It's been 29 days since the Dorabros last saw land. 29 days in a tiny, open boat, rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off, 24/7 across open ocean. There has been extreme seasickness, homesickness, tough days and even more challenging nights. There have been aches and pains, blisters, sores, scorching heat and towering waves. Sunsets and sunrises, a pod of 30 dolphins, orcas, a lurking shark, flying fish, beautiful phosphorescence lighting up the sea with every stroke of the oar; there's beauty and danger in equal measure when you're bobbing around in the middle of the Atlantic.
It's been quite the adventure for these four young chaps, and, although they're well past the halfway point, it's far from over. While we have all been enjoying a Christmas break, perhaps a few tipples over the New Year and tentatively easing into the first week back at work, the Dorabros have endured over 2,200 miles of rowing, unaccompanied, across the Atlantic. Surviving on carefully rationed, nutritionally dense yet unexciting food supplies (including a dried Christmas dinner!) and fresh water stored within their boat, they have faced challenges - both physical and mental - that most of us have never faced before.
We had a surprise phone call on Christmas Eve, from the middle of the Atlantic - it was Charlie, one of the Dorabros, using some precious and rare communications capability to check in and thank us and the Marloe community for the support, while providing us with an update from their time at sea so far. The day brought them flat, glassy water with no wind - difficult conditions in the heat - but it also brought huge clouds of phytoplankton; lighting up the sea around them with their phosphorescent glow. The team described it as a real 'Life of Pi' moment - a moment of magic amid exhaustion and, no doubt, thoughts of their families back home as Christmas day dawned. We are touched that they would think to use their communications time (and talking energy) to check in with us, especially on Christmas Eve; behaviour typical of this group of courageous and kind young men.
The team have settled into something of a routine, with every man having his own duties and responsibilities to ensure the smooth daily running of the boat. While there's not a huge amount of things to do on board the boat aside from rowing, there are some essentials; including navigation and boat maintenance, and a sense of purpose and routine is helpful in maintaining sanity. Rufus has become official 'Barnacle Boy', responsible for diving down and scouring the underside of the boat every few days to remove any hitchhikers and reduce unnecessary drag in the water; all fun and games, he reports, until someone spots a shark. The Dorabros will have each others' safety at the forefront of their minds throughout this adventure - huge waves, quickly changing weather conditions, inquisitive wildlife (both welcome and unwelcome) and the mental strain that they're under each day all prove a risk to their health, and their bond is being tested.
Many boats have capsized or partially capsized (known as a knockdown) in recent days with some huge waves reported, but consequences are thankfully limited to bruises and belongings being soaked. Reports from the Dorabros boat are that they're meeting each challenge wholeheartedly; managing to laugh, smile and support each other through tough times (with the occasional 'sense of humour failure' which is to be expected) and savouring the incredible environment that they find themselves in each day.
What's more, the Dorabros have steadily climbed up the ranks throughout their adventure and are currently sitting at 7th place out of the 35 teams competing in this year's race. For a group of four with only one rower in their midst, concluding a year of exceptionally tough physical challenges, this is incredible work. The Dorabros aren't just taking part; they're competing, and that's a sure sign of the spark within them that has driven them to this point.
The one constant driver for all four lads, when their bodies and minds are feeling spent and the days drag on, and they inevitably begin to question why they have put themselves through this, is the anticipation of returning to news of the funds they have raised for Teenage Cancer Trust. The fuel which feeds their fire to conquer such a monumental challenge is knowing that they're doing something for those who can't; using their health and freedom to aid those young people who are confined to hospital beds, fighting battles which are far harder and longer than the one that the Dorabros are undertaking.
With £89,200 due to be collected from existing fundraising so far - including the sale of their boat upon completion - there's a little over £10,000 remaining to be raised so the chaps can hit their £100,000 target. They've already raised a remarkable amount, but we know the ultimate greeting when the Dorabros reach land in Antigua in just over a week's time (all being well!) would be the news that they've hit their target and can proceed to aid in the opening of a new Macmillan unit for teenage cancer patients. Then a shower, they say - they're feeling pretty desperate for a shower.
To donate, please visit the Dorabros Just Giving fundraising page. And remember, whatever figure you donate, we will double and discount off the price of your next watch purchase*, as well as matching your donation to the charity. For example, if you donate £25, we will knock £50 off your next watch order and donate an additional £25 to the Dorabros; our way of saying thank you for supporting this incredible cause. Simply send us a screenshot of your donation confirmation screen or email and we will send you a discount code. Every pound goes straight towards giving a young cancer patient a better quality of life while they undergo gruelling treatment; a priceless gift for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Sincere thanks to those of you, among our Marloe community, who have already donated; your generosity will make such a difference to those undergoing cancer treatment, and will bring a bonus smile to the (increasingly bronzed and bearded) faces of the Dorabros when they return to land and have the opportunity to read through the hundreds of messages of support they have received.
*to a maximum donation of £50