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Tuesday 21st: Land Team Manager Helena, arrives in La Gomera, bring with her the sponsors' stickers which C2 (the people) carefully position between the cow patches before C2 (the boat) is hoisted on to a trolley for launching - a landmark moment.

The repairs carried out to her keel (damaged in transit) seem fine.

Later C2 and H try out some of the "heater meals" we have been given: chicken with herb dumplings definitely gets the thumbs up. However, as this food is not for rehydrating, each meal weighs about 500g and so we arrange our provisions strategy to consume these first so that we can cut down on weight as quickly as possible.

Wednesday 23rd: our first sea trial in glorious conditions. All 3 of us have a go at rowing, and we experiment with the three sets of blades in different positions, are relieved that the watermaker is working fine.

This is what it's all about! NB We are actually wearing shorts in this picture, but it gives you an idea of what the famous "naked rowing" will be like.

Later, we carefully measure out "day bags" of milk powder which we will make up for our cereals - well, you have to have fresh milk aboard the sea cow.

 

Thursday 24th: More fettling, including repainting the inside of the cockpit with slip-resistant paint. C2 is looking extremely smart, and her cow livery is widely admired.
Friday 25th: We head out to sea for some more trials, in conditions which are considerably more realistic than those we enjoyed on Wednesday. We row out round the south coast for about 40 mins, and then experiment with deploying our para(chute) anchor. Having worked out that some simple modifications will make it much easier to use, Chris boils the kettle, and we tuck into a rehydrated lunch. Helena chooses the chicken curry, while Chris and Clint opt for cod and mashed potato, all washed down with a bottle of water-maker water. You will observe Chris eating with a wooden spoon - chosen for lightness, and because it should float if accidentally dropped overboard (the likelihood of this happening is reduced by having it attached to a cord which he could have looped round his wrist).  Meanwhile, the wind increases considerably, and it takes us over 2 hours to row back to the harbour!

That evening, the port authority lays on a party for us, at which Lin Parker, skipper of Woodvale's primary support yacht, and an experienced round the world sailor, announces that the race start will almost certainly be postponed as Tropical Storm Delta is gaining in strength and heading our way.

 

Saturday 26th: Supporters start to gather for the "start", and we're glad to meet up with old friends Aggie Barnett and Ted Bates from Kingston RC/Molesey BC. Chris and Clint give themselves a last "No.2" haircut. The event organisers stage some shots of all of the crews on the bows of Aurora, the primary support vessel, taken by a photographer who was hoisted to the second crosstrees, to his considerable alarm.

We continue with numerous other small fettling jobs, including applying stickers of the C2 logo to our blades, and talking to a couple of journalists.

 

Sunday 27th: Instead of the actual race start, the first running of the Gomera Cup took place over a 5 mile triangular course starting and finishing in San Sebastian harbour, La Gomera. We were pleased with how the row went, but are later disappointed with our time relative to other pairs. We're aware that our blades, which we acquired with the boat, are considerably longer than those of other crews, and realise that this may be an issue, despite our size. On the plus side, we sell our remaining stock of "For 2,935 miles" t-shirts (3 of them to some Belgian gentlemen who seem to be Atlantic Rowing Race start tourists, having visited the start of the 2001 race as well, and got t-shirts from that too), and regret our pessimistic print run as other people are asking to buy them.
Monday 28th: Tropical Storm Delta has well and truly arrived in La Gomera with howling winds and lashing rain. All of the ocean rowers are very relieved that we're not spending our first full day at sea in this!
Tuesday 29th: The start is rescheduled for 11am on Wednesday, and we're raring to go. It's still quite blustery here, but we managed to get out for a quick paddle today to test our new gearing, and got up to 5.3 knots in a tailwind! Our hearts go out to team Move Ahead whose boat has still not been relaunched after leaks were found when it was first put on the water.
Wednesday 30th (Day 1): The race finally begins at 12pm (had to be slightly resheduled to fit in with the ferry timetable) and all 26 crews start. Yesterday was the last day of Chris and Clint's pre-Atlantic lives. Chris' final text message before the off said "sunny and a following wind so should be a good start". Mobile reception disappears about 100m offshore. Nearly 8 hours into the race, Team C2 is in 9th position overall, 8th out of the doubles, pursuing their "take the long view" race strategy, and is tapping it along probably in sight of the slippy young fjord-rowing Danes from Team Scandlines. In another 10 hours or so they will round El Hierro, after which they head for the open sea (direction Antigua).
Thursday 1st Dec (Day 2): Clint reports that all is going well, especially as this is the first time they have spent an extended period in the boat  - they have settled into a daily routine, are feeling fine (their multiple seasickness medications including bracelets must be working), and have enjoyed watching the phosphorescence and the shooting stars last night. At 15.30 they were in 4th place, and had done 71 miles. Poor Stefane and Andrew of 1 Life returned to La Gomera during the night - particularly sad as Andrew is a director of PA Freight, the company which shipped almost all of the boats out to the start from the UK.
Friday 2nd Dec (Day 3): "Just another day at the oars". Chris reports, around lunchtime, that they're now very well settled into their day and night routines (1 person rowing at a time at night, doing 2 hour stags, with 3 hour stints during the day including 15 mins or so "2 up" at changeover) - well, that was the plan, anyway. They enjoyed a calmish night with a gentle swell - much like a rough-ish day on Bewl. They're as delighted as all their supporters are that they've spent a fair amount of today in the lead, but we shouldn't think this is effortless. Rowers out there will understand what Chris means when he says it's like rowing back to UL from Putney after the hardest head of the river you've ever rowed, and doing it time and time and time again.

Thanks to Jeffrey at Heater Meals - they're enjoying the food (which is cunningly heated by putting a sachet of food in a plastic bag with a reactor pouch and a little salt water - plenty of the latter around). Also to Jenny at CC for the chocolate Advent Calendar (yes, really), and to Sue and the others at the CC gym - Chris' back is holding up well!

Note to supporters: C&C only turn their phone on once a day, so Helena is sending them a position update (in the format they can best use) of other relevant crews just before this slot so it is as up to date as poss. So, please feel free to text them messages of encouragement/gossip to amuse them etc, but there is no need to duplicate race places, route info or Lat/Long positions.

Saturday 3rd Dec (Day 4): Clint reports (sounding rather tired) that they had quite a hard night last night with strong cross winds which have whipped the sea up into 10-15ft swells. The Tideway on a bad day would be calm compared with this, but they're still making good progress. They report they have seen 2 seabirds: I asked what they were - and they replied that frankly they could have been anything and readers should use their imagination.

Please note: they can't receive voicemail on the sat phone, so it's texts only. But please remember they cannot SEND texts so their only outward communication (except in an emergency) will be to Land Team HQ and thence onto this website. But they say HUGE thanks to everyone who has been sending texts - they have been quite overwhelmed by the quantity and content.

Focus on food (C&C will be): At the moment, the boys will be having breakfast plus 3 main meals a day. They put a concerted effort into putting on fat in the run up to the race, avidly eating chocolate and crisps at every opportunity. This would have been particularly important if they'd been badly seasick for the first couple of weeks and not able to eat properly as a result. You may notice a few extra pounds around the tummy area in their topless rowing pictures on the Photos page! They will be burning at least 6000 calories a day (based on their erg training in which they burned 500 cals an hour - they will be rowing for about 12 hours a day each). Their breakfast is muesli with milk made up from powder (Daisy and Buttercup are more passengers than a source of gold-top). They have 2 main kinds of main meals - the Heater Meals described yesterday, and Expedition Foods dried meals. The Heater Meals are easier to prepare as you just pop the food pouch, element and salt water in a plastic bag, and it's ready in 10 mins. The down side is that these meals are not dried, so each meal they are carrying for future consumption weighs 500g now. The Expedition Foods dried meals are much lighter, but fiddlier to prepare as they have to light the gas stove (mounted on a binnacle), and boil water in a kettle to make them up. To reduce weight on the boat as quickly as possible, they're eating all of the Heater Meals first, before moving onto dried stuff in about 12 days time. Many cereal bars, much choccy and dried beef biltong are being consumed as snacks. They have no tea/coffee, but do have dried soup powder and also have fresh oranges for a few more days.

Estimated arrival at current pace: Day 47

Sunday 4th Dec (Day 5): Chris features on the front page of the Parkinson's Disease Society website, his chosen charity for the venture! You can donate to the PDS via Chris' JustGiving website (and many thanks to all those who have already done so).

I'm not sure why they slipped northwards last night: as several other crews did so too, and as they have continued to progress steadily today, I'm sure that nothing is amiss. I suspect that they got fed up with rowing in the pitch dark in heavy seas, retired to the cabin for a couple of hours and got blown north.

A few more pictures have been added to the Photos page. The Links page has details of related websites and also a list of Atlantic Rowing books - ideal Christmas presents for everyone who has developed a fascination for the subject recently.

Estimated arrival: Day 48 (16 January 2006)

Monday 5th Dec (Day 6): Sounding very much more upbeat than they were on Saturday when they were wallowing in the big swells, Chris started his report today by wittering on about 2-3 types of birds (they're still rubbish at ornithology) that have been circling the boat, then disappearing off, and then coming back again to check that there really are some crazy humans out here. They have also just seen their first dolphin, but didn't manage to get a photo - sorry, Jane, but will keep trying. The seas were particularly calm, last night - like Bewl on a perfect summer's day - which led Chris to do some 1.5 hour stints of square blades with straight fingers on the recovery, of which he felt Hagen would be proud. Incidentally, the feint north on Saturday night WAS for the reasons suggested yesterday (wind).

Yesterday afternoon they had to stop rowing for about 20 mins to ensure that they didn't get too close to a tanker which eventually passed about a mile from them. They were excited about having taken lots of video footage of it. So it looks like they're becoming the ocean equivalent of trainspotters. I mean, honestly, a TANKER was a source of excitement?

Favourite food at the moment is the fresh oranges, but Chris is terribly concerned that he has lost his appetite for chocolate, although Clint most certainly hasn't.

They said thanks again for all of the texts, particularly to:

  • Baz for his jokes which they think are funny (Baz, do you want to share any with me and I'll put any that are printable up here so we can all decide whether they really are funny, or whether C&C's mental state is deteriorating)

  • Ian Frogatt and Jo for their regular support
  • The Rowing Development Squad at Birmingham Uni (which includes Chris' daughter Sophie)
  • Chris Wynne (of Fox Motors who painted the boat and is a Bewl Bridge RC member)

Estimated arrival: Day 54 (22 January 2006) NB affected by early time of last Argos poll of today

Tuesday 6th Dec (Day 7): 3 beautiful new photos of the boys in action added to the Photos page, courtesy of Teresa from Woodvale (in the middle of the gallery with * by the captions), all taken during the Gomera Cup.

Great news - the boys clearly aren't suffering from lack of sleep which would make them want to fall straight from oars to bed, as they've just left 3 long messages. In fact, Chris has the energy to wax poetic and said that towards the end of the night there was an almost surreal calm with a very long, undulating, but not high swell that was like "sand dunes in the sea".

Ornithology Plea: Owing to the omission of the Observer/I-Spy Book of Atlantic Seabirds from the C2 stores, please could readers help identify the following birds which they keep seeing (answers by Iridium website text straight to them or to Helena via the Contact Team C2 link):

  • A small black, or dark bird, with a wingspan of 14"-18" that has a gold V over its wings and some light plumage at the back of its body below the wings
  • A larger silvery bird with a 3' wing span and very thin wings

Sticking with the wildlife theme, Clint was pleased to have seem 3 dolphins at 3.30am, but couldn't photograph them as a) he was rowing and b) it was dark. He stressed that he did not give them names, as he's not girly like that.

However, the biggest excitement of the day seems to have been breaking open their first pack of Thornton's florentines, at which point Chris was so excited the message on the voicemail went fuzzy. Huge thanks to the Thornton family for their delicious support "in kind" and to Lucy and the staff at the Tunbridge Wells branch for suggesting taking these. Clint says they're definitely the best florentines he's ever had. The night rowing routine has been enhanced by the consumption of Haribos, so Thomas and Harriet must prepare themselves for the fact that there is precious little chance of any of them coming back from Antigua.

Readers may be interested to know that Chris has got down to the bare necessities, but hasn't suffered any intimate sunburn. He says that there are some small areas of his body which are not going to be exposed to the sun and he's sitting on them.

Special thanks go to Chris and Baz at Fox Motors for their stanchions - not only are these great for keeping the spare blades off deck, but they also provide very useful safety rails and they are sure they would have taken involuntary swims several times so far without the stanchions. Many thanks too to all of those who have continued to make donations to the Charities or to the Team finances since C&C left England.

Finally, having heard that the leading pair Spirit of Cornwall's cooker had broken, making hot food impossible for the rest of the race, C&C have asked me to pass on the kind offer that they will be very happy to give their cooker to Spirit of Cornwall if they'd like to come back and pick it up...

NB Baz's jokes will NOT be included on this page so readers can monitor on-board sanity levels. They are not the kind of joke which should be published anywhere, in fact.

Estimated arrival: Day 51 (19 January 2006)

Wednesday 7th Dec (Day 8): Still sounding perky, C&C enjoyed going through the barrier of 1 week at sea at noon today. They spent last night experimenting with some new rowing/rest patterns, trying to balance the desire for longer periods of rest against the fact that if you row for too long it becomes painfully boring and tiring. They're beginning to find out what works best, though feel there is still some more finessing to do. Fortunately there's plenty of time to keep trying. They also realised that just because it's night, it doesn't mean you shouldn't eat, if you're also doing a lot of rowing, so they have been giving the chocolate a bashing - "Hooray", commented the Captain (Chris).

The World About Us - is wet, but devoid of dolphins today. They saw the same birds again, though Chris was at pains to point out, in a lawyerish way, that they were only saying that the species was the same and were making no particular guarantees that it was the same individual birds especially because, as previously stated, they are not girly and don't give these things names, so couldn't then check if it was Terry the Tern who had revisited or, in fact, his compatriot Tony.

The boat is fitted with standard (single action, for those who are interested) rowing seats, but ocean rowers are known for adding upholstery of various kinds to these. One crew has about 10 pieces of carry mat strapped to their seats, while another has large vinyl (or possibly leather)-covered cushions. C&C have opted for the tried and tested solution of real sheepskin covers (and have several spares). So, following on from yesterday's revelations that Chris is letting it all hang out, he reports, "I have succumbed to the joys of sheepskin close to the flesh and jolly nice it is too". Please do not quote him out of context. Ever. Clint seems to be being a little more coy about getting an all-over tan, perhaps put off by a past experience on Studland Beach when he burnt his forearms, but he is apparently exposing more and more to the sun as each day goes by.

Thanks today to Harriet and Sophie for their encouraging texts, and to Alex Sanderson for her lovely messages and offers to find out about things. They say that it is really heartwarming to discover so many people are following their progress (so please sign the new Visitors' Book).

Readers may be interested in knowing more about the boys' choice of buckets for B in the Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... game. You are probably aware of the "bucket and chuck it" approach to plumbing onboard. Well, in order to maintain a modicum of privacy, the boys each have their own, NAMED (I kid you not)blue bucket for personal use. Each has a long rope attached to the handle for, er, flushing. The rope has a loop on the free end so it is hooked round the wrist to reduce the danger of the bucket being swept away while being flushed in heavy seas. There is a third, black, communal bucket aboard for domestic usage. A combination of toilet roll and baby wipes are being used with buckets 1 and 2. Too much information? Sorry.

Estimated arrival: Day 51 (19 January 2006)

Thursday 8th Dec (Day 9): The effects of Hurricane Epsilon made themselves apparent yesterday afternoon and the guys were being pushed along by the wind and were surfing down the waves too. The phrase "whee-ha" was used, I believe. However, as night fell, the rather beautiful moon they had enjoyed over the previous few nights was obscured by clouds, so when they say it was dark, they mean REALLY dark, and this meant that they couldn't see the waves coming. While this wasn't physically any harder, Chris said it was really stressful as you had to concentrate 100%. The waves have eased now, which will slow them down a bit, but the wind is still tail. Much snacking was done last night.

Thanks to everyone at Bewl Bridge Rowing Club today, especially Shaun, Dave and Brooke, Hagen, Angus and Caroline. Chris says, "With all due respect, you ain't seen anything like the conditions I'm seeing now", and added, "Never underestimate the value of core stability exercises". If there are any makers of men's underwear adverts out there, they could do worse than using ocean rowers as a source of models for their next campaigns - they will all be lean, tanned and with fantastic six packs.

Last night C&C "joined in" with the men's squad at York City Rowing Club who were doing 5k erg tests. The YCRC boys did times ranging from 16mins 29sec. C&C reckon they each took about an hour to complete theirs, but point out that they were using Setting 13 and rating 20, someone was chucking buckets of cold water at them at irregular intervals with no warning, their ergo was perched on 2 semi-deflated Swiss balls, and from time to time someone kicked the Swiss ball away and the ergo lurched violently.

Regarding today's Today we went ocean rowing and we saw..., the sea cow effectively has 2 compasses. One is an analogue 360-degree globe compass that is mounted in the vertical cabin wall so it ca be viewed from the rowing position or in the cabin (in case they wanted to know which way they were being blown if they were sheltering in there from storms). The GPS screen also shows a bearing. This would be lost if the boat's electrics failed, but the analogue globe would still be there, of course. One complication is the difference between TRUE bearings and magnetic ones, further compounded by the fact that the difference between the two varies across the voyage (it was 7 degrees in La Gomera, I think, goes up to 15 in mid Atlantic and reduces to something like 6 again by Antigua). Oh, and because the bulkhead globe one assumes you will be looking at it form the cabin side, to compare the globe with the GPS one from the rowing position, you have to subtract 180 as well as do the true/mag correction. So their mental arithmetic skills will be as honed as their core stability.

Wildlife on C2: many thanks to the RSPB for their help (see Visitors' Book). No birds seen today. Or whales. Or dolphins. Either the other crews are making up their wonderful wildlife experiences or we smell.

Today's Too Much Information Slot: Both Cs are gushingly enthusiastic about the help that the nappy cream Drapoline is giving them. One of Clint's reasons for not getting back to basics is that he feels a pair of shorts helps to keep the cream where it is applied. He risks having a terrible shorts mark when he gets back. Chris' clothing strategy (or lack of it), however, has meant that he mostly just smears the cream straight onto the skeepskin he then sits on.

Estimated arrival: Day 51 (19 January 2006)

Friday 9th Dec (Day 10): The boys report that they had their first big non-meteorological challenge yesterday afternoon. Drinking water onboard is made by a watermaker which sucks in salt water and produces "fresh", well, drinkable, anyway, water (shown right, though without all of the hoses which are attached to the one in the boat). This is powered by their 2 bigger-than-car-batteries which are charged by solar panels. They mentioned yesterday lunchtime that they were low on water, but put this down to the sky being cloudy and the solar panels therefore not working at full capacity. By yesterday afternoon, they found that the watermaker had been leaking, so quickly decided to invest time in fixing this at the expense or rowing and downed oars for about 3 hours in total. They removed the watermaker (about 3ft by 1ft by 1ft) from it's locker, took it apart, replaced the piston rod, put it all back together again, and reseated it. It is now leaking very considerably less, and they're monitoring the increase in production rate. Fortunately the sun is shining brightly. As a result of all this, though, they had to go on short rations for water for a while, and Chris says, "There is nothing like not having something to give you an irrational desire for that thing. True for other things than water as well." Quite so.

All this obviously impacted their progress a bit yesterday afternoon. Like everyone else, they are wondering how Cracknell and Fogle managed to get that outboard engine past Woodvale scrutineering...

Estimated arrival: Day 51 (19 January 2006)

Saturday 10th Dec (Day 11): Chris described the current conditions as "challenging" - they are suffering a cross headwind, coming at them from the South West caused by a low pressure. They would like to take this wind back to M&S and exchange it for a North Easterly that would fit them better, but the famous retailer unfortunately hasn't opened a 23.691 degrees North, 26.276 degrees West branch yet, so they'll just have to cope with what they've got. He described last night as "taxing" (owing to the wind that just doesn't suit them), but perked up when he remembered that Clint saw a whale and he saw two dolphins but once again, as they only seem to be visited by camera-shy individuals, this was in the dark and so they still haven't got any decent pictures of them.

The water maker is now hunky-dory - no leaks, and the water bladder (the boat one, not the rowers') is filling up nicely as it's still bright sunshine.

Many thanks to Chris' parents for their continuing "Thoughts for the Day" and to Animal, apparently, for his domestic help (surely some mistake as this is a man who claims he doesn't even own a bucket and sponge).

For readers perplexed by the EPIRB that the guys have spotted in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... this is their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, and is one of their most crucial pieces of safety equipment. If activated, it sends a signal, carrying a unique identifier belonging to the boat C2, to a satellite, which is then beamed to its registered coastguard (Plymouth, I think, because the race organisers Woodvale are based in Devon) who will receive the position at which it was activated and initiate a rescue. Because of it's purpose, it is kept permanently on deck ready for emergency use, though secured to a net under the gunwales.

Estimated arrival: Day 52 (20 January 2006)

Sunday 11th Dec (Day 12): As readers will spot from the Woodvale progress page, all boats have had a very difficult last 24 hours. The wind got stronger and by about 4pm yesterday, C&C agreed that the progress they were making no longer justified the effort they were putting in so they deployed their para-anchor and retired to the cabin. While this might seem like a great opportunity to catch up their considerable sleep deficit, the cabin is really too cramped for 2 very large blokes to be able to get comfortable (I found it great when I slept there for a couple of nights in harbour in La Gomera, but then I only come up to Chris' shoulders, and don't even reach Clint's), so their zzzz account is still in debt. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the World Sleep Bank from which they could borrow - if only.

They've hardly been twiddling their thumbs, though, as this morning they first found that one of their blades had been broken, presumably by a freak wave overnight (they had a spare set, so they're down to 5 in total now, which shouldn't be a problem) and then realised that the big rope that attaches the para-anchor to the boat was no longer actually attached to the boat. However, all (and particularly the para-anchor itself) was not lost as a thin line runs from the far end of the para-anchor (where the small hole is) back to the boat which, when pulled, brings the the point of the parachute back towards the boat, thus collapsing the canopy, and this is how you bring the para-anchor in. This line was still in place, so they pulled the whole thing back in and found that the pin of the metal shackle which connects the main rope onto a metal loop on the bows had come unscrewed. Thus Clint went aquatic and swam round to the bows to reattach it (no mean feat in those seas, I suspect - who needs dolphin watching when you've got this going on). It has now been redeployed and is performing perfectly - it's main job is to catch the (helpful) currents coming from behind them to negate some of the effects of the wind blowing them backwards, and is surprisingly effective. Understated as ever, Chris described their last 24 hours as "eventful".

Finally, no, their spotting of flares on board doesn't mean that they've taken some 1970s fashions with them, but refers to their distress flares. Red ones are used to call for help, white ones are used to say "I'm here" e.g. when you see a large ship bearing down on you, and have already been used by several other boats in the race. They have both rocket ones, which will shoot a flare way up into the sky, and hand held ones, which can't be seen from as far away, but make the boat easier to locate. The Captain of the Woodvale Support Yacht Sula told a story of how an ocean rowing boat set off a white handheld flare when he was sailing past on a previous race, and commented that it "turned night into day".

So far, C&C have raised 4,322.52 for their chosen charities, the National Autism Society and the Parkinson's Disease Society. They hope to raise 10,000 in the end, including after-dinner speeches etc about the trip which they will do when they get back. As they could really do with a boost at the moment (the current adverse weather looks like it will be with them until at Monday evening, unfortunately), it would be great to be able to tell them that they'd made the half way point on their charity fundraising. Donations (and every 1 helps in the same way that every stroke gets them closer to Antigua) can be made via http://www.justgiving.com/TeamC2-ChrisAndrews (PDS) and http://www.justgiving.com/TeamC2-ClintEvans (NAS). Thank you!

Estimated arrival: Day 59 (27 January 2006)

 Monday 12th Dec (Day 13): Today's update could have related the sorry tale of 2 cold, wet rowers suffering from cabin fever, worn down by the relentless bashing their boat was getting, and probably ready to start acting out the plot of one of those cheerful Agatha Christie books. Instead, Chris was sounding positively bubbly and animated, and on being asked if they had adequate clothing for the conditions, he explained that they're not actually suffering a storm, but just a frisky wind that is completely in the wrong direction, and as the sun is shining he has spent most of the morning out on deck sunbathing. Apologies to his colleagues at Clifford Chance who are slaving hard in their offices and thinking poignant thoughts about his "suffering". It is interesting to observe that 15ft waves are now brushed off as jolly ocean conditions. They hope they will be able to get going again this evening.

The para-anchor is still out, but as the working day began, Chris had a moment of what he later described as mis-guided optimism, and decided that the screaming headwind might be dwindling to one that was merely shouting loudly and therefore that the para-anchor should be pulled in and some rowing attempted. Half way through this procedure, they were just thinking, "Oh dear, we shouldn't be doing this" (or words to that effect) when they realised that the collapse line had got totally tangled round the main rope. At which point it started pouring with rain. They then spent an entertaining hour hauling it all back in, unpicking the knitting, and redeploying it again so they could get back to square 1.

While moo-ching about since this constructive use of an hour, they've been tucking into lots of muesli and Weetabix, and would like to thank Ian F for his "support". In his honour, they have named their buckets after him (and readers will know that they don't resort to this kind of anthropomorphism lightly), so he should jolly well be touched that he is now never far from their thoughts, and that a new phrase has been coined, i.e. "I'm just going to use the Ian".

Not much needs to be said about the GPS on today's Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... They chose it because it is so important. Mounted on the cabin wall so it is visible from the rowing position, it tells them the direction they're going, the speed they're doing (0 at the moment, obviously) and the time (crucial for making sure your partner gets up for his shift, without having to wear a watch and get a strap mark in their tans). In addition, they have programmed various "way points" into it and the bearings they need to take to get to them. It then feeds back info on the current direction versus the planned one, so they don't even need to remember which way to go. I think they also have a hand-held one in case they abandon ship and have to use the life raft.

Many thanks to Ian Peters at RSPB Wildlife Enquiries for identifying the 2 birds they saw last week as, probably, a juvenile Storm Petrel and a Northern Fulmar (pictures courtesy of the RSPB).

Estimated arrival: Day 65 (2 February 2006)

Tuesday 13th Dec (Day 14): As there was nothing good on TV, C&C started rowing again at 7pm yesterday evening. While they say it was a huge relief to get going again, it has been hard work as there's still a lot of headwind around, but every stroke is at least getting them closer to Antigua, and they promise never to moan about the headwind under Hammersmith Bridge again. Chris was also at pains to point out that a major motivation for re-starting was that he felt his friend Jo, who has promised to row a certain amount of distance on the ergo for every mile they do at sea, wasn't getting enough exercise, and he was keen to stop her slacking.

Unlike Chris Martin, they haven't even been working on their fishing skills, but they saw a "big, grey-looking thing in the water" while getting the para-anchor up, and assumed that this was a fish. Still some way to go with the zoology, then.

Readers will already know about the essential role that Haribos from Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... are playing in the boys' night rowing routine. Their sweetshop is stored in the hatches under the deck, accessed through the round, watertight covers on deck. One of the greatest problems that Ridgeway and Blyth suffered in their ground, or should that be ocean-breaking 1966 Atlantic rowing crossing from Boston to Ireland (see Links page for details of their fascinating book) was that a lot of their food was contaminated with seawater during a storm early on as they didn't have watertight compartments to store it in and, as a result, might well have starved had they not met a kindly ship which resupplied them at the point when they had one week's rations left and a month to go. They also rowed the whole way in wellies!

Special congratulations go to Sophie for doing amazingly in her first head race, and to Jane for her interesting texts.

Estimated arrival: Day 65 (2 February 2006)

Wednesday 14th Dec (Day 15): At noon today, C&C haven't set foot on dry land for 2 weeks! Not many people can say that about their lives.

Overnight, C2 enjoyed a certain amount of flag waving, cheery messages, and shouts of "Hooray for the Sea Cow" from the wind. Sorry, they received some support from the wind. But the Good Wind of the North East snuck off home for a rest come the morning, and they've been left with an unsatisfactory smorgesbord of cross head or too-feeble-to-be-useful breezes. Clint played with a dolphin for about half an hour at first light, but it disappeared when Chris came on shift. He's trying not to take it personally. Aurora dropped by for a chat at about noon, so the boys stopped rowing for about half an hour (bear this in mind when checking later progress), and took some photos which will hopefully wend their way to this site in due course.

I is for Iridium, because this 66-satellite phone network, giving 100% coverage of the earth's surface, provides near-indispensible communication with the outside world. When Rob Hamill and Phil Stubbs broke the 101-year old unsupported record in the first Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997, they had no such comms equipment and so constantly pushed themselves to the extreme, just in case they lost by the 5 minutes it would take to snap some pictures. In addition, they pared down their equipment to a bare minimum to save weight, including only taking a couple of cassettes to listen to (a far cry from the 3,000-odd tracks most rowers have stored in their iPods in this race). Their first information about how they were doing in the race came 70 miles from the finish line when a boat came out to look for them, and broke it to them that they were 560 miles or 8 whole days ahead of their opposition!

Because the Iridium phone is quite power-hungry, it can't be kept on constantly. They have to have it on for an hour a day so that the race organisers can contact them, but at other times, just turn it on quickly and sporadically to pick up those much-valued text messages. It is powered from the 2 larger-than-car-batteries that are charged themselves by the solar panels on the stern cabin, and which also have to supply electricity to the watermaker (probably the biggest drain on amps), GPS,  VHF radio used to contact shipping in line of sight, the navigation light which is up a 4 ft mast and is turned on at night for obvious reasons, the cabin light (not that much reading in bed goes on) and, of course, their iPods which can either be played through earphones or out through the waterproof deck speakers.

Yesterday afternoon, Chris' parents were invited to the Parkinson's Disease Society Christmas Carol Service at St Marylebone Parish Church, London. Jane Asher, celebrity guest, told the 400-strong congregation about C2's row (you will recall that Chris is supporting the PDS), mentioning that she believed his parents were in the congregation, and if they were, please would they pass on everyone's best wishes. Mr Andrews Senior piped up, "We shall", and received a thunderous round of applause in return. Chris's parents are pictured (right) along with Chris and his sister Sue - some of his greatest supporters.

Estimated arrival: Day 65 (2 February 2006)

Thursday 15th Dec (Day 16): C&C were in a rather frustrated moo-d when they rang earlier. As readers will have noticed from the very limited progress of the pale blue blob recently, they put their sea anchor out again not long after Aurora's visit yesterday as they were making decreasing amounts of headway against yet another Westerly wind. They grabbed the opportunity to re-organise their food stores (Mrs Beeton would be proud), and went swimming! C2's bottom hadn't developed any barnacles yet, though the boys scraped off some growths to put her in tip top shape for when they can get going again. Moving on to C&C's bottoms, Clint reports that his is so pristine, as a result of his shorts-as-a-nappy and Drapoline routine, that he is calling it Christine (so the common practice amongst ocean rowers of naming everything in sight is finally catching up with them). Chris went into fewer details about his rear end, but said it was bearing up extremely well in the circumstances.

After all this, they were treated to a spectacular thunder and lightning storm which was much more intense than the ones you get in the UK, with flashes every 5-10 seconds all around them. Rowing started again at 10pm yesterday, but bad weather again stopped play at 3.30am. Aware that other crews seem to be pressing on rather this morning, they grudgingly agreed that, "It's back to the oars, then", as the wind might be swinging round a bit. All the same, their frustration levels are high as sitting around "was not what we came out here to do", so please keep the encouraging messages coming.

Oh, and they're sorry about the Juvenile Storm Petrel on Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... being a bit uncreative, but there is/are no jam (though they have Golden Syrup and honey), jars (apart from one, but it's swathed in duck tape to prevent or at least contain breakages), jute (all ropes made from synthetic fibres or cotton) or, given the current conditions, joyriders aboard.

P&O Captain David Miller, a reader from Dover, has observed that when he goes to sea, he needs:

  • 100 crew
  • 5 foreign going masters certificates (plus 1st mates)
  • 30,635 tons of ship
  • 34,500 horsepower (plus 6,000 horsepower bow thrusts)
  • 10 GPSs
  • 4 radars
  • 3 electronic charts
  • 2 gyros
  • 2 rudders
  • 2 propellers (plus 2 on thrusts)

...just to get to Calais.

And with just 10 rowing days left till Christmas, you are invited to take part in the "12 Days of Christmas" Supporter Challenge...

Estimated arrival: Day 65 (2 February 2006)
Charity total so far: 4,566.11

Friday 16th Dec (Day 17): Executive Summary - it's tough out there. And uncomfortable. As shown on the progress chart, C2 decided to move south to seek the favourable winds which are available for the forecasted future below 20 degrees North. They had hoped to go SW, but as the wind swung round to being due Southerly overnight, they have finished up heading due S. They're actually doing some good mileage, but as it isn't in the direction of Antigua, this isn't reflected on the progress chart.

Messages of support are therefore even more appreciated at the moment, and they'd like to send particular thanks to Lynne and Anne at Henley Management College, to Richard, and to Fe (especially for printing out this blog for his Dad to read), Elle, Merlin and Scarlett. Chris sends his thanks to Sue, Sophie, Thomas and Harriet for their support.

Focus on Food: Clint's current favourite is Pepperami, while Expedition Foods' Beef Stew is Chris' super fuel.

For those wondering how they have dealt with soggy towels on board their tiny craft after their swim the day before yesterday, and what life must be like in a confined space with a large piece of cloth that would be smelling like an un-cared for hamster cage by now, the short answer is they don't need to. They have some special Speedo towels that are more like chamois leather than those fluffy things so beloved of fabric conditioner advertisers. These super-absorbent 2ft square towels can easily be wrung nearly dry - problem solved!

Their kettle from Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... is an essential piece of kit, given that their main source of hot food is now the dehydrated meals from Expedition Foods. And the person who is at the oars can certainly see it when it's in use as it sits on the binnacle-mounted stove on the cabin wall, right in front of the stroke seat, with laminated pictures of C&C's nearest and dearest (including Sabre the dog) glued nearby.

Estimated arrival: Day 68 (5 February 2006)
Charity total so far: 4,826.53

Saturday 17th Dec (Day 18): C&C report another challenging day and night rowing into a constant, blustery head wind, in choppy seas. There's quite a lot of moo-ning going on, not least because they're either rowing in the buff or wearing just waterproof tops, but also as they've been enjoying tracking the moon across the sky from horizon to horizon - which isn't usually possible in the UK, or not the urban bits anyway. The moon is quite useful, when not hiding behind rain squall-bearing clouds. Nightfall comes at about 6.30pm GMT now (although they've technically passed into another time zone, most crews feel it is simplest to stick to GMT for clarity with their bases and the race organisers), and it doesn't get light till about 8.30am, so it's a long night.

The lanyard spotted today in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... was probably attached to one of their spoons to reduce the chance of dropping it overboard while dining. They each have a wooden spoon to eat with, on the grounds that they are light (somewhat immaterial when you're in a 750kg laden boat, but it was their idea) rather than they would float if dropped into the ocean. Clint's spoon can be distinguished from Chris' as the tip of its handle has been sawn off.

Thanks to Mike Sullivan of Clifford Chance for his observation that Steller's Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis Stelleri or Hydrodamalis Gigas) became extinct in 1768. Fortunately, the new genus Hydrodamalis Remis Atlantica is going strong and sightings have been reported of a particularly fine specimen currently migrating from Africa to the Caribbean.

Estimated arrival: Day 68 (5 February 2006)
Charity total so far: 4,954.73

Sunday 18th Dec (Day 19): C&C apologise for the later-then-usual update today, but they were both busy rowing earlier, as is clear from the fact that they have lost less, or in some cases much less ground (or is that ocean) than most other members of the pack they're with today. "Miserably hard work", was their description, although from their cheerful demeanour, it would seem that they enjoy both being miserable and having to work hard. The current devastating SW wind is swinging to a due Easterly tonight, and will continue on round becoming North Westerly by 0700 on Monday, Northerly by 1900 on Monday, before finally metamorphosing into the longed-for South Easterly by about 0700 on Tuesday.

Chris thought that the moo-nlight in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... was so "exceptionally beautiful" that he started singing about it, so morale seems to be high, and this despite the fact that he took an impromptu swim today after a large wave hit him just as he was moo-ving about the deck. Fortunately, because of the wind, the boat was moving so slowly at the time, that he just climbed back in, but the mid-Atlantic is one DEEP diving pool. Even more fortunately, he didn't even lose his glasses!

Readers of James Cracknell's and Ben Fogle's articles in the Telegraph might be concerned that the race duration's extension as a result of these headwinds could lead to all crews eating their shoes or even each other (not sure how Chris Martin and Roz Savage would deal with this situation). However C&C reassured me that they have "lots of food", and would be interested in striking a deal with the hungry boys on EDF, though would insist on distribution arrangements that involved passing daily rations over the stern only.

A few more photos from before the boat left the UK (seems like ages ago now) have been added to the Photos page.

Estimated arrival: Day 75 (12 February 2006)
NB This is based on their average progress a day so far which includes a third of their time not going anywhere. If conditions go back to "normal", their estimated race duration will drop rapidly.
Charity total so far: 5,082.94 - Fantastic! C&C say that getting over the half way mark was a great boost, and many thanks to everyone who has donated.

Monday 19th Dec (Day 20): After dining on a compote of pasta and mushroom sauce earlier, C&C reported to base that the main features of today's programme were:
  • A lot of rowing against the North Westerly wind
  • A visit by a whole family of dolphins during the late afternoon, including an incredibly cute baby one that was only about 2.5 feet long
  • More rowing against the said North Westerly while hoping it turned into the promised Northerly (and the fact that a Northerly would be welcomed as a refreshing change indicates quite how bizarre their definition of "good" has become by now), though at least it had reduced from Family Size to merely Extra Large as the day went on.

Thanks to Tom H for his training tips.

Clint also reported that Christine (his pristine bottom) has taken rather a hammering in the wet conditions over the last 4 days or so, and although it has now dried out, nappy cream is being applied extremely liberally. The supplies in C2's "bottom locker" when they left La Gomera included 800g of Drapoline, nearly a kilo of petroleum jelly as well as a lot of Sudocrem. No point in taking any of it home, obviously, and if, while rowing 1-up, they can't actually see their nappy cream, Today they went rowing and certainly smelled...

 With just 4 rowing days left till Christmas, entries are still open for the "12 Days of Christmas" Supporter Challenge...

Estimated arrival: Day 75 (12 February 2006)
Charity total so far: 5,082.94

Tuesday 20th Dec (Day 21): Today's itinerary has been less varied than yesterday's, being limited to rowing, rowing, and more rowing. It is mostly clouds, very windy, and the water's very rough. They have also finally admitted that all bottoms on board the boat are officially sore. A very limited discussion (on Iridium phone tariffs, parliamentary-level debates are not economically practical) was had about what the correct collective noun for bums is, and in lieu of any better suggestions we will say that the whole Pain of Backsides on board C2 is feeling thoroughly sat upon today. Readers are welcome to send in more creative alternatives (keep it clean, please Baz and Animal).

C&C's antics are having an effect on homes and workplaces across the world, and people are following their progress in the US, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and even Wales (please sign the Visitors' Book stating where you are if you're reading this from somewhere not mentioned!). The team at the Parkinson's Disease Society, the charity which Chris is supporting through the row, have put up this large poster in their Reception area, and move a small flag every day to chart his progress, which everyone visiting their offices sees and talks about! Chris and Clint are already very touched by the number of people supporting them, but would be absolutely bowled over by any similar photos we can collect together for them, so please feel free to send them in.

For everyone conscious that Christmas has already had an unfavourable impact on their waistlines, the idea that C&C have olive oil with them (Today we went ocean rowing and we saw...) as a way of keeping their fat intake up, must seem extraordinary. Well, all they would say, is try following the C2-Plan diet like they are, and your trousers would be falling off you too, and NOT because the office party had got out of hand. The boys are adding the oil to their reconstituted main courses to get the calorie content up, as well as for extra flavour, just like the Italians do. If only they could enjoy 2-hour lunches followed by a nice siesta in the sun like the Italians...

Thanks today from Chris to everyone at Bewl and everyone at Clifford Chance for their perseverance with encouraging messages, and from Clint to Tania, Julie, and Sarah & Steve at the Delapre Laundry.

Estimated arrival: Some time in February at the current rate of progress but if normal service is resumed shortly in the wind department, as expected, they should be able to get there in January.
Charity total so far: 5,132.94

Wednesday 21st Dec (Day 22): Team C2 are, despite a few small issues which are making their Friesian world not quite perfect, of which more later, thoroughly happy that they've done 40 miles today and that was at only just past tea time. The gusty conditions they were suffering at the time of yesterday's bulletin carried on till about 11pm last night, and around then, when the First Mate (Clint) was coming on duty, a large stealth wave (dressed in the same shade of black as the surrounding sky) came out of nowhere, and knocked him over, causing him to cut his lip. The Ship's Medical Officer was immediately called in to make a professional assessment of the injuries i.e. "I got out my little torch and had a little look", and while the lip is sore, it was decided that Mr Evans did not need to undergo surgery this week, and he was packed off to do some rowing and to stop eating into the Captain's (aka the Ship's Medical Officer's) sleep time.

Talking of which, the fetching pink cushtie that features in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... has turned out to be a key piece of kit, and C2 are most grateful to Charlie Bairstow and Tom Bright of Atlantic Warrior who were so organised that they had brought excess quantities of this vital piece of technically-designed equipment (I'm not entirely joking - read on) out to La Gomera, and gave one of their spares to C&C. OK, they offloaded the pink one and kept the blue one, but it was kind all the same. While the entire cabin floor is covered with a 3" thick, waterproof vinyl-covered mattress, Chris and Clint had not actually thought about pillows at all, and in a tough blokes/this-is-a-cabin-not-a-boudoir kind of way, were going to roll up some clothes and lay their aching necks on those. So the cushtie has been fab as it has the essential attributes of being light (as it's filled with tiny polystyrene beans) and is covered in nylon on one side which is almost impossible to soak water into, and fur on the other (which is extremely cossetting on wind-blown ears). The only trouble it has caused was when both Cs had to retire to the cabin in the worst of Hurricane Epsilon and had to work out who was going to get to use it (being tough blokes, as mentioned before, there was no way on earth, or even on ocean, that their heads were going to rest on the same pink furry pillow, even if no one could see them).

Their report continued with far too much information about the crew's Pain of Bottoms which readers will be spared, save to say that some kind of long-life foodstuff (the message got a bit windy at this point) turned out not to be quite as long life as they thought and Clint's bucket had some extended company. He's better now, though, thank you very much for asking. Finally, they heard a whale but didn't see it as they were rowing not whale-watching.

Evening update: the boys spent the earlier part of this evening fighting with the seas in a storm that was creating 25ft waves, but after a while decided that the storm could win, and having cunningly angled the rudder so that the northerly wind was blowing them south west-ish at up to 3 knots, retired to the cabin to dream of the luxuries each would have if only they were involved with Desert Island Discs instead of the Atlantic Rowing Race. Chris is keen on a self-filling drinks fridge, while Clint has opted for an Amazonian rowing girl (those au fait with International rowing should think along Romanian lines) who could row him to Antigua as well as possibly performing a range of other services (such as squashing large objects or providing a nice bass line in a Barber Shop Quartet, amongst others). Thus fortified, they promise they're going to get up early tomorrow morning and go rowing.

Many thanks to the Charities Committee of the Kingston John Lewis Store who have donated 50 in vouchers to the expedition finances. Clint also says thanks to Spod. Really, he does.

Global coverage! The current list of countries that we know C2 are being watched from is: US (Missouri and Indiana), Canada (Yukon Territory and Toronto), South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Hong Kong.

Estimated arrival: Day 80 (17th February)
Charity total so far: 5,132.94

Thursday 22nd Dec (Day 23): About an hour after Clint decided to let the sea have its own way last night, Carthorse Chris stepped back into the traces and carried on rowing in the pitch dark as the moon was hidden behind clouds - the conditions were described as "exhilarating" by oarsmen in a state of blissful ignorance. At around 2am, the moon emerged, and the boys gulped hard when they realised what they'd been rowing through.

Today's waves have been standing around behind the counter chatting amongst themselves and occasionally casting disdainful glances at their customers, and otherwise generally being unhelpful, though not actually getting in the way for a change, and so encouraging the sea cow towards Antigua with big sticks has been a hard slog. In a moment of intellectual keenness, they'd taken a "Teach yourself Chinese" course on their iPods, thinking that they could while away the long hours as they crept across the ocean with a little self-improvement. To date they report that they haven't learnt a single word (can readers in Hong Kong suggest some very simple, useful word so at least they can say they did learn a single word?) as they've had more important things on their minds "like bashing Cracknell" (all the best, James and Ben! Hope this doesn't put you off watching the cow boat, Croyde...).

Team C2's Christmas decorations include a small Christmas tree (thanks to the Parkinson's Disease Society), which will shortly be lashed to the nav light mast next to Daisy and Buttercup, who are hoof-ing a lovely trip, and a piece of red tinsel. However the boys are not sure that they'll need to put this up as their bottoms are so red and shiny that they reckon they are already illuminating the whole Atlantic, and on this point Chris has decided that he'll trade in his self-filling drinks fridge for a never-ending supply of local anaesthetic. Chris wasted valuable Iridium units repeating the word "very" a great number of times to ensure that the true agony of their Pain was correctly reported.

Today they saw some sharks' dorsal fins, about an hour after Clint had hit something underwater with an oar. Hmm. But sharks must be afraid of cows (although they obviously like Sun Latte - some kind of fortified Kiwi milk that remains a mystery to Europeans), as they didn't come much closer than about 10m from the boat.

Thanks to Animal and Baz for their consistent "humorous" support, to Gel, and to the Business Services team at Norwich Union for their generosity in raising over 40 in the great C2 Mince Pie initiative.

To: The Waste Management Department
20N30W County Council
The Atlantic

Dear Sir/Madam

Please could you advise us soonest what day of the week your Bin Lorries come? We are suffering from a superfluity of surplus items owing to the environmentally-friendly best practice for ocean rowers which we are adopting (i.e. we're not chucking anything that isn't, er, organic overboard, apart from the half oar on Day 12, but we would have been happy to keep that). Our Yorkshire-based Land Team has been enquiring of my mother daily as to whether your operatives have visited, using the immortal words "Bin man bin mam?". 

Yours sincerely

C Andrews (Captain)

Estimated arrival: Day 78 (15th February)
Charity total so far: 5,158.58

Friday 23rd Dec (Day 24): Despite putting in their second best daily mileage so far (and the night is yet young), the boys report that the conditions haven't actually been all that helpful as there's been a swell that is tricky to row in, but doesn't actually push them along, and they've been having to row at an angle to it. Still, spirits remain high, and there's just one chocolate left in the Advent Calendar.

Many thanks to Mark Stamper in Hong Kong who has carefully chosen the Cantonese phrase "Gar Yau" which we're trying to teach C&C via sat phone text message so they can't say they haven't learnt a single word of Chinese as they will have learnt one. A local term, it literally means "add oil" (rather appropriate given the olive oil revelations earlier this week), but is used to mean "keep going" or "keep your spirits up". If texters can add it to their messages, the boys may just remember it. The fact that we think they were actually meaning to learn Mandarin is irrelevant.

Literary-minded readers, along with children in Reception classes, will have noticed that we got our letters a bit out of sequence yesterday and explained R for Rubbish from Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... before Q for Quorum. Please accept our apologies. The Captain suggests that a suitable punishment would be keel-hauling, but as the Land Team is, well, on land and not at sea, she will crawl under her desk and out the other side, and hope that honour will therefore be satisfied. The required quorum for important decisions in the Republic of C2 is two. These include, "Which way shall we go?", "Are the waves big enough yet for me to stop rowing?", and "Whose turn is it to ring the Land Team?", but there is scope for self-expression by individuals on matters such as, "Is it time for some more chocolate yet?", "Do you have to snore that loudly, Chris, I'm trying to row?" and "What shall I do this afternoon?".

Many thanks to the kind people at the RSPB whose Wildlife Identification Unit helped C&C identify some seabirds earlier in their voyage, and who have sent the boys two www.savethealbatross.net T-shirts, modelled here by the Land Team's husband. An albatross dies about every 5 mins by getting caught in long line fish hooks, which is terrible. Our guys are spending a couple of months wandering the oceans - but these majestic birds are built to do so for their whole lifetime, and should be able to free from man-made danger. Closer to home, I have learnt from the RSPB that we shouldn't hang up peanuts for garden birds in those plastic net bags they are sold in as they can damage their feet on them, so I've just bought a proper bird feeder and encourage you to do the same. Odd benefits ocean rowing can have!

Updated readers' country list: US (Missouri and Indiana), Canada (Yukon Territory and Toronto), Bermuda, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Hong Kong. 14 including the UK (England, Wales and Scotland are watching - anyone out there in Ireland?)!

Estimated arrival: Day 78 (15th February)
Charity total so far: 5,385.58

Christmas Eve (Day 25): How much excitement can one set of supporters take before breakfast? Blob-followers the world over will have seen that the 0615 positioning chart today showed C2 having taken the lead in the pairs race! Meanwhile, the Parkinson's Disease Society, Chris' chosen charity, have produced another lovely article about their progress and given it top billing on their website over the festive period.

Chris and Clint looked high and low and all around and just couldn't think of anything beginning with S for Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... (think about it... they're pulling our legs here), but then realise that it would be fantastic to have a visit from Santa (while the troops in Iraq must surely have enjoyed Tony Blair's surprise visit a couple of days ago, a Prime Minister is just no substitute for a childhood personification of hope). They're a little concerned that the lack of chimney on the Sea Cow may result in the sleigh and reindeer just sailing on by overhead, but request that he use his imagination about the ventilator at the back of the cabin (the circle with the reflector shown right - it screws up and down from the inside to give more or less ventilation without, theoretically, letting too much sea in), particularly as hot, noxious fumes regularly escape through it. And what do they wish to find in the storage nets on the cabin walls (don't think either of them have socks with them) when they wake up? A win, of course! "And a satsuma", added Chris. "But no coal", said Clint, "We're not a steam ship."

Some excellent Christmas news: Hardy Wines have kindly agreed to provide the case of wine promised as a prize in the Race Duration Sweepstake. Please thank them for their generosity by choosing the delicious Hardy wines when doing your festive alcohol shopping (or any other kind of alcohol shopping)!

Estimated arrival: Day 75 (12th February)
Charity total so far: 5,475.32

Christmas Day (Day 26): Please click on the present below to receive your Christmas gift from Team C2!

Clint rang in this morning to report that they were enjoying having a slightly slower start to the day than usual, and like kids the world over, had just opened their presents. Thinking of their precious crew-mates first, Chris opened the chocolate locker and presented Clint with a bar of Thornton's finest, shortly after Clint had opened the chocolate locker and presented Chris with - you guessed it - a bar of Thornton's finest. In the light of recent high-profile legal developments, they stressed that this is a competitive marine partnership, rather than any other kind, despite exchanging chocolate in this way. Clint was also delighted with a the various photos of his kids he found in a parcel from them (and with the chocolate coins taped to the back of them!).

Incidentally, in response to one supporter's concern, C2 have enough chocolate on board to make a small chocolate army, if only they had some chocolate soldier moulds to shape it with, and reckon that their cocoa products manifest would see them all the way back across the Atlantic too (but they're not going to do that simply because they don't have enough curry to go with it).

Clint would also like to say "mille grazie a Richard e Susan per il vostro regalo gentilissimo. Un vero dono per l'animo, e buon natale a tutti. P.S. Il mio culo continua di far'mi malissomo!"

Other thanks go to Magnus for his insights and comments and to all readers for their support (and they were particularly touched by those who logged on straight after Midnight Mass).

And if any of Ben Fogle and James Cracknell's supporters are reading this, please could you pass on the following message from Chris and Clint, "Christmas is a time of goodwill to all men. Please remember this even extends to Veteran C old men. Have a good one." Later update - MANY thanks to James' Dad for his message. Please pass on the warning that there is a Police speed trap at 34W so to avoid a nasty fine and points on their license, Spirit of EDF Energy would be well advised to slow down immediately.

And these guys don't neglect their duties: T is for tinsel (red, to match their bottoms) in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw...

Christmas Menu at the Captain's Table on the Sea Cow
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
STARTER
A very considerable amount of rowing
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
MAIN  COURSE
Pepperami and biltong served with
Rice noodles with a stir-in tomato sauce
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
DESSERT
Cold, pre-cooked Christmas Pudding
unadulterated by any of that nasty cream or brandy butter
and served between stints overnight
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
TO DRINK
Cabernet Pur40* 2005
(Appellation Controllee to those who have to listen to the Per40 water maker
singing its little tune throughout daylight hours)
* A Pur40 is the brand of water maker they have installed

Estimated arrival: Day 74 (11th February)
Charity total so far: 6,295.83 (fantastic!)

Boxing Day (Day 27): Today, it's back to the business of getting on with it, with crackers cleared away - that is, the red and gold ones they'd pulled at dinner time, as opposed to Crackers, who is far from cleared away, unfortunately, despite news via a Radio 5 Live interview that EDF's watermaker has failed so they've broken into their ballast water. If this is true, and despite some inaccuracies in some of the Telegraph articles that have been published so far about the celeb crew we have no reason to believe that James and Ben made this bit up just to throw us off the chase, the ramifications of drinking ballast water are serious.

All crews are required to carry 150 litres of water. In C2's case, it is held in 15 10 litre plastic jerry cans which are tightly packed in a hold compartment under the stroke seat. All water canisters have had their lids taped over by the race organisers, Woodvale, with the tape going right round the container and meeting itself on the lid where it was initialled by one of them. This means that the tape could not be secretly removed and replaced later by any scurrilous crew trying to jettison its water early on and replace it again later with sea or even water maker water. The water is partly designed as ballast to make the bottom of the boat heavy and therefore encourage it to right in the event of a capsize, and partly as emergency rations to keep the crew going either till the end, or till the crew can be rescued, should a water maker fail. However, as drinking the stuff reduces the ballast effect of the water, and also makes the boat lighter and therefore faster, there is a penalty for doing this. Penalties are on a sliding scale, depending on how much you drink, and were based around losing 1 race place or having a certain amount of penalty time added. The Land Team can't remember exactly how these worked, but will check up on this and get back to you. Chris and Clint are currently drinking about 5 litres each a day (their complexions will no doubt be so good that L'Oreal could go out of business). Do the maths.

Solo male rower Chris Martin, who accidentally received a text from Clint's children on Christmas Eve wishing their Dad a Happy Birthday (all concerned have been informed of the confusion and Chris M is no longer worried that he is the victim of a sting operation by the Child Support Agency), suffered from water maker failure very early in the trip and has been happily (OK, maybe a slight exaggeration, but he's admirably unfazed) surviving on a combination of using a hand-pumped water maker, collecting rain water and drinking his ballast water. However, as he's the only crew in his class, he's not bothered by the penalties of doing this. Interestingly, early Atlantic crossings didn't have water makers, so all water for the entire voyage was carried on board, usually in plastic bags. Wow!

Back to the plot. Today Chris and Clint  went ocean rowing and we saw... undulations. Lots of them. Not that they're ungrateful or anything, but they'd rather be surfing, please.

They're both hugely grateful for all of the people who took time out from their Christmas to send them texts, write in the Visitors' Book and even make charity donations. And while we can't send pictures to them at sea, when they get back, they'll certainly enjoy finding out that they played a part in their children's Christmas, even if it was the usual one... Hope Santa treated you well, Sophie, Thomas, Harry, Elle, Merlin and Scarlett.

RIGHT click here and do SAVE TARGET AS, then save to your hard drive for a delightful
video clip (a silent movie)
from Chris' young.
To view, double click the file wherever you saved it.

 

With exquisite timing (of the type that they usually display at the catch when conditions allow), the boys rang to say that today had been quite gruelling, just as a bunch of kids were singing about gruel in Oliver on TV. They also described the wind as paltry, just when a large dish of roast poultry was presented to the wicked workhouse bosses, and are looking forward to the more substantial breezes forecast (Wednesday could be decidedly frisky - and before you ask, Chris' Dad, they WILL put on their ankle leashes) as "grunt is hard work when you're knackered", as Chris explained in language unusually direct and to the point for a lawyer.

Clint was delighted to receive some moral support from a male flying fish which popped into the boat to slap him on the back (the one that Richard on Row4Cancer met must have been a flirty female as it stroked his hair). It was a tribute to Clint's hitherto underplayed eco-tendencies that he actually stopped rowing to escort it back to the sea so that it could continue with it's day with little more than a headache. This was apparently the third flying fish they've seen, but despite helping it to cross the boat, they didn't ask its name.

Estimated arrival: Day 72 (9th February)
Charity total so far: 6,295.83

Tuesday 27th Dec (Day 28): EDF's water maker problems were apparently caused by their battery not holding its charge, rather than the water maker itself, and they've now solved these. Still, for future (possibly) reference, the sliding scale of penalties for drinking ballast water are:
  • 1 hour penalty for the first 5 litres broken
  • 6 hour further penalty for the next 5 litres broken
  • 12 hour further penalty for the next 5 litres broken
  • For more than 15 litres broken, the Boat shall lose 1 place in the race
  • For more than 60 litres broken, the Boat shall lose 2 places in the race

While it won't come as a surprise to anyone that neither Chris nor Clint are as fresh as a Daisy (or a Buttercup - since the cows in the bows have done nothing but stand around for the last 28 days), readers need not be concerned that their trudge across the ocean has become a tortuous round of misery, and it was really quite notable how often Chris used the word "exhilarating" in today's report, entirely in reference to "some big old waves". The wind and waves picked up last night, and so Clint has been trying to teach Chris to surf, though Chris admits he needs more practice, particularly in the areas of spiking and bleaching his hair, and wearing knee-length floral shorts. With the moon not bothering to drag itself out of the clouds till 3am, it was pitch black for most of the night which made it, yes, you guessed it, even more exhilarating. I suspect, however, that there won't be many more occasions in their lives when they describe sitting in the nude, sopping wet, over 1000 miles from land, in the wee sma' hours, unable to see anything and, in Chris' case, inexplicably wearing glasses, as "not a bad night". Still, beats playing Trivial Pursuit for a post Christmas evening, I suppose.

Both C&C have commented to each other that they thought they were hitting things underwater with their blades from time to time over the past day. They are quite certain that the things are hard, but Chris is prepared to stick his neck out and suggest that they may also be scaly (because you can feel such a lot through a 10 ft composite stick), and so could be turtles. There are really quite a few ways in which it seems unlikely that they'll be the next David Attenborough....

However, back to one of their favourite topics: having a pain in the backside. Although the surfing is good fun, the larger waves do make the boat rock quite randomly and hard from side to side, and this tends to lift the rower off his seat. The instant relief that this affords is inevitably wiped out pretty quickly by the excruciating pain involved in landing again. Like the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev said when someone complimented him about his leaps, "I only go up as far as other dancers, but I come down slower". Sadly, C2 neglected the balletic element of their training before they set off, so are landing on their seats like a pair of elephants, and it hurts despite the "cushions upon cushions upon cushions" that they've upholstered their chairs with. Well, at least they must be true princesses.

Thanks go to Chris's parents for all of their Christmas goodies, especially the champagne, though they admit that when you've spent the previous night eating chocolate and Haribo sweets, champagne does taste really weird. Also to everyone involved with the 12 Days of Christmas which they're enjoying, to Jo for making life infinitely more bearable with her cake and Christmas pud, to Callum, to RWE for his nice comments about H (who isn't a journalist as such, though she did spend a couple of years writing the rowing column for the Surrey Herald a while back!), and to the following people for their technical input in the following decades:

  • 1970s - Graham Mulcahy
  • 1980s - Rusty Williams
  • 1990s - Gunny
  • Noughties - Baz

Their VHF radio in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw... only works when in line of sight of other boats, such as shipping bearing down on them, and even then is only any good if the other boat has theirs turned on, as ships are meant to but don't always (or don't always leave a human on duty next to the radio). It is fixed in the cabin and powered by the solar panels/batteries.

Estimated arrival: Day 70 (7th February)
Charity total so far: 6,295.83

Wednesday 28th Dec (Day 29): Today was a wavy day, though last night rang the changes a bit more with patches of flat calm, perfectly designed for hard, neat rowing, and also some stunning electrical storms to their North and East, as well as a big rain storm just before dawn. At around 10am today they experienced the heaviest rain they've ever seen for about half an hour, and confess to having been woefully badly prepared to gather in this precious gift from above (like all crews, they could do with it being reliably less cloudy during the peak sun position hours of 11am-3pm which should be the best time to run the water maker for the minimum of 4 hours they need it going for to produce the volume of water they need). While their onboard water situation of probably relatively better than that at Bewl, the Kent reservoir where Chris rows normally (meaning habitually, rather than saying anything about how conventional his technique is) which, at 30% full is at its lowest level ever, the C2 hosepipe ban looks like it will stay in place for a good while longer.

Wildlife Inexpert Chris proudly reported that he knows what a dorados look like (unlike fulmars and storm petrels) i.e. "big, ugly things" (well, it's a step in the right direction at least), but he hasn't seen any. Nor, recently, any birds, other fish, turtles, sharks, whales or dolphins. Maybe the cow print really is putting the wildlife off because all the other crews seem to be acting as roving reporters for Big Fish Diary.

Finally, for today's random insight into life onboard, Chris explained that, unlike some other crews, they haven't noticed it getting any hotter, but it has sometimes been warm enough to row at night without a t-shirt and so he only puts on his t-shirt to go to bed. Lovely. Inspiring stuff, there, Captain Andrews. It's clearly going to be a doddle putting together the planned motivational after-dinner speech about your adventures (but readers should book NOW if interested in C2 as speakers for their Rowing Club dinner).

Chris and Clint have a large number of water bottles on board, so it's hardly surprising that Today they went ocean rowing and they saw... them. Both rowing positions on deck also have water bottle holder clips on each side under the gunwales, and their best bottles are colour coded pale blue and black - not for C or C but for "pure" water as it comes straight out of their trusty Pur40 water maker, or water with PSP22 added. This is a flavoured powder which turns humble H2O into "complex carbohydrate energy fuel for high-energy performance", which certainly applies to their current project. In other words, it turns water into food, which is especially important as, in the 25 degree heat which they're experiencing most days, you don't really feel like eating the number of calories which this row requires (admittedly a state of affairs which most of us currently find hard to understand). Both Chris and Clint find it's great, but they're having to ration it, having only taken 4 containers of it with them.

To the 14 countries already mentioned (23 December), we can now add supporters in the Republic of Ireland (hello to the Heffernan family!). Anyone reading from Northern Ireland? Anywhere else in the world watching? We certainly have readers in 4 continents (Americas, Europe, Australasia and Africa). I suppose it's pushing our luck to ask if anyone's reading from Antarctica? Or if any readers know of anyone who's there?

A large selection of photos are available here http://www.studio5ive.co.uk/rowing/index.htm

Estimated arrival: Day 69 (6th February)
Charity total so far: 6,295.83

Thursday 29th Dec (Day 30): Today has been a bit of a plod (homeward, but weary, and Gray never mentioned quite how long the journey home was) for our favourite carthorses, and they've had to work hard for every metre of forward progress. Still, they're not the only crew thus affected, by the looks of it (calm down, EDF, it's just a race), and both Cs have tucked into good nosebags of oats tonight. Or maybe that was beef stew and a Nutrigrain bar.

Chris sends belated Christmas greetings to Sally, Paul and James, and says Happy Birthday to Sally. Both thank everyone at CC for their good wishes and remarks, though suggest that Mr Perrin might want to revisit his incentivisation scheme as the thought of getting back to the office nearly made them decide to go for the round the world rowing record and skip Antigua all together. Thanks to Catherine too.

They are still enjoying their various Xmas cards and gifts which is why they feature in Today we went ocean rowing and we saw.... Frankly, I think we should all be extremely relieved that they didn't claim to have seen a xylophone as the boat is totally devoid of musical instruments and so any such sightings would have had to be taken as proof positive that they'd started drinking seawater and were therefore hallucinating.

UK creativity is alive and well! Late 2005 sees new golden age of art and literature! We could win the Eurovision Song Contest again! Great Britain will be led in these initiatives by Minister of Funny Lyrics, Tim Soutar, who yesterday made the following statement:

The Bewl Water double act went 2C
In a beautiful Fresian boat,
They took rations funny, and pledges of money,
And spare oars to help keep afloat.
They dined on stew (and choccies, a few!)
Which they ate with a floatable spoon;
And hand over hand to Antigua sand,
They rowed by the light of the Moo-n,
The Moo-n,
The Moo-n,
They rowed by the light of the Moo-n.

Chris said to Clint, 'It's time for your stint'
And please to your Ipod don't sing!
EDF must be harried, too long we have tarried,
If we're to come first in this thing.
They rowed away for two months and a day
To the land where the bong weeds glow
And there on the shore, their posteriors sore,
They came to the end of their row,
Their row,
Their row,
They came to the end of their row.

Estimated arrival: Day 67 (4th February)
Charity total so far: 6,395.83

Friday 30th Dec (Day 31): Do you have to be mad to want to race across the Atlantic in a 23ft plywood rowing boat? Probably. But almost certainly not as nutty as this chap from Hampshire (that well-known nest of insanity) who is planning to circumnagivate Antarctica in a similar craft. Respect, sir.

Urgent Message from the seas/Cs at about 11am
Clint would like to inform all supporters that news of his demise has been greatly exaggerated and that he only took an hour off (covered by the captain) yesterday because he was feeling poorly, and would everyone please stop sending Chris texts marvelling at his heroism for lugging an ailing 1st Mate across the seas all on his own. Texts marvelling at their joint Herculean feats continue to be very welcome, though.
End of message

At 8.30pm Clint called base again to report that he's still not dead. Today's highlights included: nothing, actually. Another day for the carthorses to plod along. However, at the end of another long hot day, those with even a shaky knowledge of equine husbandry know that horses should be led to water, and the boys have got fed up with the reduced drinking rations they've had to have for the last 4-5 days, particularly in the morning when they have to wait for the sun to come up enough to fire up the water maker to have anything to drink for breakfast (worse than waiting for the milkman to come, though technically equivalent as readers will recall that they make up powdered milk to go on their Weetabix). While the boat's batteries are in a good state, they just haven't been getting enough charge in from the solar panels to run the water maker at full vigour. Contemplating this knotty problem while rowing along (and while river rowers have got distracted by a wide range of things while doing their UT2, from "What's for tea" to "Cor, she looks good in that lycra" and all points in between, "How can I get my water maker to work harder" probably hasn't been amongst them, so full points to the boys for originality), an end of the previously-described red tinsel decorating the boat blew across a solar panel and the water maker activity noise immediately dropped. Realising, therefore, quite how sensitive the solar panels are to having anything other than full frontal sunshine, our intrepid office workers decided that they could increase power output if they moved the panel that is on the slightly shadier side (and there is one, given they are still 20 degrees north of the equator) of the stern cabin to the sunny side of the fleet. So, at the time they had called, some sawing and drilling of holes had taken place but they were postponing actually moving the panel across till the morning, as it was getting dark.

Back to Wildlife on 8, Clint got terribly excited about having heard a whale hanging around the boat for a while this morning, though yet again he didn't see it. Maybe an eye test really is in order when he gets back. However he DID see "some leaping, salmon-type things about 2ft long that launch themselves out of the water, often pursuing some smaller fish, and then flop back into it again about 10ft further on". Any expert identifications?

Drogues (from Today we went ocean rowing and we saw...) are like para-anchors, but are much smaller, pointier and you deploy them from your stern rather than from the bow to stop the boat yawing around and getting the stern blown sideways in a tailwind. It's a little bit like having a spoiler on the back of your car to create a bit of downforce that controls the steering.

Chris was so absorbed in his solar panel engineering that he couldn't be distracted by thinking of particular people that he wanted to thank today. Clint says a BIG thanks to Fe.

Readers of other crews' sites will have seen tales of vast waves landing in their cockpits with all the grace of an albatross touching down. Does this lead to frantic activity with bailers, I hear you ask? Fortunately not. Apart from a footwell right in front of the cabin door, the deck on C2 is flat, and there are 2 scuppers (holes, marked with arrows on the photo) on each side to allow water which has landed on deck from above to run out again. These each have a rubber flap on the outside of the hull to help stop water coming in through them from the outside when the boat rolls or when a wave comes up past them. The footwell in front of the cabin, which is under stroke's stretcher, and I think is there to make it theoretically easier to get in and out of the cabin, is about 3ft in all directions, and must certainly fill with water in these situations. However, it is fitted with a bilge pump, which is operated by hand to empty it out. The reason that the footwell doesn't actually make it easier for very large blokes to get in and out of the small cabin door (not vastly more than 2ft square) is that the inflatable life raft is stored there (which is large and heavy, and therefore has to be both central in the boat or it would make it lean to one side, as well as easily accessible in case of emergency). But at least this reduces the amount of water which could accumulate in the footwell. The boat's Argos beacon is also in there, lashed to the stretcher, which is, I suspect, why our position updates don't seem not to register on the Race Progress site more often than other crews have problems, as beacons have to have a clear view of the sky (and therefore their satellite) to work, and ours can be in the shadow of the cabin. Some other crews lashed their to their nav light mast, but Daisy and Buttercup had already booked that position for their passage.

Estimated arrival: Day 67 (4th February)
Charity total so far: 6,395.83

New Year's Eve (Day 32): Today sees "zenith" as the final contribution to Today we went ocean rowing and we saw.... Challenge to younger (or older) readers: can you recite the whole list without looking? From yesterday's entry about the sensitivity of solar panels, readers will understand how useful the sun is at its zenith (so long as it has its hat on and comes out to play), compared with other times. At least C2 don't need to worry about identifying the sun's zenith precisely for the purposes of using a sextant to calculate their location (thank goodness for GPS), as did some of the pioneers of ocean rowing such as Ridgeway and Blyth and also Johnstone and Hoare. Details of the fascinating accounts of these voyages can be found on the Links page.

If anyone in Northern Europe is feeling a bit chilly right now, try and visualise the heat in the "compact and bijou" accommodation that is C2's cabin. A couple of days ago, towards the end of the afternoon when the cabin hatches had been open for some hours letting the breeze circulate through, Chris noticed that the temperature was 35 degrees. So you can see why his major concern for their New Year's Eve celebrations is how on earth they can get their half bottle of champagne chilled. Can you tell that this is not a man at the end of his tether psychologically?

Today has seen excellent progress with the re-arrangement of the solar panels, involving the attachment of a contraption to support the flexible panels on the sunny side of the boat. Clint described Chris' antics hanging out the of stern hatch and teetering on the small, sloping, and swaying cabin roof as Handy Andy meets Olga Korbutt. The panel is now working, though they sadly only got three hours "good pumping" (of the water maker, obviously) before some cloud came over, but this should be enough to see them comfortably through the night. All this came at the price of reduced mileage, but they reckon it will be well worth it in the long run, and invite EDF to come and have a look in case they'd like to try something similar, in which case C2 would be happy to offer tiptastic suggestions on how to create a solar panel frame from the piece of wood, an empty beef stew packet and some re-inforced rowing shorts. Oh, sorry, we hear EDF are down to their last pair of the latter - never mind, perhaps they could chop up one of their blades for the purpose...

Enormous thanks to Robert French for his kind donation - C2 would love to get in touch with you when they get back, so if you'd like to, please could you send your contact details to Helena at Team C2 Headquarters? However, although the generosity of everyone who has donated to the C2 charities, the Parkinson's Disease Society and the National Autistic Society really is very motivating as they're grinding along in the manner to which they've become accustomed, the thing which gave them the biggest psychological boost today was turning over the page on the chart where they mark their Lat and Long positions, as they're now on the same spread as Antigua, so instead of making a line of dots away from La Gomera, they're now doing dot to dot towards the finish line

A topic of considerable concern to some readers is do the boys smell? Skipping over the obvious reply that they certainly smell but so do we, the difference being that they also stink, according to Clint, "We're probably pretty rank", but they don't notice as they've got used to each other. This begs the philosophical question, "If two men stink in the middle of an ocean at least 56 miles from another human being, is there actually an odour?" Which should elicit the response, "Of course there is, why do you think the wildlife keep away? Now get out more, you tedious philosopher, and go and do something useful like rowing an ocean for charity."

Back to the point (OK, OK, more sensitive readers were no doubt living in hope that I'd got deflected), Chris' mum will no doubt be delighted to hear that he has retained the high standards of personal hygiene with which she brought him up, and he washes at least once a week, whether he needs to or not. He's even shaved twice. Clint, on the other hand, is happy to admit to having taken a only couple of (voluntary) dips over the side, and has sprouted what would pass for a beard amongst 14 year olds. They're conserving their deodorant supplies in case they have to eat them later on (owing to there being no shoe leather on board). As for laundry, they've had a couple of goes at this, though I got the impression it was sinking increasingly further down the list of "things to do today", and because of the amount of nappy cream that they're wearing (with great success - the problems with their bottoms are all bruising rather than skin), they are now proud to report that their shorts have their very own core stability, and are getting to the stage where, in true Dilbert fashion, they could ask, "Should shorts bend?"

Estimated arrival: Day 66 (3rd February)
Charity total so far: 7,100.96 (wow!)

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