By Orville Williams
Rowers Joseph Nunes and Travis Weste, of Team Antigua Pairs, are confident of their chances in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, set to “row off” this weekend.
The team departed Antigua on November 29 for La Gomera in Spain’s Canary Islands – the starting point of the competition – making temporary stops in Barbados, the United Kingdom and Tenerife.
Speaking to Observer on Tuesday, Weste said the journey was good, bearing in mind the various travel protocols. The focus, he added, is now on preparing for a good start to the competition.
“Since arriving in La Gomera, we’ve finally started doing things on the boat, doing little repairs here and there, just making sure that everything is in order [and that] all the systems are still working.
“We went into the water [a few] days ago, all the boats are now in the water and everything is working fine. We [also] did a training row [on Tuesday] for the first and that was good. We went out a little distance…both of us felt comfortable and we’re ready to go.”
Team Antigua Pairs is the fourth team and the first pair to represent Antigua and Barbuda in the competition, which has become a staple on the calendar of competitive rowers. Nunes and Weste are among the 55 rowers who will be participating across the categories of Solo, Pairs, Trio and Fours.
Weste further explained that, while they acknowledge the talent they will be facing, their efforts will be focused on a particular opponent.
“Everything is classed and we’re in the race class. There are only two pairs teams in the event this year; however, the other pairs team is not in the same class as us, [they’re] in the open class. That’s the infamous Mark Slats, he’s actually the solo record holder who’s now in the race as a pair.
“Though he’s not in the same class as us, we’re still going to be racing in the overall competition to see who can first reach home – for us – [and] Antigua for him. Besides [Slats], other teams are well-prepared, of course, [but while] the competition is definitely there, Mark Slats and his partner Kai [Wiedmer] are who we’re going after. That’s where the competition will be,” Weste explained.
The challenge – dubbed “the world’s toughest row” – will see the competitors start off on Saturday in La Gomera, rowing 5000km across the Atlantic, before finishing at Nelson’s Dockyard here in Antigua in 2021.
With the distance of the row so vast, Weste was asked about any concerns of the route, with considerations for the weather. He said, though the conditions are often unpredictable in nature, the team will be getting weather assistance from both home and abroad.
“The route varies [and] the [weather] systems are out there, so we have a team at home who will be monitoring our weather, as well as the Atlantic campaigns [who] also give briefings daily or every two days.
“The predictive weather for the start looks good. However, earlier this week, they gave us a predicted system that will be coming with the changing of winds and all that, by about the 15th or 16th.
“So far that has changed again, so it’s really unpredictable. As we go, our team at home will be monitoring the weather for us and giving us the feedback [and] that will determine which path we take.” Team Antigua Pairs joins predecessors Team Antigua Island Girls and Team Antigua Atlantic Rowers, representing Antigua and Barbuda in the competition.