One man, his boat and 3000 nautical miles!
Matteo Perucchini is about to embark on the race of a lifetime across the Atlantic in small boat with nothing but himself, the sea and a desire to succeed. He is taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic challenge (no whiskey involved). This is the No.1 Ocean Endurance Race and one of the toughest endurance events on the planet. Rowing 3000 nautical miles heading west from La Gomera (Canary Isles) to Antigua (The Caribbean), this race is not only testing to the participants’ physical strength but also mental strength.
Let’s hear what Matteo’s got to say about what he’s about to face…
I have been rowing since I was a teenager but I discovered the world of ocean rowing by accident. I was actually searching online for books on Mt. Everest expeditions and that’s when I found an article on ocean rowing and more precisely on Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo, two Norwegians which in June 1896 rowed from New York to Isles of Scilly. I was mesmerized by the fact that such a feat was humanly achievable. I was hooked. I started reading book after book about ocean rowing and I first considered rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. It was only in 2013 that I felt truly ready to face this challenge so I went to La Gomera to see the start of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge. Now here I am, weeks away from the start of the race.
Most people ask me why and there is no simple answer to this question. There are many factors and events that can lead a person to take this kind of decision. In the end, although I do certainly see this challenge as an amazing physical test and competing will be on my mind, it will also be a very personal inner journey. This is the experience that will be truly important for me.
What charities are you supporting?
I will partner with the Associazione Italiana per la Lotta al Neuroblastoma (ANB) and Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumour which affects mainly infants and children under 10 years of age. The goal of ANB is to raise funds to support medical and scientific research on neuroblastoma. Every week in the UK at least 12 young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions; CRY works to reduce the frequency of Young Sudden Cardiac Death (YSCD), promotes and develops heart screening programmes and funds medical research. These are two truly fantastic charities and I really want to use my adventure and the publicity around the race to promote their causes and raise funds for them.
There are many aspects when it comes to training for a challenge like this; you need to prepare mentally, physically and technically.
Physically I worked with Dr Andrew Middlebrooke, who in the past provided sport science support to Polar explorers and international athletes. He developed an intense and challenging programme which enabled me to improve my fitness while at the same time allowing me to have enough time to focus on all the other aspects of preparing for an ocean crossing. Something I truly loved about the programme was how it changed all the time and incorporated a wide range of activities, from cycling to crossfit and boxing. I clearly couldn’t avoid long sessions on the rowing machine though, which in some cases lasted for more than 24 hrs.
Although physical preparation is very important for a challenge like mine, it’s not essential. What will be key is the mental preparation. This will ultimately enable me to reach my goal. Both yoga and meditation have been very important for this. Although I have nearly 20 years of rowing experience, what will be the major challenge for me is the limited knowledge and experience of life at sea. To prepare for this and to ensure safety, I have attended a number of ocean survival courses as well as spending long periods training on the boat.
What’s the key lesson have you learnt when preparing for this challenge?
When you choose to embark on a challenge of this magnitude, you need to be prepared to make significant sacrifices. You have to be willing to invest all of your time and in some cases a lot of money into preparing for your challenge. You need to be honest with yourself and decide whether you’d be prepared to keep going even if you cannot find sponsors or do not receive support from friends and family. You really need to want to achieve the goal, this will drive you through the tough times, and there will be many of them. It will be hard, it will be painful but in the end it will be worth it.
How important is nutrition to you?
Nutrition is key for a challenge like mine. I’ll row for well over 12 hrs a day and I’ll burn in excess of 7000 calories. Planning and structuring my nutrition effectively is what will keep me going during the long hours at the oars. Having said this though, nutrition is not like a simple mathematical equation; it’s not just about fuel – you need to love what you eat or you simply won’t eat it while at sea. Food will be key for morale and this is why I carefully selected the products that I’ll take with me on the ocean. They need to be healthy, nutritious and also taste great.
What is going to be the toughest challenge when you are out on the sea?
The main battle of this challenge will be against myself; in some cases I will be the only obstacle to the success of the crossing. There will be times when I will have to push past what I believe are my current mental and physical limits and find the strength to continue rowing. I know I’m a very determined person, who does not give up, but the conditions at sea will be extreme.
What will be your mantra that will keep you going?
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end” (Ernest Hemingway).
Get a taste of the Whisky Atlantic Challenge here:
Follow the challenge on Twitter: @SognoAtlantico