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Thursday 3rd July 2014

Atlantic Challenge rowers arriving in Antigua in early 2014.  Photo (c) Atlantic Campaigns.

Known as one of the toughest challenges any sportsman or woman can attempt, there is no doubt that the more than 2,600 nautical mile Atlantic Challenge will be of very specific interest to Antiguans and Barbudans and residents of Antigua come December 15th 2015 when the next race begins. Why? Because Antigua and Barbuda will have its first-ever all Antigua team entering to cross the Atlantic along with a second one-man team being rowed by a German national with a big Antiguan connection.

Interestingly both teams’ connection has really come to fruition following their various help and interest in meeting the arriving competitors of previous Challenges. For Nick ‘Doc’ Fuller, who has entered a team of four said, “I’ve watched the arrival of the boats for years and I’ve always been excited and followed the races and even went out to meet some of the boats arriving earlier this year.  Finally it’s time for me to do it!” As a veteran who will be 67 when it’s time for the Challenge, Doc is putting his business nous and planning behind the whole operation. He has a support team ready and in place and intends to raise money for Antigua’s St John Hospice, a very worthwhile charity run by humanitarian Agnes Meeker.

No stranger to the business world, Doc is planning the campaign like a military exercise. The biggest challenge is deciding on the boat to race in. There are a number of used ones on the market but his first choice is going to be a new concept class carbon fibre boat which is faster in the water, and with a new forward cabin, better in a headwind and more self-righting and buoyant than the old style boats.

Of his preparation for the campaign Doc has already worked out it’s 80% mental and although physical fitness is essential, it will be his head which gets him and his team from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua.  Of his team, he is playing his cards close to his chest for the moment. “It’s a long way off” he says, “and things can change”.  He has a number of people up for the challenge, and just wants to see how things come together over the next few months.

Certainly Doc’s tenacity, seafaring history and of course let’s not forget his training as a doctor make for a very good bet  that he and his team will arrive into Antigua richer in experiences and hopefully still friends.

For Arne Schmidt, a German national who has spent about half of the last five years in Antigua working as a master carpenter, the story is a very personal one which starts with his own Atlantic crossings not one but nine times in different vessels, three times on his own and, in fact, in 2009 he took the very same route as the Atlantic Challenge from La Gomera to Antigua. Arne says of the journey, “It took 33 days and I began to get seriously worried that I would be overtaken by a rowing boat as the air was so light”. Some would say he therefore has already shown the resilience and single mindedness needed to take on the ‘Atlantic Challenge’.  Of his own campaign and why he is choosing to do it, Arne is prone to ask, “Do you want the short story, or the long story?”

It begins with his love affair with Antigua where for a number of winters he has journeyed with the international yachting community and worked as a master carpenter on some of most beautiful yachts in the world. (When you have some time ask him to tell you his story of how he qualified as a master carpenter in Germany and make sure you get a look at the suit he had to wear).  It was on one of these jobs that an accident happened and the eye protector from a saw sprang off and literally landed in his eye.

The next nine months that ensued were some of the worst and literally darkest in Arne’s life. An emergency operation by Doctor Walwyn ensured he could fly and accompanied by medic Jonathan Cornelius of ABSAR he flew back to his motherland Germany where he was lucky enough to be operated on by a surgeon who was sufficiently interested in Arne’s case to try some new techniques.  Rather than just remove his eye, which apparently everyone thought was inevitable, he literally reconstructed it!  Just over a year later Arne has only 10% vision in his eye, but he still has an eye. His pupil is permanently dilated which is why you will see him out with his eye patch during daylight hours and might just catch him without it in the evenings.

For Arne returning to Antigua was bittersweet because he couldn’t work (splinters flying around could offer too much risk to his one good eye) and describes constantly bumping into things getting used to his new way of looking at the world, but of course he feels like he left a part of himself right here. 
With lots of free time on his hands and having volunteered for ABSAR (Antigua and Barbuda Search and Rescue) many times, Arne found himself on call with ABSAR for the season and on the finish line with the ABSAR team for many of the teams that rowed across the Atlantic in 2014. Back on land he was taken with Atlantic Campaign CEO Carsten Heron, and many conversations later, decided that he was going to take the Challenge in 2015.  Because of his current links with the organisation, Arne has adopted ABSAR as one of two charities he will use the Atlantic Challenge to raise funds for.  The second charity he will be supporting is Christoffel Blind Mission.

He aptly named his team Atlantic Vision and a website of the same name ( ) is now live and will be updated with details of his campaign.  For Arne he is not worried about fitness or issues at sea.  He says with his trade background he can fix anything.  His biggest challenge is raising the funds.

Each team will need anything from US$100 K to US$200 K depending on what boat they buy - probably the biggest cost - how they fit it out, and how they transport it. Both teams are interested in speaking with corporate sponsors. Talisker Whiskey is the event title sponsor, but every boat must fund its individual campaign. For corporate sponsors the media reach of the event is enormous – for the last event there were 1,644 known pieces of event coverage in 39 countries, 300,000 website visitors over the three month campaign and more than 17 million homes viewing the campaign video in more than 40 countries. 

Of course for Antiguans and Barbudans, not only is this a huge destination marketing event, but for 2015 this will be an epic journey that we can all follow due to the wonders of modern technology and we expect the welcoming committees to be the biggest and best seen in the history of the Atlantic Challenge.

To get in touch with the teams contact:

Dr Nicholas Fuller:; and Arne Schmidt:  or email

Article by Alison Sly-Adams.  Photo of Arne Schmidt compliments of Arne Schmidt.

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