Sponsored by Citylets, the only Scottish team in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge completes the ‘World’s Toughest Rowing Race’ with a podium finish.

The team of five: Ian Baird, Duncan Hughes, Ross McKinney, Fraser Potter, and Clive Rooney, crossed the finish line on Monday 17th January at 10:27 local time, after rowing unsupported some 3,000 miles from La Gomera in Spain to Antigua in the Caribbean. The crew raced against 36 boats and rowed the Atlantic Ocean in 36 days, 3 hours, and 33 minutes securing the third place.

Having battled waves as high as hills that roared like the sound of a jet engine, suffering from seasickness and sleep deprivation, the Five in a Row members described the transatlantic crossing as the hardest thing they had ever done, that left them covered in bruises, callouses, cuts and blisters.

“We had 40ft waves and then rogue ones that would dump water all over you, knocking you off your seat onto the deck. It was absolutely awful,” said Ian Baird.

“If our feet hadn’t been strapped in and clipped onto the boat we would have been in the water” and that would have fatal consequences as the boat could not be turned around fast enough to find a crew member in the darkness, explained Ian and continued:

“There were lots of times where we would put our sunglasses on and have a wee cry while we were rowing. It was so tough and wild horses wouldn’t make me ever do it again.”

Two hours on and two hours off for five weeks

Throughout the entire race, the Five in a Row crew worked around a schedule which allowed two of them to sleep for two hours at a time while the other three would continue to row.

“The idea of the two-hour sleep pattern is that the REM sleep cycle is 90 minutes and you wake up feeling fresh,” explained Ian.

He added: “That only happened about three times to me. I found it so hard to sleep as it was so hot and airless. I would have seriously weird dreams and wake up all discombobulated.”

The team ate 8,000 calories a day each from rehydrated meals, oatcakes, chocolate and fruit, and to reduce the weight load, they wore long sleeve tops saving them carry large amounts of sun scream on board. They cleaned themselves with baby wipes and occasionally had a bucket bath using special soap and seawater put through their desalinating machine. Once a week they jumped off the boat to clean the hull of barnacles, which would otherwise slow the boat down.

“About a week ago just after we had done it a shark was circling the boat, so we decided we were never doing that again,” said Ian.

Five in a Row undertook the incredible challenge of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness of and help support Reverse Rett charity, as Ross’ daughter Eliza, now aged 10, suffers from Rett Syndrome – a rare genetic disorder which affects children (primarily girls) between the ages of one and three, causing a progressive loss of motor skills and speech.

The crew have raised over £46k so far, over double of their original target. If you would like to support Reverse Rett, you can make a donation here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ross-McKinney6

Congratulating Five in a Row on the third place in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, Gillian Semmler, Citylets PR Manager, said: “As bronze sponsors, we were excited to follow the progress of Five in a Row as they crossed the Atlantic. We are in awe of their achievement; to not only complete the challenge in itself, but to come third and in such good time… not to mention the incredible amount that they have raised for Reverse Rett. Well done and congratulations Five in a Row!”