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19th March 2019

Interview with Team Tyne Innovation - Part One

Throughout December 2018 and January 2019, Satcom Global were delighted to support Team Tyne Innovation, the British rowing foursome from the North East of England, as they took on the 3,000 mile Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.

The team achieved a new world record as the fastest mixed four beating the previous record by 14 days, as they rowed the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua, in 42 days, 10 hours and 26 minutes, coming in 8th place overall.

Using the Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phone, and the Iridium GO! from Satcom Global, the team communicated with the outside world, making regular phone calls and sending SMS to the onshore support team and loved ones.

On their triumphant return, we interviewed Phil Kite and Claire Hughes about the journey, and in this two-part series we will share their interesting, funny, and challenging experiences from their adventure:


Welcome back - how does it feel to have completed the ‘world’s toughest row?’

Claire: Fantastic! It still doesn’t feel quite real and I still can’t quite believe that we have actually done it! Really proud of how well we did and really humbled by all the support and kind words we have received.

Phil: It’s hard to believe we really did it – it’s been a two-year journey from coming up with the idea so really happy to have achieved the end goal.

And you are record breakers! Did you set out to break this record from the beginning?

Claire: Not at all. The main aim when we set out was to get from A to B which was more than challenging enough and a major achievement in itself! To then place within the top 10 and to break the world record so convincingly was just the icing on the cake really!

Phil: No that was an added bonus, the original plan was just to get across safely.

What was the hardest thing you encountered during the challenge?

Claire: I was taken unawares by rowing in the dark which really threw me at the start of the challenge. I think the fact that I couldn’t see the conditions which were affecting our boat really confused and disorientated me and I really struggled to adjust for a couple of nights, especially sitting in my position. I was always in the seat which sets the pace and rhythm therefore I never had the comfort of another back to just follow. There’s a sense of responsibility and control which is hard in the pitch black. I adjusted quickly though, helped by my team mates.

Phil: 12 hours rowing every day was a real challenge and at the start of the trip I wasn’t eating, drinking and sleeping enough so found myself extremely tired and not in a good place mentally – it took over a week to get use to physical aspects of the challenge.

What did you miss most while away?

Claire: I missed my wonderful long suffering partner who has provided such incredible support for us throughout the challenge. I did have the odd daydream about gin and tonic as well as fresh watermelon. But I always had in my head that I would be doing this incredible once in a lifetime challenge and I wanted to make the most of the ‘here and now’ whilst I was undertaking the challenge so tried to really focus on what I was doing rather than thinking about the things I was missing. Embrace the weird and unusual!

Phil: Obviously my wife – but my real focus was on the challenge so didn’t miss the home comforts that much – that being said I would have liked fresh food rather than the dehydrated meals and the odd good night’s sleep would have been nice rather than sleeping in the cabin with no room to move.

Did anyone have any embarrassing habits that you’d like to share with the world

Claire: Haha, oh the things I could share at this point!! Unfortunately, I suspect most of them would be related to me!

For Claire, now just how hard was it spending 42 days in a small boat with 3 men?

Claire: I hate to disappoint here but I have always lived with guys and I never really saw it as sharing with three blokes, they were just my team mates and I didn’t really change my behaviour to adapt to them – Phil might have preferred it if I had! There were a ridiculous number of stray (I hope) chest hairs literally all over the boat which were indestructible which was a bit grim!

We have to ask, just how bad was the toilet situation?

Claire: The bucket was the focus of a lot of laughs on the boat! Doing your business al fresco was quite liberating! Although when the sea was stormy and the waves were up, particularly at night when you couldn’t see what was coming and from what direction, it became fondly known as the Stunt Bucket! You could brace yourself using the jackstays either side and just issue a health warning to those on deck and in the bow cabin.

There was a minor crew meltdown when the precious toilet brush was lost over the side! but fortunately our ever-practical crewmate Alan crafted a replacement.

Phil: It was just something we got used to – you soon learnt which direction to throw the buckets contents!

What were your most memorable moments during the challenge?

Claire: Swimming in the sea over 1,000nm from shore and with two and a half  miles of ocean below you. Seeing whales and dolphins. Incredible night skies. Hot chocolate during the sunrise after a tough night shift. First glimpse of Antigua.

Phil: Having planned the event for almost 2 years the start was a great moment – also seeing my wife at the end.

Are there any funny / interesting stories you can share with us from the challenge?

Claire: One of my favourites was when our autohelm (steering!) failed during the night in the pitch black during a windy and very wavy shift and our boat started veering quite badly so that we were side on to some large waves which were coming very close to capsizing us. We woke Steve in the stern cabin as he had access to the box where the steering was and between the three of us we managed to pull the boat back around and fix the autohelm. Due to the loud wind and water, we were all having to shout and it was pretty dramatic on deck. We didn’t hear a peep out of Phil who was resting in the bow cabin at the time and assumed he had made a sensible decision that there were already enough people on deck and to stay out of the way. When questioned later on about that shift, Phil did complain that his sleep had been a little disturbed by the noise of the race flag flapping against the flag pole – he had otherwise been completely oblivious to our most dramatic incident!!!

Sleep deprivation did also once lead to me filling the wrong bucket full of fresh water (12l to be exact!) for folk to have sponge baths from. Needless to say there weren’t any takers for a toilet bucket body wash and the whole lot just had to get chucked over the side. Conversation for the rest of the day was then almost solely teasing me and coming up with some very witty adverts and straplines for a new type of bodywash. None of which are repeatable here!

Lots of funny incidents with people talking gibberish, being delirious and sometimes hallucinating through sleep deprivation.

Phil: Staying calm in a panic situation is important, but maybe sleeping through them isn’t the best tactic – it just shows how tired we were at times after rowing 12 hours per day. I loved the rougher conditions – I didn’t think about the danger more it was like being on an adventure ride. Steve told some great stories to keep us awake on night shift.

Did you see any exciting things whilst at sea?

Claire: Whales, dolphins, blood moon eclipse made for an impressive rowing shift, dorado (which we completely failed to catch!!)

Phil: Also flying fish did hit me – we both survived, two moths and a bird crash landed on the boat.

You spent Christmas, New Year and two team member birthdays at sea. Did you manage to do anything to mark those occasions?

Claire: We did Secret Santa on Christmas Day (Phil received the best gift of a pair of very small Team Tyne budgie smugglers!!) but to be honest we didn’t really mark New Year’s Day; however we did have a swim on New Year’s Eve (and Christmas Eve) which was lovely. Phil made me a hot chocolate for my birthday – believe me, that’s a rarity!

Phil: Swimming was the highlight but in truth we had come competitive so didn’t want to stop rowing to celebrate either event.

We can’t imagine the dehydrated food you had to eat was great. What was the first thing you ate when you got to Antigua? We hope it lived up to expectations.

Claire: We were served burgers, fries and beers in the Dockyard upon arrival which was amazing.

Would you do it all again? Or are we likely to see you take on any other challenges in the future?

Claire: Unlikely to do the exact same challenge again but purely because there are so many other exciting challenges in the world! But I definitely wouldn’t be against rowing another ocean at some point. And I am already eying up a couple of other options one of which is ocean based so yes, you may see me up to no good again in the future!

Phil: NO……..well maybe not. The trouble with an event like this is it gives you a massive high and then when its finished a bit of a low – so you then search for the next high! I will be looking around for another adventure that can showcase the North East.


Keep an eye on our website for part two of our interview with Team Tyne Innovation, where they talk about the vital roll satellite communications played in their epic journey.

Their incredible challenge has been raising funds to support incredible charities including Daft as a Brush cancer patient care, the Stroke Association and St Oswald’s Hospice. Donate here now:

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Phil Kite and Claire Hughes
The main aim when we set out was to get from A to B which was more than challenging enough and a major achievement in itself! To then place within the top 10 and to break the world record so convincingly was just the icing on the cake really!"
Claire Hughes, Team Tyne Innovation