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Salt. Sweat. Tears The Men Who Rowed the Oceans By Adam Rackley

Release date: 26th March, 2014
Publisher: Viking

List Price: £18.00
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I suspect that at some point in the long, glorious history of outrageous sporting and physical challenges, drink has played a part, either by inspiring participants, providing them with essential Dutch courage, or consummating the arrangements over a handshake.

It was no different for Adam Rackley who, initially with three other aspiring Atlantic rowers, confirmed and then celebrated their intentions accompanied by copious quantities of port before facing the inevitable, hung-over consequences.

Incredibly, ten times more people have climbed Everest than rowed an ocean. In fact, so few people have done it that there’s ample space towards the rear of this enjoyable tome for a complete, up-to-date list, provided by the Ocean Rowing Society, detailing the names, craft and success (or otherwise) of those brave enough to attempt it.

The story of ocean rowing, and Salt. Sweat. Tears, starts in June 1896 when two Norwegian émigrés, George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, set out from New York en route to the Scilly Isles in search of fame and fortune. The 55-day record this pair established in tackling the Atlantic stood for 114 years.

The attempt made by Adam Rackley and Jimmy Arnold began with a round-robin, matter-of-fact email distributed in December 2006 by Rackley to people he felt might be up for the challenge. So nonchalant is the document’s wording, readers may feel he’s inviting a few mates to the pub, a feature we must attribute to the confidence of youth. The pair eventually set sail in early 2010.

Their progress is chartered in alternate, single-word chapters, starting, as all voyages of such magnitude must, with ‘Hope’. Interspersed with our author’s engaging tale are stories of the world’s greatest ocean rowers, a clever technique which adds pace to the narrative.

Rackley maintains that the greatest challenge while at sea was not necessarily physical, but mental. He and Arnold could adapt to sleep deprivation and rowing for 12 hours a day, but mental toughness became an essential attribute.

Without giving the game away, it’s interesting to note what Rackley did next, but don’t be surprised to see his name on a starting sheet ready to tackle the Pacific.


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