Heads Together and Row - Food, glorious food

26 October 2018

Heads Together and Row - Food, glorious food

Preparing rations for the Atlantic Challenge

With just over six weeks to go until Heads Together and Row set off on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2018, the team have been busy packing for the journey. Crew member Alison Wannell explains what will be on the menu during their weeks at sea.

So, after over 2 ½ years of campaign, it’s time to get our beloved Trilogy packed up and shipped off to the start line in La Gomera.

The first stage of this is the food packing. Under the race rules, we have to take 60kcals per kg of body weight, per day. For most of us this is around 6,000kcals, which is a lot of food and under normal circumstances the prospect of consuming such a pile would make us feel a little queasy. However, each of us will be rowing for 12 hours a day, every day for 40 to 60 days and we need fuel!

Even though we hope to arrive sooner, we are required to take food for 60 days. Most of this is the dehydrated ‘dry’ meals, but 20% (12 days’ worth) has to be ‘wet’ meals; the ready-to-eat type that we can use in the event of being confined to the cabins in a storm and unable to cook due to carbon monoxide exposure, or in case our water-maker is irreparable and we are unable to produce the water to re-hydrate the dry meals. As they are ‘emergency’ rations, if they are not needed then we are not allowed to eat these until all our dry food has gone, so they make up days 49 to 60 should we still be rowing during that time. The unfortunate part of this is that these wet meals are significantly heavier so we will be pretty much rowing our body weight in food across the Atlantic!


With the meals making up around 3,000kcals of our daily supply, these are then supplemented with ‘snack packs’; food we can easily munch on during a rowing shift or eat quickly so we can devote more of a two-hour off-shift to sleep! This is ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ time and an excuse to pile up highly calorific goodies to indulge on, like flapjacks, chocolate, jelly babies and wine gums. These are balanced with protein bars and shakes to ensure we’re looking after our muscles as much as possible.

With the content of our snacks packs being personal preference, we’ve purchased and packed those individually at home and I for one had three days of every kitchen surface covered in packets and boxes while putting these together. In the early stages it felt like I was premature in getting ready for ‘Trick or Treaters’, and then, as the process progressed, like I was putting together party bags. Just a shame there was no Pass the Parcel too!

Having planned what meals we wanted on each day so we had a decent balance of curries, noodles or pasta dishes, we all met up in London to pack it all up. Armed with our plans (who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet?), the music on loud and with food covering almost the entire ground floor of Toby’s house, we set about the arduous task of bagging it all up. In between Lego building we were ably assisted by Toby’s five-year old son Theo, although his request for Alexa to play Christmas music may have hindered our progress!

Although we have a mountain of food, it’s easy to forget that the joyous element of choice will be taken away from us for nearly two months. There will be no waking up and wondering what we want to eat that day, it will already be decided and we merely get to choose which order to eat it in. While grabbing a sandwich on my way to Toby’s that day was a rush, I got to stand in front of a plethora of choices in M&S, something I will take time to appreciate in this last month or so before the race.

We’re going to miss Christmas dinners, croissants for breakfast and champagne on New Year’s Eve, but that’s not to say there aren’t treats. We have a Christmas pudding or two on board and Toby has his traditional Christmas Day Toblerone. However, some days will be harder than others and spare a thought for me on 11 January 2019 as, due to a kink in my spreadsheet, Day 31 is ‘beef’ day, with my meals consisting of Mild Curried Beef with Rice, Beef Hotpot and Pasta Bolognese! Am definitely going to wish I was back in Clapham Junction M&S in front of all those sandwiches…

Visit our Heads Together and Row hub to find out more about the project.


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