful!

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