The prime of the ancient mariner

He will either make a first-class second mate or a second-rate first course but, either way, business consultancy stalwart, Guy Rigby is determinedly undertaking the challenge of his life by attempting a record-breaking row across the Atlantic.

The prime of the ancient mariner

He will either make a first-class second mate or a second-rate first course but, either way, business consultancy stalwart, Guy Rigby is determinedly undertaking the challenge of his life by attempting a record-breaking row across the Atlantic. It’s mad, bad, and dangerous, you know. Find out why and how, here…

Veteran entrepreneurial adviser, accountancy expert, non-exec, MD, FD, chairman and author, Guy Rigby’s CV is as impressive as it is long and will shortly (fingers crossed) see ‘record breaking trans-Atlantic rower’ added to it. 

Some argue that it might also require the addition of ‘lunatic’; but what does Mrs Rigby know eh?

This December, Guy Rigby will take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race, setting off from La Gomera with his rowing partner, David Murray, aiming to arrive in Antigua in February and becoming the oldest pair ever to complete the crossing. Indeed, to complete any ocean crossing.

Why? It’s all for ‘charridee’, which is seemingly compulsory for any such activity in the UK, in this particular case UnLtd, a foundation for social entrepreneurs, whose aim is to develop a generation of social leaders with enduring impact.

It’s a great charity, says Rigby. In 2018/19, they backed 458 social entrepreneurs, often in challenged communities. 59 per cent of these people were women and 28 per cent were BAME. Their impact report shows that, as a result of just that one year’s activity, they benefited the lives of 333,000 people. They are now aiming to give at least 50 per cent of their funding to BAME and disabled. This is hugely important.

The Entrepreneur Ship

Rigby has spent his whole life enthusiastically supporting entrepreneurs, so his choice of charity for the Entrepreneur Ship (see what he did there?) is consistent with his life’s passion. 

I like organisations that believe doing good is good for business and there’s a whole social mobility and levelling up agenda to be pursued. The benefits to local communities can be huge and hopefully we’ll make a small dent. 

From a personal perspective, I have sat behind a desk all my life and wanted to do something real. It was just time. See my blog here “If It Isn’t Broken, Break It! – The Entrepreneur Ship”

Rigby is making the trip with the son of a recently departed friend of his, with whom he has kept in touch and who possesses quite a bit more in the way of intrepid adventurer credentials than he, having completed six Ironman events (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride followed by a marathon) and in 2016 was in the top five per cent in his age group in the world. He has also run several ultra-marathons and completed the Mallorca 312 bike race, cycling 190 miles around the hilliest part of Mallorca. 

Slouch, he ain’t.

By contrast, Guy Rigby’s longest row to date is 25km. And that was on a rowing machine, not the ripping and rolling Atlantic ocean. So he’s just around 4,684km short of what he needs. But, how hard can it be?

The answer is about 50 miles a day, which means a trip of roughly (and no doubt it will be) 60 days. Even his partner, Murray only started rowing last year. It’s a daunting task, no mistake. 

So, of course, Rigby has been training for the race: A mixture of strength and endurance training, including rowing on ergs and on the river. A bit of running and biking too. Exercising every day is my aim but this is sometimes frustrated by the sheer admin of putting together our challenge, preparing our boat.

You don’t have to be mad…

Although you might also give strong consideration to the middle and end, he anticipates the beginning part of the race to be the hardest.

We will be catapulted from the comforts of relatively normal life into a harsh environment where we will row two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In these early days, we are very like likely to be debilitated by seasickness, sleep deprivation, an inability to eat or drink enough calories to maintain any kind of equilibrium etc. Many rower suffer from hallucinations. Particularly in the early stages of the race.

Just to confirm, Mrs R has indeed arrived at the conclusion that by attempting it at a ripened 68 years-old with relatively little in the way of ocean-crossing anecdotes, Mr R seems to have lost his brain down the back of the sofa.

My wife thinks I’m mad and was very much against it. She’s coming round as she sees how much it means to me and David and how much effort we are putting into it, including into making it as safe as we can. My children, currently aged 40, 37 and 33, are a mixture of proud and amazed. My older two are entrepreneurial and my son wishes he could participate. My youngest has Downs Syndrome and will miss her Dad while he’s away.

The good news is (and as a journalist you do have to check these things) that he has ruled out both eating (and being eaten by) his crew-mate; the drinking of any urine and, even in the face of recent chart success, the singing of sea shanties. 

Despite those assurances the daily specials board seems like a grim old affair.

The average rower loses 10-15kg during the duration of the row so we will be trying to consume about 6,000 calories and six to eight litres of water a day. This will be dried, packet food, which we suspect we will mainly eat cold. It’s difficult to boil water when the boat is behaving like a bucking bronco! We’ll supplement the dried food with snack packs – daily treats of high protein such as nuts and chocolate.

Oh and here’s something non-rowers might not be aware of.

Earlier this year three of the Talisker Atlantic boats suffered marlin strikes, with one putting a 30 cm spike up between a crew members legs while he was asleep in the cabin. Last year, a shark bit one of the rower’s oars in half.

How to sponsor

See? Mad. So, you know what to do – facilitate this fantastically unwise undertaking by sponsoring the duo for a large amount of money. Think of it as an investment, in fact, because you will be giving a leg-up to the wealth creators of the future that provide fuel for our economy.

Rigby is a lot more enthusiastic about that part than he is about reconstituted dried food.

Now you’re talking. We have bespoke packages for larger sponsors, including rowing days and crew speaking opportunities, not to mention prominent branding on the boat. For smaller sponsors, we have a range of packages which can be found in the download at Support Us – The Entrepreneur Ship”

All joking aside, Rigby and Murray have had to tick off a rigorous list of safety requirements and training to get to the start line including obtaining a Short-Range Radio Licence, an RYA Sea Survival course completion certificate, an RYA First Aid at Sea certificate, an RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship certificate and a certificate of completion of an accepted Ocean Rowing Course.

The whole things seems reckless (let’s hope it’s wreckless), ill-advised, risky and endlessly compelling. In short, the very epitome of an entrepreneurial adventure. You can only say bon voyage.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

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