Hot off the press...
To have a look at a movie montage of the trip itself click here
To view the media coverage from our campaign click on the links below:
NZ Herald - NZ rowers 2nd in 81 day finish
NZ Herald - RFP boys missing at sea
NZ Herald - searchers confident of finding lost rowers
NZ Herald - rowers located by coastguard plane
NZ Herald - NZ rowers located
NZ Herald - NZ charity rowers days from finish
NZ Herald - NZ rowers still on course for Mauritius
NZ Herald - Telecom announce free prostate check ups for men aged 50+ as part of their sponsorship of team Rowing For Prostate
The Age (Australia) - NZ rowing team safe in Indian
Sydney Morning Herald - NZ team found safe in Indian
Cornish Guardian (Cornwall, UK) - Rowing For Prostate Charity Golf Day at Trevose (25/11/08)
Herald Express (Devon, UK) - Ocean odyssey underway for ex All White
Herald Express (Devon, UK) - Wigram in to second half of Ocean row
Otago Daily Times - Rowing NZ team to reach Mauritius on 8th July
Indian Ocean Rowing - The race is on...and over for some
Rowing across the Indian Ocean - Nearly halfway there!
Naked Ladies restrained, pants stolen, rolled over
Going Downhill, pregnancy scare, rower spotting tips
Hormonal women, full moons and intimate sores
Retired single, Bird Avenger, bottom up view
Four Blondes in a boat lead Indian Ocean Rowing Race!
Naked Ladies lead Indian Ocean Rowing Race
Beards, Body Hair, Bed and Boys
TV One News (6pm) - ocean rowers back on dry land (23/7/09)
TV3 News (6pm) - Kiwis return from 6,000 mile journey (23/7/09)
Close Up (TV One) - putting their lives on the line
TV One News (6pm) - Kiwi rowing crew reported missing
TV One News (6pm) - ocean rowers return to NZ (12/7/09)
TV One News (6pm) - ocean rowers found
TV One Breakfast - missing charity rowing crew found
TV One Breakfast - interview from Mauritius (9/7/09)
BBC Cornwall.co.uk - ocean of challenge (including x2 radio interviews)
BBC Cornwall.co.uk - Indian Ocean conquered (including link to radio interview from Mauritius)
TV One - Rowers found interview
TV3.co.nz (Wife not concerned about missing rowers)
Timesonline.co.uk (Rowers missing in Indian Ocean)
Timesonline.co.uk (Missing rowers found)
Yahoo! Xtra News (NZ rowing crew cross Indian Ocean)
Yahoo!7 News (Rowers located by coastguard plane safe and well)
ABC News (Abc.net.au) - NZ rowers found
Stuff.co.nz (Charity rowers closing in on finishing line)
Stuff.co.nz (rowing afar for prostate cancer)
NZ City.co.nz (2nd place finish for RFP crew)
Newstin.co.nz (NZ charity rowers lost contact in Indian Ocean)
Scoop.co.nz - Independent News webiste (Against all the odds NZ crew take 2nd place)
Prostate Cancer network site
Mauritius News website (RFP race result article)
Positive Life Balance (review of RFP rowing challenge)
To view some of the photos from the challenge click here
UK and Hong Kong ‘Thank You’ Tour
a) The UK (14/8/09 -4/9/09)
Once the media circus had calmed, our breaths been caught and the initial round of ‘thank yous’ been made Billy then headed off to the UK and Hong Kong to start the process of thanking the hordes of people who had followed and supported this challenge so closely...From the moment I touched down in the UK the welcome was much like that afforded to us everywhere we have been...sensational. The banners, flags and (of course) screaming girls were at the airport to greet me – although I fear the girls were screaming in horror at the out of control Neanderthal look I was promoting rather than it being in any way a show of affection. Anyhow regardless I was touched, especially by Wilf (my 2 year old nephew) who once again broke down in floods of tears as he too was clearly petrified of this walking mass of hair – I thought we had got over this hurdle in Mauritius but then how was he supposed to recognise his uncle Billy when I had trouble recognising myself?!
There were four scheduled events/presentations on this leg of the tour: 1) Trevose Golf & Country Club (Cornwall); 2) Man vs Wild (haircut in Truro, Cornwall) 2) Ealing Primary School (London); 3) The Tabard Theatre (Chiswick, London).
It was only fitting that Trevose should be the first venue because they had been such an incredible sponsor, supporter and advocate of the challenge.On Sunday 22nd August the
Club hosted the Rowing For Prostate Charity Golf Day, with all proceeds from the tournament going towards the Trust. As part of the day I put on a presentation to a packed house in the evening (300+) followed by a special ‘Indian’ themed dinner. Much like the rest of the campaign the support was incredible as seemingly every man, woman, child and dog (well they would have been there if allowed) crammed in to the Club house. Amongst the attendees there was a good covering of Hampels (it often turns in to Hampel ville during August!) and it was great to see the Wigrams and Herons make the trip down from Devon.All in all it was an amazing day and once again the generosity of Trevose, its members and guests on the day was deeply humbling – and my thanks especially to Nick, Mum, Dad, David Cowan, Martin Hedley, Richard Cunis and all the other staff members at Trevose who were so instrumental in making the day such a success.
During my time back home I managed to schedule in a much needed, not to mention much wanted hair cut. Unlike Samson the additional hair growth over the past 6-7 months had done little to increase either my strength or luck with the ladies, so I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to free my face, my head and my inner soul from this Neanderthal like existence!The venue for the big chop was mum’s local hairdresser in Truro, owned and run by Nick. They had very kindly sponsored us (presumably in appreciation of just how big a part hair would play in our crossing) and as part of this I made a pact to visit them for the first post row cut ‘n shave...little did they know what they were letting themselves in for.
Anyway 9am arrived and it was ‘show time’! Nick, the proprietor had tipped off the local press about the big event and they were gathered in the salon, revelling in my unfortunate appearance in much the same way as Tom and Matt did on the boat when Pete and I appeared on deck dressed in the infamous immersion suits! Anyhow after a few interviews and, some rather unflattering remodelling off my barnet Nick got to work...and 45 mins later the floor was a carpet of salt coated matted hair! However after 6 months in hiding the face was once again liberated, giving way to a delightful two tone face. As for the hair, well let’s just hope the school boy fringe is back in vogue – not quite the rugged, wild adventurer look the I had been walking around with less than an hour ago!
Matt joined me in Trevose for the end of the Cornwall leg before shooting off to Spain for a wedding, whilst I hot footed it up to London for the next instalment of post row presentations, this time to the children at Ealing Primary School. During the crossing there had been a number of schools who had followed our progress, but none more so than this school where Camilla Howell was Deputy Head but also a long time friend of Tom & Bex and massive supporter of RFP.
This was to be the first foray in to a school and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little worried – if only because I had heard these children were pretty street wise (which I took to mean potentially a bit boisterous) and given their age (10 ish) I was a little concerned as to whether I had the content right to keep their attention...mmm visions of out of control class room and flying paper aeroplanes were causing a few wrestles moments in the lead up to the talk.All that said this school, and in particular the class I was presenting to had followed our every stroke, but more than that they had interacted us throughout the crossing. In one instance they emailed about 60 questions to us on the boat – questions which only children of this age could ever dream up! Anyway for me personally they had helped distract me for days on end and this was a great opportunity to thank them, but also hopefully inspire them in days to come.
The talk went swimmingly, and but for a few left field questions which challenged my creative ability to stretch the truth (like, ‘did we meet Britney Spears at our media launch?’!), I think I came through it relatively unscathed with the RFP reputation still just about intact – and have to admit to getting just little bit excited about signing autographs...probably just as well as it’s almost certainly the first and last time that will happen! As part of the ‘class’ Camilla got the children to write a newspaper report on the crossing and I look forward to posting the winning submission on the website (some of which were quite outstanding, and again proof that the young mind is a truly bizarre complex of wonderfully colourful thoughts and dreams!). Anyway my thanks to Camilla for hosting me (lovely chocolate muffins by the way) and more importantly for all the heartfelt support we received from her and the fantastic children at Ealing Primary.
Matt re-joined me for the third and final leg of the UK trip and the presentation for all other friends, family and supporters of the challenge. The venue was the spectacular setting of the Tabard Theatre - arguably more used to hosting West End hot shots like Al Murray than ‘Billy and Matt’, so it was a huge honour to be offered use of this magnificent venue by its proprietor Fred Perry, long time great friend as well as long time king of tights and all things thespian – himself a very accomplished actor, although still living in what many claim is a deluded world believing he will yet become the first ever ginga James Bond. So the setting was perfect and the crowd at capacity, all we had to do was perform.
Much like the rest of this campaign there were the usual last minute dramas, the biggest one being we couldn’t get the projector to work...or anything apart from the lights for that matter. However as has happened so often an army of helpers arrived and before we knew it Fred’s mum was ironing the sheet (to be used as the back drop in place of the set!) and technical support arrived to reaffirm just how useless we were when it came to plugging things in and turning the right switches on.Friends and family poured in from far and wide and the reception we received was once again deeply moving. Not surprisingly the presentation was followed by a few celebratory beers and the obligatory hangover then followed...Our thanks to Fred for being such a fantastic host and giving us use of his wonderful theatre, and of course to all those who came along on the night – both Matt and I, as well as the pub next door thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your company.
b) Hong Kong (5/9/09 - 11/9/09)
With the wind in my sails I then left the UK destined for Hong Kong to see my sister (Tipsy), brother-in-law (Tom) and nephew (Sandy) and host a presentation at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club...a place I heard a lot about from ‘boaties’ back in NZ and which would be the first talk in front of an audience waaaaaay more experienced in maritime adventures, and themselves full of stories from the high seas!Whilst I love presenting, especially about our Indian adventure one concern for me was the depth of experience and knowledge that this particular audience would have, and the paranoia of using the incorrect nautical ‘term’...something I have come to experience can add some real spice to the moment! That said I was here to tell a story, to relive our experience and ultimately to celebrate with them, and besides we weren’t allowed to be sailors (it was a row boat after all), so surely a degree of ignorance was ok!
As it happens the evening went off with a bang. Tom and Tipsy had done a masterful job of inviting a fantastic crowd, all whom braved the cyclone to make it to the Club. The setting was as spectacular as I had been led to believe it would be, overlooking the stunning harbour and equally striking skyline – although the new and improved (?) bouffon was less than impressed with the humid local conditions. My thanks to Tom, Tipsy, their amazing friends for their support (not to mention over generous hospitality!), and of course to the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club for opening their doors to RFP... a fitting way to end yet another memorable chapter packed full of amazing experiences.
The Radio Network ‘Breakfast Road Show’ (28/7/09)
Stuart Dwight and the team from The Radio Network has been the most amazing partner to our challenge – infact words escape me to describe just how much they have meant to this campaign but also to the RFP team. They have supported us and backed us every step and every stroke of the way, and where some may have doubted us they have stuck their necks out to help get us across the Indian, and in so doing flown the prostate cancer flag with immense pride.
Those who followed the blogs will know just how much they meant to us during the crossing – and I mean everyone from Stu and his team to the Management and of course the ‘presenters’. We have all grown a very special bond with this team and will forever be indebted not just for the help they provided in getting us to the start line but also for the inspiration and support they provided in getting us across the ocean – I cannot over state just how much of a lift each and everyone of those interviews at sea gave us...even the abusive ones courtesy of a certain Miles Davis!
The icing on the cake for this support came when Stu invited us all in for a welcome back breakfast tour of the stations that had followed us throughout. Yet again this was money can’t buy stuff, and if money could buy then you would need bags of it, and what an opportunity to thank the listeners and thank NZ for sticking with us. We paired off in to our two shifts and off we went to share the tales from the high seas across Radio Sport, Newstalk ZB, Hauraki, Classic Hits, EasyMix and Coast – not quite sure what the Pirates on Hauraki made of us but I was glad to get out of that one both alive and with dignity intact...although I fear not all of it!
Thanks once again to Stuart and his wonderful team at The Radio Network.
Goodbye Mauritius, Hello New Zealand!
After 10 of the most emotional yet amazing days in Mauritius, alas it was time to say goodbye to our families and friends that had played such a monumental part in the final part of our Indian journey. Every day has been uniquely special, not just because of the paradise surrounds, but more because we had spent it with our nearest and dearest. Mauritius will forever be etched in our hearts and minds as a very special place with some very special, not to mention unique memories. It was sad to have to say goodbye to the crew at La Grande Baie, who like our hotel staff had looked after us so well, but alas it was time to move on to the next part of this adventure.
I can’t say I’m feeling 100% just yet, and like Tom I am on various wild and wonderful potions to help repair a few inner body dramas – infact the local doctor’s surgery in the hotel has become my second home! That aside eating is still proving to be an adventure all of its own as my appetite shows absolutely no sign of slowing, so for now food rules my mind...infact make that my life.
So with families and friends all departed it was our turn to close yet another chapter in this adventure and head back home to NZ...
It will come as no surprise to you to discover the trip back was, like the crossing a tad eventful. To begin with the Mauritian Customs seemed reluctant to let me leave the country without the boat because it was listed under my name. Whilst Emirates has plentiful leg room in the cabin and no doubt a large under carriage for luggage I don’t think this would stretch to carrying a row boat measuring 8.8m and weighing in at approx 2.5 tons...so how they expected me to take it home was something of a mystery. Following a bit of sign language, extravagant gesticulating and some good old fashioned finger wagging they let us through, finally agreeing that to make us row the thing back was quite frankly a bit unreasonable...although had the French still been in charge I expect they would have thought differently!
The first leg to Dubai all went without a glitch, but sadly the same cannot be said of the second as we were marooned on the run way for some 4 hours due to persistent brake failure – or at least the light kept coming on apparently suggesting there was something wrong with them. Twice we had to abort take offs and twice we had to go back in to the maintenance hold. All the while this was happening Bex was getting more and more agitated...and as we were to find out in Sydney this was for good reason!
Unbeknown to Tom, Matt and myself Bex had been working tirelessly to put together a huge surprise ‘welcome’ party to meet us at the airport. We didn’t get wind of this until we got to Sydney when her silence was broken as she despaired over the fact her plans were being torn to pieces. We were oblivious to the lengths she had gone to, so it was hard to comprehend or empathise with her disappointment, but as soon as we touched down in Auckland all became clear...
Once we all had our luggage then it was off to the arrival gates where we were greeted by the most extraordinary scenes. Bex had finally given in and told us about her plans, but nothing could have prepared us for what lay in wait...and remember we were 4 hours late (which also happened to coincide with rush hour!). Expecting there to be a few friends gathered we dressed in our number ones, with Canterbury shirts, TRN hats complete with Muai Jim sunnies, Fujifilm cameras around the neck - basically anything that we could wear and that had been sponsored we put on.
Anyway when those automatic doors opened I cannot tell you how I felt...but it was magical. There were so many friends, ex work colleagues, sponsors and supporters all who had given up their precious time to come and meet us at the airport. For 3 months many of these people had kept us going out on the ocean, and now they were here to welcome us home. It really doesn’t get any more special than that and there could not have been a more incredible way for this journey, which started over 100 days ago when we last left Auckland to finish – and to share it with some of our most ardent supporters was very very special.Needless to say there were a few media calls – Tom took care of TV One while I had the honour of talking to Miles Davis (Radio Sport) and Sarah Butler...the legends from The Radio Network. Other special mentions should be made of Rob Hamill, who travelled all the way up from Hamilton and Rosie who hiked up in her bus all the way from Tauranga – both were only able to stay for a short time before having to drive all the way back to their respective homes. In addition a massive thank you to those responsible for the banners and balloons and everyone who battled the traffic to make our welcome back to amazing. It was wonderful to be back amongst such great people once again.
Needless to say once the tears had dried and the obligatory answers given re the ‘new and improved’ looks it was back to HQ for a couple of quiets...and then a couple more. Yet again Bex had gone above and beyond, and whilst the delay in Dubai put paid to some of the plans she and Stu Dwight were hatching I know I speak on behalf of the team when i say it was just perfect...infact better than perfect...but then we should have known it would have been, given everything else she had done to help make this challenge happen.
Arrival in Mauritius
Dear loyal RFP friends, supporters and sponsors,
Apologies it has taken me so long to put finger to keyboard and update you on the goings on within the RFP team but since arriving on the cherished lands of Mauritius i have had to undergo various physical and mentral repairs which have sadly meant it has been a tad difficult to get to a computer, let alone to type anything even slightly legible. Thankfully the local hopsitality, coupled with the repair work from the local medics has coinfirmed my ailments are not terminal and both body and mind are now well on the way to full recovery, so i thought it high time i gave you an insight in to our final few hours at sea, and the highly anticipated arrival on the fair shores of Mauritius.
Before i crack on with this i also want to apologise for the silence over the final 2 weeks of our journey when G'Pa and the FRP crew went 'missing'. I am not going to go in to details as to what happened during this time right now but assure you this will be published over the coming weeks - suffice to say this was an eventful passage of the jorney including a capsize, two close encounters with tankers and more emotional and physical turmoil than i think any of us ever thought we could deal with, right up to and including the final traumatic night at sea before our entry in to Mauritius. Anyway this is all to come but for now i will focus on the magic moments that signalled an end to one dream and the start of many others...
Having made an express final approach down to within touching distance of Mauritius, covering some 70+ miles in our penultimate day we decided to delay our final entry in to the port of Grand Baie until the morning of day 82. Why? Well a host of reasons really including the obvious dangers posed by the reef system surrounding the island, the potency of the currents which fluctuated between 2 - 5 knots against and (of course) our desire to have all our families at the finish...which in hindsight was definitely the right call as there's a good chance most of our families and friends would have forgotten 'the moment' the morning after the night before given the antics that apparently went on that night!
Once again we had the moon to keep us company and to help guide us to a place of refuge some 10-15 miles out from the finish line and it was here that we 'camped' the night - frustratingly close to the end where the lights shone so brightly in the distance and the lure of 'the end' proved such an irresistable temptation to all of us. Despite our desperation to finish sense prevailed and for one final time we battled the waves and the currents to set up an eventful final approach on the Thursday, thankfully aided by the services of the support yacht, Desiderata 11 - so eventful that it could (and probably/possibly would have) so easily have ended in the cruellest of fashions had they not appeared when they did...but that's another story for another blog...and not one i fancy recounting without a stiff drink in hand.
When we set out from Gerladton on 19th April everything seemed so simple. According to most other ocean rowers the tough part had been completed and the rowing was to be the straight forward bit - mmm how wrong they had been. So much for the 60-70 day crossing that we had planned and so much for the simple, uncomplicated crossing that we had all dreamed. This had been an absolute mine field of emotions, and a catalogue full of experiences beyond our wildest dreams...and nightmares...including a physical and emotional test way beyond anything we could have ever prepared ourselves for - but as i've said so many times before, i wouldn't have changed any of it for the world. We set out some 81 days ago safe in the knowledge that we were entering a world we knew very little about and what bit we did know would be of little assistance in a world where mother nature could and would be so unpredictable - so beautiful on the one hand, yet so desperately ugly on the other. That said, here we were staring down the neck of completing our mission on the brink of becoming the first southern hempisphere team to ever cross this stretch of water...now that's what dreams are made of and for us this dream was very much still alive.
It was about 4am by the time Vince, Mark and Brendan appeared like a mirage across the water. We had struggled in vain to make contact with the coastguard all night and quite rightly there weren't any other vessels out there to pick up our cries of help which meant we spent a very lonely, and i might add slightly concerning last night out at sea - suffice to say the gremlins of self doubt were out in force once AGAIN! When the support crew eventually managed to track us down the relief within the camp was extraordinary - suddenly the dream really did seem alive. Given they had no idea if we had actually made it down to the vicinity of the Mauritius it was a minor miracle they found us and once again i want to express my sincere gratitude to them for getting out of bed at this ungodly hour to scour the angry seas around Mauritius for us. We had encountered so many knocks during the crossing and there had been so many twists of fate that optimism was a word we could ill afford to talk of let alone believe in by now, so to see the yacht turn up was just incredible, and to see otyher human beings for the first time quite amazing - only thing missing was a beautiful blond, or brunette (or any other form of female for that matter)...oops i digress.
Not surprisingly Vince and the crew were as they had always been, all very encouraging but also desperately relaxed and calm about the situation which provided us with a huge boost as any concerns re our position and the proximity to the reef and finishing line were removed and replaced with a refreshing optimism (yes the 'o' word was back and here to stay!) that we were actually in pretty good shape...although the looks on their faces suggested our facial hair was worse than we had all come to imagine (don't forget we didn't have a miirror on board so this was all to be a nice surprise not just for families but also for us!).
Anyway Vince and co then ably escorted G'Pa on our final journey to the finish line, a passage we had been so paranoid about missing for every second of every day over the past 2 weeks. Pete and I took to the oars to set up the final assault and then handed over to Tom and Matt to row the final 2 miles. We had no idea what to expect in terms of finish but one thing was for sure, it would only happen the once and we wanted to look our best. With that in mind we all donned our number ones, the Canterbury kit including the Ionx tops and bottoms, quick dry shirts and shorts with Maui Jim sunnies topped off with the accessory all ocean rowers should have, a Fujifilm camera around the neck! We may not have been first across the line but we were going to make damn sure we were the smartest. While Tom and Matt rowed the final few metres Pete and I held aloft the NZ and Mauritius flag...all in anticipation of the crowds and hordes of media that would be there on the finish line to greet us in. Mmmm isn't it funny how different reality can be...
So it was at 11.02am (07.02 GMT) team RFP crosed the finish line, the dream complete the challenge finished and the 20 month journey over. The irony to the finish was that where the journey had been so full of drama yet the finish was a complete anti climax. The only people there to witness the crossing were our new found heroes on the support yacht and but for a shriek from the fog horn we would never have known the 3,166 nautical mile journey had finished. There we were all dressed to the nines and no-one to witness it, not even the race organisers...where i had to ask was the finishing line tape, where was the champagne and most importantly where was the chocolate? On reflection this was the perfect ending to what had been anything but the perfect crossing - it was just us and us alone, and this is just how it should have been. For 81 days it had just been the four us, and the last 2 weeks the 4 of us with no contact from the outside world, and so to cross the line with no one but ourselves to focus on was probably fitting and if anything all the more powerful. Like so much of the crossing there was no fuss, no frills just the four of us getting on with the job in hand and our celebrations were no different - yes there was heart felt relief and yes there were hugs and high fives but we didn't need the theatrics to understand what we had just achieved, we had 81 days of hard hitting memories to remind us of that, for now it was just 4 normal blokes giving each other that mutual nod of respect...and that's all that was needed. We knew the scenes awaiting around the corner would be so so different but for now the smiles and hand shakes were perfect...
So having crossed the line the suppot crew gave us the option of rowing to the Marina where the families were awaiting or we could be towed. Mmm what to do? Well there was only one option really and that was to row it, we had afterall rowed all the way from Oz so what was another 2 or 3 miles....well actually the remaining 2 or 3 miles would have taken us about 2 days thanks to a more than lively head wind so after 2 hours of toil where we gained about 400 metres we succumbed to their kind invitation and agreed to be towed to a marker point where Tony from Woodvale would be waiting to guide us in! As a team we desperately wanted to row in to the Marina but given we had put our families through living hell over the past 81 days (and especially the past 2 weeks) we all agreed the right thing to do was to get it over with, eat humble pie and take the easy route in...and I for one knew the choclate muffins would be melting if we hung around any longer.
So our entry in the Grand Baie Yacht Club Mrina wasn't quite how we had imagined it but then no part of the crossing had gone according to plan so what did it matter. Over the past 81 days i think all the boys had long made pictures in their minds about what the welcome would be like and I for on had a very definite image of every last detail, even though i had no idea what the venue looked like. Incredibly every last detail of my ideal finish was realised, from the idylic setting to the hordes of family and friends who were lining the shore to welcome us in, all cheering, crying, leaping up and down - in so many ways it was like a scene from a crazed zoo, so many noises and so many entangled cries of joy. As we approached the dots we could see on the shore became bigger and gradually the faces clearer and the cries of support less muffled. This was what the past 20 months had been all about - forget the journey we had been on and forget the dramas and emotions we as a team had experienced, this was what the entire experience had been about for me, sharing the moment with my family and those of my 3 amazing crew mates. For 81/82 long hard days these faces adorning the shore had been all but a dream for us and for the past 2 weeks a dream that at times we thought we may never realise. None of us knew exactly who would be here so the pressure valve was at bursting point...
Many ex ocean rowers say the finish is all a bit of a blur, well it wasn't for me and the sights and sounds of that arrival will live with me forever. Seeing my nephew and niece with their FRP shirts on and hearing their unmistakable shrieks from the shore line, first setting eyes on my mum and dad standing their so proud with hands aloft and smiles beaming from ear to ear, seeing Nick and Fi doing what Nick nd Fi do best jumping up and down like crazed kids...oh it was all just so amazing, so liberating, so desperately satisfying but also so unbelievably emotional. The waiting was finally over, not for me but for them and now the heartache, all the sleepless nights and the agonising phone calls from worried friends who had seen us disappear off to the South Pole and then 'disappear' altogether would be no more. The waiting was over, the journey for us and for them had finally come to an end and now it was time for that communal hug and that long awaited drink.
Then there was Bex, the rock of our campaign and the fifth rower who had the far more difficult job of staying at home to witness the drama unfold via the pc and the sat phone - and on top of this had the task of managaing the families, managing the media and managing us as we went through our roller coaster ride. There she was just as she had been all along, beaming with pride and bustling with joy...my it was good to see her. And finally just the sights and sounds of all the the other familes and supporters who had made the trip - the Hampels, the Wigrams, the Herrons, the Angels and so many others...it was just insane...insanely wonderful.
As we docked it was then this fairy tale all became so real - this really was happening and we really had finished this epic journey and now it was time to enjoy the moment with those people closest to us. What I hadn't realiised at this stage was that there was another little surprise awaiting...in the form of my two best mates Fred and Bluey (and Mrs Bluey, the lovely Ems) who had flown all the way out to see us come in, something i was not prepared for but which meant the world and for which i will be eternally grateful for as it topped off a truly incredible journey.
Not surprisingly we got off the boat and everything was just perfect - from the banners that adorned the Yacht Club, to the endless messages of suppoort and congratulations from around the world that plastererd the walls it was like your dream venue for your dream party. Then there was the food, something that had occupied all of our thoughts for the past month and as per everything nelse al our hopes and dreams were fulfilled as we were greeted by a table fit for a king's banquet with every single last favourite food of each crew member there laid out on a table waiting to be devoured. Put simply the arrival that awaited us in the Yacht Club was like nothing we could have ever imagined and i for one was completely blown away with the effort that had gone in to making this so special. On that note a very special and MASSIVE thanks to all our families and friends who got up so early to deck out our new home and make this moment such a special one for Tom, Matt, Pete and myself (especially the leader of the orchestra, the one and only Bex who had her work cut out trying to stop Wilfy and Polly eating all the goodies!).
So the champagne flowed, the tears rolled down the cheeks (contrary to what you may think real men can and do cry - even my dad let a couple of drops go) and the celebrations started. The sight of all the families and friends was something i find hard to explain, or at least the feelings i and i'm sure the rest of the boys felt, are hard to put in to words. We know we have put so many people through so much over the past 20 months and that they have all stuck with us through thick and thin and then given up so much to come and witness our arrival would break even the hardest, coldest of individuals and given i'm a bit of a wet blanket at heart the emotions went in to over drive...and if i'm honest one week on i'm still getting to grips with them.
So once the hysteria had settled and we had all steadied the legs it was then off to the yacht Club to do what we had so craved for so long...that reunion with chocolate which i had spoken about and dreamed of for so long. Three muffins, eight choclate bars and a cold pint of lager later and i was ready for the media interviews and to answer those 'interesting' questions about how we were 'dead' but were now alive! Clearly the boys and I had a lot of catching up to do on what had happened over the past 2 weeks and i look forward to filling you all in with all the goss around this difficult period of the campaign.
For now my friends i must love you and leave you as the sun is out, the lounger all made up and it's off to never never land to try and make sense of what has been a journey like none other i've experienced before. The crew have lost a total in excess of 90kgs between us so those toned pumped up bods that we were hoping to display on the fine sands of Mauritius need a little inflating, and I for one look more like a punch drunk deflated chicken that you wouldn't look twice at if trying to feed your family. Bodytech Viaduct (and our culinary supporters at HQ) sure have their work cut out when we get back to put these 4 bodies back to normal working order but if their efforts in the lead up are anything to go by then we should be back to normal sometime soon - and i for one have got off to a flyer out here devouring more than my fair share of the buffets.
I will be back in due course but for now it's goodbye from team RFP and thank you once again for all your ubelievable support over the past 82 days, we could not have done it without you...something i know i have siad many times before but something i will keep saying as long as i keep talking about this journey. I will miss the blogs and I will miss the friendships that have developed over the course of the crossing but hope and pray to meet up with as many of you as possible over the coming months to share the memories that you have all played such a big part in creating, and celebrating the huge strides made in improving awareness of what we must not forget was at the centre of this challenge...prostate cancer.
We love you all.
p.s any one up for the Pacific...i'm told that can be quite a lively crossing as well (that's a joke mum)?
THEY'VE ONLY GONE AND BLOODY DONE IT!
The NZ Rowing team ‘Rowing for Prostate’ who lost contact with shore 10 days ago today snatched second place in the inaugural Indian Ocean
Rowing Race 2009. Against all the odds, the team, completed the last few hundred miles of the race under stealth mode.
Kiwis, Tom Wigram (31), Pete Staples (38), Billy Gammon (35) and
Matthew Hampel (34) left Geraldton, Western Australia on 19 April
2009 together with nine other crews, all aiming to row a mammoth 3,132
nautical miles to the beautiful Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. At
7.01 GMT today, the Rowing for Prostate crew reappeared, rowing their
29ft long purposely built, composite ocean rowing boat proudly over
the finish line and up to the Grand Bay Yacht Club, where their
emotional family and friends where eagerly waiting to greet them.
The team confirmed that the lack of contact over the past 10 days had
been due to a fault with the battery of their satellite phone. During
the time since race organisers last had contact with the crew they
have faced some severe weather conditions and overcome many challenges
including broken seat rails, a capsize and extreme food rationing.
Rowing for Prostate crew member Billy Gammon comments: “The past 2
years of planning this challenge have provided the most amazing
journey of our lives. When we took up the opportunity to take on the
Indian i don't think any of us knew exactly what we were letting
ourselves in for but after 81 days of high drama, adrenaline fuelled
adventure and an emotional rollercoaster it is an experience and an
adventure we will all look back on with enormous pride, not to mention
great satisfaction in completing - suffice to say the Indian lived up
to its reputaion as being one of the most trecherous, not to mention
unpredictable stretches of water in the world.
The feeling of pure euphoria on completing the crossing is hard to
explain but we could not have done this without the amazing support
and encouragement from so many friends, sponsors and complete
strangers who have followed our story across New Zealand and the
UK...not to mention some 19 other countries across the world. We have
been humbled by all the support over the past 18 months and are
absolutely delighted by the huge awareness and funds that have been
generated for our chosen charity, prostate cancer, a cause that is
very close to our hearts.We hope this epic journey of ours will have
helped to put prostate cancer on the map in the ongoing struggle to
combat a disaease that is fast becoming man's number one killer.
During the team’s 2 year campaign leading up to and including their
epic journey they have worked relentlessly to raise valuable funds and
awareness for Prostate Cancer Charities in both the UK and New
Simon Chalk, Managing Director of Woodvale Challenge Ltd comments:
“Many congratulations to the crew of Rowing for Prostate on taking
second place in the Indian Ocean Rowing Race 2009.
“Rowing 3,132nm in 81 days is an amazing achievement and to use a
challenge such as this for the purposes of raising funds for charity
organisations is extremely honorable. Each and every crew that took
part in the Indian Ocean Rowing Race has done exactly this, raising
thousands of pounds for a wide range of charities. Well done to them
Woohooo!!!! At around 1700 hrs today (Mauritius time) a local coastguard patrol plane made contact with the team! They reported back to Tony at race HQ that the boys sounded well and that all crew were safe and then passed on their latest position which sees them at just over 300 nautical miles to go. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief upon getting the call from Tony and can now relax that our boys are well on their way to their incredibly well deserved welcome. A pic from the plane below x
You may or may not have heard that we have not had any contact with the boys since Saturday 27 June lunchtime. So firstly, our apologies for the lack of update blogs.
The progress of all teams is recorded on the event organiser, Woodvale Challenge website, via Satellite tracking beacons located on each of the boats. As you know, the Satellite tracking system that sends the boy’s location to Woodvale stopped working some time ago and since then we haven’t been able to get their exact position. To keep the site updated with the team’s progress we’ve been reliant on the boys texting their updates through to Tony at Woodvale on a 12 hourly basis and Tony then updates the Woodvale site manually.
Over the past week, the team have experienced trouble charging their satellite phone and had advised Woodvale that they felt it was only a matter of time before their phone ceased to work altogether. We believe the cause of the problem to be the phone battery and not the power onboard the boat. Although we know the route the team are taking, with the phone and the satellite tracking beacon not working we are unable to determine their exact position at this time.
Woodvale, as always, have been amazing and although they are not concerned with the lack of contact from the boys, Woodvale’s primary focus is the safety of the teams. Monday night (NZ time) Woodvale requested the Support Yacht to make for the boy’s last known position which was just under 500 nautical miles from Mauritius and the finish line. It will take two or three days to reach this point and when it does it will follow the boat’s suspected path in the hope of making contact with the team and updating us of their position. The boat also has a VHF radio so it is possible the team can make contact with a passing vessel and send their position in that way, but the reality is that they may not see another vessel before reaching the finish line so we are preparing ourselves for a surprise finish!
Our boys are in good spirits and have been through extensive training to prepare for this race. The boat carries two EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacon) onboard and should an emergency occur they can set these off which will transmit a ‘May Day’ message via satellite to advise of their position.
So don’t worry, they have already overcome so many hurdles throughout this challenge that I feel sure they will overcome this one in true RFP style…although we all know how much it will be killing them to not be able to update us on their progress!
You can read more about this here on the Woodvale site.
Please keep the messages flying in, even if they cant see them right now they will take huge strength from them as and when they get online again and to know that you are thinking of them and willing them on will be very powerful.
If you would like to leave a message on the Woodvale site click here and if you are in NZ and would like to send them a text please send it to 3831 and $3 will automatically be donated to the cause via your phone bill.
Ill keep you updated here.
Latest Yachtpals Article!
1000 Miles to go Picture!
Click on the links below to read articles on the RFP team
Interview with the boys on Radio Devon You'll need to ffwd along to approx 2:49:30
Ocean of Challenge BBC Radio Cornwall cover the RFP story including an interview with Billy from the Ocean
Hamish and Kim raise $10K for RFP!
Good friends of team RFP, Hamish Ludbrook and Kim Marshall have raised $10,000 for RFP with the support of the town of Wanaka! Hamish vowed that he would row on the streets of Wanaka everyday for 2 hours until he had raised the money in donations...the generous townfolk made sure he didnt have to row for too long in the cold and within 2 weeks he was able to hang up his virtual oars and get back to the warm! Hamish was assisted by his very capable campaign manager (and partner) Kim Marshall who made sure that Hamish and RFP stayed top of mind for everyone throughout the 2 week period.
Click on the articles below to read more.
Rower takes good cause further afield
Lone rower supporting mate's efforts
The Prime Minister calls RFP!
We were lucky enough to have a prime stand at theis year's New Zealand Boat Show whcih was kindly donated to us by Radio Sport and the Boat Show organisers themselves! It was a fantastic few days and we raised lots of money for RFP as well as chatting to lots of fantastic people. Many of whom already knew all about the challenge!
The highlight of the show has to have been the official opening whcih just so happened to be at our stand and conducted by our New Zealand Prime Minister John Key!
The Prime Minister gave the team a call a call and chatted away to Billy for about 10 minutes all about chicken and chocolate (of course!) he even had a few suggestions for saving power and invited the team to come and see him when back in New Zealand!
TVNZ Coverage of the Race Start
Click here to view the news article on the start of the race!
We're on the water!
Yep we did it...we survived our two week lead up to the race in Geraldton and despite a wealth of trials, tribulations and challenges we made it to the start line and are now well on our way to Mauritius....you can catch up with how we're going by clicking on the blog section at the top of the page to read our updates or by clicking here.
To check out some photos from our time in Geraldton and the rest of the campaign click here and to track our progress in the race and to leave us a message of support click here
Team RFP finally touchdown in Geraldton!
After a mammoth journey we are pleased to announce that the Rowing for Prostate team have made it to the start line of the Indian Ocean Rowing Race 2009...or at least we've made it to the town where the race is starting from!... Check out the blog section of the website for regular updates from the team, and enjoy some of our latest pictures by clicking here
RFP farewell bash - Saturday 28th March, HQ, Auckland.
The team's waistline sponsors, HQ hosted our final NZ event...the big farewell bash. Apart from legitimising a few (??) final slurps of ale it gave us an opportunity to say a heart felt thank you to all the amazing sponsors and supporters who have done so much for us over the past 18 months and who have been so instrumental in turning this pipe dream in to a reality. After so many ups and downs, highs and lows, this was always going to be a lively affair and so it was the curtain didn't come down on the event until well past any normal 'athletes' bedtimes - probably not in the training 101 manual but a much needed release!
There have been so many humbling experiences throughout this campaign and this event was to be no different. Whilst it was not principally a fundraiser, yet again we were blown away by the generosity of all of those who attended and who together helped raise nearly $2,000. Special mention should go to Chris Weaver for donating a signed All Blacks Ball from the 1996 'unconquerables' team, and Hamish & Kim who put up 2 nights accomodation in Wannaka for 6 people for the raffle - absolute legends.
DJ Mike was on the decks where Swampy, in his own very unique style made the dancefloor his own...no surprise there.
Highlights of the night included:
Di tearing it up on the dancefloor and giving Swamps a much needed run for his money
Kevin Biggar...just for being Kevin Biggar.
Cal making a particularly unfraceful exit from her chair...nothing to do with the tequila apparently
Monga's protruded bottom lip post being rejected by Petrea!
Billy's left field tangent about chickens...some things are best kept to yourself Bills.
Hamish and his 'interesting' stag outfit
Hughsey's alpha male look of disgust when hearing he had won the Dr.LeWinns skin care range...eventually won by a delighted Chas Toogood, clearly more accepting of his metrosexual side.
Chas and Di's surprise cake...mmm lots more calories
Matt staying out until past midnight.
- Pete for changing his work schedule so he could shirk ale yet again - a vital ingredient of our training and yet further evidence that he may infact be the light weight his mates keep talking about!
- An episode with a small angry man in Star Mart
- Tom & Bex being turned down for 2 x Boss Burgers on their way home because the golden arches were only serving breakfast!
- The morning after the night before.
Our thanks to all those who attended and especially to the HQ team for putting on such a top night including an amazing spread...yet again their dedication to helping us rowers expand our waistlines was quite magnificent. If you'd like to see the photographic evidence please click here
Next up...Ozzie here we come (only 21 days to race day).