Exeter rowers’ exhaustive training for the Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Exeter’s Kirsty Barker, Kate Salmon and Rosalind West have just started their exhaustive training schedule in preparation for the Talisker Atlantic Challenge at the end of next year.

Left to right, Rosalind West, Kirsty Barker and Kate Salmon who are now in training six days a week in readiness for their Talisker Atlantic Challenge race in 12 months time

The trio have taken on a challenge of a lifetime, entering one of the toughest ocean races in the world which will involve rowing more than 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua & Barbuda.

They will ship the boat out to La Gomera at the end of October and will then travel over separately at the end of November for final preparations and training before the race start on December 12.

The training programme has been produced by their strength and conditioning coach James Parkes, from the Exeter Chiefs, and the trio are already doing six days a week in the gym, splitting their time between the ergo, circuits and weights.

The crew explained that they are currently doing 60-minute sessions on the indoor rowing machines, however these will be built up through the year to the full two hours and sets of two hours on and two hours off.

When they have taken delivery of the boat they will also be doing some on-water training at weekends by taking the boat out and around the South Coast. They are also hoping to take the boat over to the Isles of Scilly at the end of May for the Pilot Gig World Championships.

Typically crews in the race would be made up of two or four members, so having three members rather than four means they will have to think carefully about their changeover strategy during the race to reduce the amount of time lost when rowers are changed and the boat stops moving.

It is in this period where the boat will lose most of its speed and, as such, require extra effort to get it going again. During their training rows they will try out a number of options for this, however they will inevitably end up with one person on their own for some duration which will make the mental side of the row even harder.

As part of the entry conditions the three will all need to know the general workings of navigation, safety and seamanship, however they each intend to become specialists in different aspects. Working for the MET office Salmon will specialise in the weather routing for the row, whilst Barker and West will specialise in the technical workings of on-board systems such as the watermaker, GPS, and auto-tiller.


The trio haven’t bought a boat just yet, having borrowed one from the race organisers for the recent 24 hour row. They intend to purchase a boat from one of the recognised suppliers or a second hand racing craft from one of the teams currently racing, but it’s likely that they will end up buying a new craft which provides the opportunity to invite their sponsors to the workshop during the build programme.

In addition to the heavy training programme the crew are also having to raise around £100,000 to cover all the costs.

“The boat itself will cost £60,000 with its equipment and then the other £40,000 to cover food, personal equipment, race fees, administration and events,” explained Barker.

“We intend to sell as much as possible after the race to recoup what we can, probably around £60,000, which will all go towards Surfers Against Sewage or organising events for our Plastic Free Exeter campaign. We’re still in the process of speaking with sponsors and can’t reveal any names at the moment.

“The team have now streamlined the campaign to be much clearer as to our mission and aims. We are now running a Plastic Free Exeter campaign through which we’d like to leave a legacy in Exeter and achieve Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Coastline status by 2020. As such the row is now acting as something integral to this – providing us with a fantastic platform to inspire and interest the Exeter public.”

More information can be found on their website: www.rowfortheocean.co.uk/plastic-free-exeter

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.