No Queens speech, no sprouts, and no snooze in the chair but the true spirit of Christmas will be found in the mid Atlantic this year as 17 crews row the 2,900 miles from La Gomera to Barbados.
The 46 rowers in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge leave San Sebastian on 4th December but will mark the 25th in various ways. Andrew Brown (below) a lone rower, has a cold Christmas pudding stashed in his boat Row The Atlantic, five feet shorter than the standard seven metres long and two wide. Tucked in the coffin under his seat he will catch three hour sleeps between rows of the same span spurred on by his fund raising targets for Help A Capital Child and Toy Trust.
Cardiff firemen John Haskell and Jamie Windsor (above) in Atlantic Dash will open Christmas letters from family and friends, part of a selection that includes low point Â letters. Their old wooden boat (the others are fibre glass and carbon fibre) has done the crossing twice before but has had a complete refit. Their minds and muscles will be focussed by three causes, the Firefighters, Help The Heroes, and Breast Cancer Care.
Husband and wife Richard and Helena Smalman-Smith in Tiger have a hoard of chocolate bars, each donated with a sticky label message of support. Thereâ€™s also some brandy butter on board, and to keep teacher Richards mind sharp his pupils have sent a supply of maths teasers. They became the talk of the neighbourhood with the distinctive boat parked in their drive but they all rallied round to boost their sponsorship for St Mungos centre for the homeless, and Huntingdons Disease.
Some presents are more vital than others, Nick Moore and Toby Iles (above)Â on Shelterbox are helping to finance basic survival packages for displaced people around the world. Their gift will give all year, the big attraction for the experienced sailors was to see the money raised turned into a physical and practical help. Party hats have been tucked in the sleek and uncluttered boat for Christmas day but Toby will be hoping to celebrate his late January birthday past the finish line in Barbados.
The race is just a start for Epoch, Sonya Baumstein has three men for company (above) Oliver Lefick and John and Chris Crane. The Americans are backing their adult nature expeditions as a learning experience and are following the row with a 10,000 mile cycle ride from the top of Mexico to Alaska, a 4,500 mile kayak journey on to Washington and finally 2,000 miles hiking back to Mexico, all to be done in 400 days.
H2Row is going for the pairs crossing record of 41 days to boost Cancer Research UK, John Higson and Barney Mabbs admit they will miss green grass and proper showers but it will all be worth it. Think of them opening their advent calendar and enjoying a time out with home made Christmas cake, a welcome change from the mountains of dried food (below) being loaded into all the boats.
Small celebrations and thoughts of home aside the 25 December will be just another hard rowing day for the valiant crews. From Tommy Tippets in Solo Atlantic Row to James Cash and Bertie Portal in Facing the Atlantic (top pic) and all the other equally dedicated crews itâ€™s about challenging nature and their own inner strengths. A notice on the marina gate said 1,200,000 pounds raised and counting, click on the links to the various web sites to add your sponsorship. We salute you all, safe journey and calm seas.