Six weeks ago, skipper Phil Cavanagh (age 27, from Dublin) had no boat, no money, and half his crew had dropped out. A lesser man might have decided that it was not meant to be, and set his sights on the 2016 race. But Phil was made of sterner stuff.
He took out a scarily big loan, rustled up a couple more rowers, and bought a boat at 2 days notice, sight unseen.
Besides Phil, the one member of the crew who has been on board since the start is Barry Hayes, a 33-year-old post room supervisor from Wales. Barry came home from the pub one night after a couple of pints too many and saw a blog post from Alastair Humphreys (a well-known British adventurer) inviting people to apply to Phil’s crew. Fired up by Dutch courage and ever-so-slightly sozzled enthusiasm, Barry fired off an email that caught Phil’s eye. Against stiff competition from the huge number of responses, Phil invited Barry over to Dublin for a meeting. Several pints of Guinness later, Phil had his first recruit.
Two others were also recruited around that time, but subsequently dropped out due to pressure of work. The men’s four was looking distinctly like a pair.
So Phil posted an advert on the website of the Association of Ocean Rowers, which was seen by Dan Kierath, a 24-year-old management consultant and surfboat rower from Perth in Australia. Encouraged by his colleague and ocean rower, George Simpson, Dan applied and was welcomed into the crew, not least for his expertise in matters mechanical and electrical. In case you might mistake him for a jock Aussie, Dan claims he is looking forward to listening to Harry Potter audiobooks, his favourite character being the vertically-challenged Professor Flitwick – definitely not the obvious choice.
The last place in the boat went to Darren Taylor, a 41-year-old fireman from Oxfordshire. Darren had been due to row this year with his friend Alex Flynn, who suffers from Young Onset Parkinson’s, but after discussing their options they decided that it made sense for Darren to join Phil’s crew for this year, and to row an independent voyage with Alex in 2015. Darren has by far the most ocean experience of the crew, having 23,000 miles of sailing to his name, earning him the crew nickname “Old Man of the Sea”.
So, by hook and by crook, Team Battleborn (named after one of Phil’s favourite songs, Battle Born, by The Killers) has arrived with four men and a boat in Monterey. The fact that Phil has managed to pull all this together at the 11th hour could be attributed to the luck of the Irish. But we think it is more a tribute to his absolute dogged determination and his refusal to back down when faced with impossible odds – traits that will no doubt serve him and his crew well on the ocean.