One of the questions most often asked of ocean rowers is, “What do you eat?” The answer varies according to individual tastes and preferences, but the overall answer is, “A LOT!”
Rowers will burn between 5,000 and 8,000 calories a day, which is usually more than they can manage to eat given constraints of time and stomach size, so invariably their families and friends can expect to see thinner versions of their nearest and dearest at the end of the voyage. From the rowers’ perspective, losing weight will be easy, even if nothing else is.
So, how to fuel these lean, mean, rowing machines? The food has to be non-perishable, non-crushable, not take up too much space, and ideally be nourishing to the morale as well as to the body. Most crews will take a selection of proper meals and also daily snack packs to keep them going between mealtimes.
Some crews may take fresh food as treats for the early stages of the voyage – cheese, avocadoes, bananas, oranges, bread, peanut butter and butter are all good – these will inevitably run out or go off, as the solar power available on board is not enough to run a fridge (although Tiny Little did have a tiny fridge for his Atlantic crossing in 2005 – essential for cooling his cans of Guinness).
Once the fresh food runs out, most crews subsist on freeze-dried meals, porridge, snack bars, nuts, dried fruit, sports drinks and chocolate. Some more wholefoodie types grow their own beansprouts on board, a tip inherited from ancient Chinese mariners who grew sprouts to avoid the dreaded scurvy. They may also take vitamins and minerals to make sure that basic nutritional needs are met.
Food or drink treats are also a favourite way to boost flagging spirits or to celebrate a milestone – maybe a snifter of rum, or a mini bottle of champagne, or a special food treat as a reward for a job well done. Mother-and-son team Jan Meek and Dan Byles used to have a gin and tonic at sunset every day, although they had to skip the ice and lemon.
It is rumoured that the Fat Chance crew – the extremely svelte Sami and Meredith – are planning a diet of exclusively protein and fat – no carbohydrate.
What, no chocolate? What is the point of rowing an ocean if not to have guilt-free chocolate binges?!