While most of us begin to wind down for the festive break; ramping up our consumption of the myriad snacks and drinks, overindulging at the office Christmas party, catching up with friends and family and preparing for a relaxing few days of celebration, spare a thought for the Dorabros. Their past two weeks have also been spent eating - but with a desperate focus on building the valuable muscle and precious reserves which they're currently burning off at sea, rather than indulging in mince pies and sausage rolls. Early December was spent preparing their boat, mentally bracing themselves to take on one of the toughest endurance challenges known; the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a 3,000-mile rowing race across the Atlantic.
On 12th December, from sunny La Gomera, the Dorabros set off. Buoyed by the waves and cheers of the crowds of friends, family and onlookers who gathered to see them off, they looked suitably excited; but there was a certain element of trepidation on all of their faces. They won't see land, or stop rowing, until they reach Antigua; 3,000 miles of open ocean away. It's an incredibly daunting thought.
Day 1 - The Dorabros set off in good spirits, full of excitement for what lies ahead. Communication with the men themselves will be next to non-existent, but the tracker and safety boats will bring us updates wherever possible.
Day 2 - Steady progress as the crews begin to space out a little, each taking their own route. The Dorabros are among the leaders; a welcome sight for their family and friends back home, obsessively refreshing the tracker throughout the day and night.
Day 3 - Strong winds and growing waves make progress difficult, but the tracker shows the Dorabros maintaining good speed and keeping close to the leader of the pack.
Day 4 - A calmer day at sea, with a steady pace keeping the Dorabros within the leading group. Despite the calmer conditions, sea sickness is proving to be a huge challenge for most competitors; it will be a few days before their bodies adjust fully.
Day 5 - Strong winds and huge waves have forced many of the crews to turn South and to use para-anchors to ensure the safety of their boats and crew mates. Slow to no progress for everyone today, with very little communication from any of the crews or the safety boats.
Day 6 - The result of yesterday's difficult conditions are clear to see - many crews are spaced far apart, some going in circles, others veering off course to seek safer waters. This is a day for getting back on track. The Dorabros have held firm and maintain a good position.
Day 7 - The team are travelling at a speedy 3.4 knots putting them in 10th place out of the 35 entrants; an impressive position for anyone, let alone for a 4-man team where 3 of the team have no proper rowing training!
Day 8 - After a solid night's efforts, the Dorabros have moved up into 9th place; their family and friends at home, along with their ever-growing crowd of supporters, are thrilled to know that they are doing so well.
Day 9 - As we prepare to sign off for the Christmas period, the Dorabros row on. So they shall, through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing day... you get the idea. No matter how naturally cheery and resilient the lads are (and we can confirm, they are of good stock in both departments) no doubt they will be feeling very far from home indeed right now.
Although the challenge is obviously a physical one, there is a very significant mental element to undertaking such an extreme race; arguably mental resilience is as important as physical fitness in these circumstances. The Dorabros aren't just rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off, 24/7 for over a month; they're doing it contained within a tiny boat, with no sight of land for the vast majority of the time, at the mercy of the elements and just about as far away from friends and family as it's possible to be. Their strong friendship will be tested to the limits; reliant only upon each other to pull their individual weight, to reassure, to pep up and entertain when the inevitable dark moments and down days weigh heavily on them.
The Dorabros hope to raise a total of £100,000 through their epic year of challenges. So far they have received over £35,000 in direct pledges to the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the sale of their boat - once it has seen them safely to Antigua - is set to raise a further £50,000. This leaves £15,000 to raise enough to finance and support a new treatment unit at the UCLH Macmillan Cancer Centre in London.
The lads are the first to emphasise that, no matter how hard things get out there in the open ocean, their challenge is nothing compared to the journey that young people with cancer are facing every day in the UK. The festive season will be particularly hard; yes, for the chaps in the boat who are away from their families with no means of communication, but more so for the many children and young people who face Christmas in a hospital, undergoing gruelling treatment. That's why we hope that our community will spare a thought and a precious pound or two for the Teenage Cancer Trust this Christmas, and help to bring this new, life-changing treatment unit to life.
To donate please visit the Dorabros Just Giving fundraising page. 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.
We will keep a close eye on the Dorabros progress, and will be back in early January with an update of how the Christmas period at sea has treated them - be sure to follow their Instagram to receive updates as they come through.
Thank you, and Merry Christmas, from all of us here at Marloe Watch Company, from the Dorabros; Rufus, Charlie, Lirim and James, and from the Teenage Cancer Trust.
*to a maximum donation of £50