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FORTITUDE IV are aiming to set a new record as they row across the Atlantic Ocean in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Total Bristol met up with the four-man team to find out how they are feeling ahead of the gruelling challenge.

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1. How did you decide to take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge?

So, Ollie is university friends with the current record-holding ‘Four Oarsmen’ team that won the TWAC 17 – this planted the seed of adventure 18 months ago!

As soon as Ollie then proposed the idea of competing in this formidable race, and making a bid for our own record, we were sold. For us, TWAC strikes the perfect balance of testing physical endurance, mental resilience and team grit.

2. What do you each think will be the hardest part of the journey?

It’s definitely a challenge of extremes. We’re bound to encounter some spectacular highs, some miserable lows and some adrenaline-fuelled battles with the Atlantic Ocean.

We think it’s the unrelenting persistence of the challenge that will be hardest – getting back on the oars each time, again and again, hour after hour, despite weather, fatigue or hunger – until we reach the finish line.

3. Are there any parts of the row that you are looking forward to or is it all quite a daunting experience?

It’s a very daunting challenge but certainly exciting in equal measure. We’re excited about lots of things - testing our individual potential and resolve as a team, the chance to compete in a prestigious race with close friends and the increasingly rare opportunity to disconnect from the world for a period of time in total physical isolation.

We have huge respect for the Atlantic Ocean but if you’re not looking forward to the race then you shouldn’t be competing!

4. What do you think will be tougher to overcome, the physical challenge or the mental challenge?

The physical demands of TWAC are significant, rowing 12 hours a day on limited sleep whilst fighting a calorie deficit will take its toll on the body, but undoubtedly for Fortitude IV, this is about the mindset.

It’s the perhaps the monotony of the task at hand which is our biggest enemy as it leads to complacency which in turn can be a true danger, to ourselves and each other. The only way we beat this is mental resilience and professional focus; which is extremely difficult to sustain over a prolonged period at sea but that’s exactly why it’s termed a challenge!

5. How confident are you of breaking the current record?

There are so many variables contributing to breaking the record – the weather, injury, sickness, equipment failure – it would be foolish to declare we’ll definitely be successful. What we aim to achieve is that Fortitude IV is the fittest and most prepared team at the start line of TWAC 19.

We are working hard to pursue marginal gains in all areas of human performance and have great trust in the R45 boat from Rannoch Adventure. We’re not focused on anyone else but ourselves but we have confidence in our preparation methods.

6. Why have you decided to raise money for the ‘West London Zone’?

We wanted to work with a charity closely enough to notice tangible benefit from our fundraising but also ambitious in its strategy for growth and with a strong mission statement. WLZ are exactly that! Their team do amazing work in the schools of West London, providing opportunities and support through their link workers to the local children of the area.

They make a positive social impact to the children’s lives through education and offer real benefit to their community too. It’s been a phenomenal experience with WLZ so far and there is much more planned in the latter part of this year!

7. Max, Tom, and Hugh, you all come from military backgrounds, how do you think this challenge will compare to the physical tasks you had to complete in the military?

The military experience between us gives us an edge perhaps. Demanding physical work whilst sleep deprived, wet and hungry is all too familiar for us. We are confident operating in harsh environments, completing difficult tasks to high professional standards under time pressure due to the elite areas of the military we have served in.

However, this challenge is unique to all of us. We take confidence from our military careers, its defining as a person, but we are certainly entering into unknown territory with the TWAC!

8. Ollie, you’re not from a military background, but have you done anything like this before?

Absolutely none bar a short-lived experience with the Cadets at school! I have always been involved in sports though, healthy living is a very important part of my life and I have run marathons before but this really is a totally new experience for me.

I’m lucky to have teammates that have real experience with regard to endurance events but I also feel that I balance out the team dynamic positively; I think the campaign would be dominated by military planning if I wasn’t in the frame to offer alternative options on preparation!

9. Have you thought about what your next great adventure might be after you complete this?

Preparing for TWAC 19 has certainly got our imagination running wild, there are so many incredible challenges on offer around the world and so we definitely see a future for Fortitude IV beyond the Atlantic Ocean but for now, we’re solely focused on the adventure at hand! Hopefully, the next one is back on dry land though! ;-)



FORITUDE IV are a four-man rowing team attempting to row across the Atlantic competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge


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