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Stories from the Atlantic Ocean with Jimmy Carroll

We caught up with Jimmy via the boat’s satellite phone to discuss updates and some recent dramatic events.

Happy new year Jimmy! How are you and how have things been going?

Hello guys! We’ve just entered the final 1000 nautical miles, and this means we are now on the American side of the Atlantic, which gives us warmer weather and more favourable conditions. Up until now we’ve been battling for positions and are currently in second, however conditions change quickly and anything can happen!

 

Amazing, we’ve all been glued to the tracker and following your progress. Especially recently with your move into second place, it’s been impressive to watch. What do you think has been the most challenging part of the race so far?

Geordie, as you’ll know with our military background, no good plan survives first contact. That’s been the case with us throughout the entirety of this race. At the very beginning we went out all guns blazing and rowed two hours on forty minutes off, which put us in first place overall, but absolutely exhausted us.

That exhaustion and sleep deprivation was one of the most savage experiences I have had, mixed with our complete power failure on the first Tuesday of the race. Due to this, we essentially lost all comms with the outside world, which was a mental challenge more than anything else. So there have been battles on all fronts: the mind, the body, and the soul.

We’ve seen some epic storms which have nearly capsized us, twice. And broken one oar… that’s when you really realise the power of mother nature! Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve/Day delivered storms of biblical proportions, 30-40 foot swells, which meant sometimes we were rowing for six hours non-stop.

January photo of Jimmy Carroll
Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge support boat photo

Wow, that’s an incredible number of challenges to face on a daily basis. On top of that you must have so many little aches and pains too?

Yes we’re all okay, even for me pushing on 40 the body is holding up well! There’s defiantly been some weight loss. Most importantly, we have been constantly trying to keep the salt water off so that we don’t get any sores, and we’ve been doing some daily basic stretches, such as hip flexors. Our hands in particular have become sore and swollen, sometimes after we wake it takes a while to get a full range of movement back. Some of the best things we have is our massage gun and CBD oil, which have been very beneficial for muscles soreness. It’s surprising how well-rested you feel after a short period of recuperating, such as an hour.

 

Not to mention your recent incredible experience with a Marlin, tell us about that.

Yesterday, I was resting during my down period from 1300 to 1500 GMT. At about 1415, there was an almighty bang from the stowing cabin where I lay, of which the force of the impact moved the whole boat. Todd and Dixon, my teammates who were rowing, shouted to check I was okay, to which I replied, ‘absolutely fine, not a problem!’ Then, I looked down and shouted out that the hull had been penetrated!

About half a centimetre from my thigh there was a 10-inch spear of a Marlin! Obviously, this took me by complete surprise. The spear had come through the bottom of the boat, into the cabin and was firmly wedged there. We believe that the Marlin itself was about ten foot in length, so a pretty sizable fish.

Due to the damage, we started to take on water pretty rapidly in the cabin. Our main priority was to stop the intake and then assess the situation. We immediately rang the safety officer from Atlantic Campaigns and proceeded to use our emergency kit of Epoxy resin and a hack saw.

Myself and Jono worked on the repairs in the cabin, while Dixon and Todd looked after comms and kept us fuelled. I used the hack saw to cut off the top of the spear (which, I will of course be keeping as a memento). The hole it made was about five centimetres wide, so we bailed water as we mixed the resin and used a ration pack to fill the hole, knocking the rest of the spear down. This resin takes about 30-40 minutes to set, so we had to hold it there while it did.

We then got into the ocean to assess the damage to the boat’s hull, there was still a piece of the spear lodged in the boat which Jono also applied resin too in order to seal the hole completely. So when we arrive in Antigua, we will have an almighty trophy within the boat, as well as the piece I hacked off! It was an incredible day to say the least, something you would never dream of happening to you. Last night we bounced back and put in some of our fastest speeds to date, keeping that distance between us and third place despite the six-hour set-back.

 

Blue Marlin Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge Blue Marlin

Well done on powering through. It’s an incredible wildlife encounter to say the least, what other wildlife encounters have you had?

We had one of the most amazing experiences of my life a few weeks ago, where we saw over 1,000 dolphins. I was again on my off shift in the cabin and you could hear very clearly their squeaking sounds as they communicated all around us. It was so loud I thought I was hallucinating, I had to ask if others could hear it too! We would look at an eight-foot wave coming up behind us and the whole thing would be filled with dolphins, it was unbelievable.   

We’ve seen a number of sightings of the Minke Whales. Yesterday, as we were repairing the boat, a large whale was circling us for about an hour. However, the most impressive sighting was about two weeks ago, around 0500 GMT, this great whale couldn’t have been more than ten feet off our starboard side. The whale’s blowhole went up and we were sprayed by its sudden blast of water and air, as it sank back into the ocean you could see the tip of its fin. We’ve also seen some giant 3-4 foot tuna, it would have been lovely to enjoy some fresh food, but we of course want to be harmonious with the ocean.

 

Well, it doesn’t sound like the ocean is trying to be harmonious with you! I heard you guys saw an incredible meteor, what was that like?

Yeah! Right at the beginning of the race we had amazing luminous phosphorescence, which was awash with light at every stroke of the oar, it was spectacular. The stars too, have been amazing. One night, there was a meteor shower where we saw a few hundred shooting stars every hour. Looking left and right, the sky was alight. Dixon and I were on deck one night a few weeks later and this bright comet went across the sky, it was so low and so bright we initially thought it was lighting. It burnt blue and green at the end of its long tail as it went, we were both completely gobsmacked by it.

Latitude35 team photoshoot
Lat35 team shirts

I am hugely envious of parts of what you are going through, particularly hearing stories like that. Now that you have the finish line in sight, how has your food and fuel choices served you, and would you make any changes?

I think it’s so hard to really work out what you want and how you want to fuel yourself on a race like this, but we decided to go for two breakfasts a day and one large meal later on. I think all of us have decided we never want to see granola again, having had it twice or three times a day after burning more calories in tougher conditions. We’ve planned our quantities brilliantly, alongside things like nut butters and taking ‘Resilient’ for nutrition. The pouches are about the size of your hand and they offer 600 calories, which you can eat within 30 seconds, I have ‘Resilient’ before I sleep to really maximise my intake.

The desire for fresh food has steadily grown within the team and we’ve all been chatting about what our first on-land meal will be (Burgers, or more recently swordfish!) After our ordeal yesterday, we broke out the Haribo, which was a real treat. We also enjoyed some mince pies on Christmas Day which my wife Thea, kindly packed for us. Little treats like this have really helped our moral.

 

Well, it’s been fascinating hearing everything you’ve been up to and the challenges you guys are facing. With current global situations, perhaps you are in the best place after all! Thank you so much for talking with us and we can’t wait to see you in Antigua!

Thank you for talking with me also, it’s been a real boost talking to you and hearing all the words of support, we can’t wait to read them all!