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Book Review: The Crossing: Conquering The Atlantic Ocean In The World's Toughest Rowing Race

Updated on August 7, 2015
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January 1st 2000. Whilst most of us are slowly awakening to a new millennium, wondering if the Y2K bug had happened or not and possibly nursing a sore head from the night before, 27 year old Ben Fogle woke up on the remote Scottish Island of Taransay. This island that had been uninhabited for over 25yrs was to be his home for the next 12 months as he was part of a group of people selected for the television programme Castaway. In many ways the show seems quite tame compared to today's "Reality Shows" as there were no public votes or even a winner, the aim was to create a new community from scratch and every few weeks we would be given a look inside by the film crews.

Meanwhile, another 27yr old was very busy as well at the start of the year. James Cracknell had missed out on the two previous Olympic Games due to missing out on selection and then illness but as this Olympiad started, he found himself a member of the Blue Ribband crew of the British Rowing team, the Men's Coxless four, alongside Olympic legend Steve Redgrave who was aiming to become the first person to win Gold at 5 consecutive Games in an endurance event.

Fast forward 4 years and I am captain of my college boat club and receive paraphernalia inviting me and members of my club to take part in the next Atlantic Rowing Race that will take place the following winter. I seriously thought about taking part for probably as long as it will take you to read this review (imagine the stories to tell the grand kids!) but I soon saw sense as ignoring the inherent risks of rowing the open ocean and missing some time off my studies, the thought of spending a couple of months in a tiny boat with just one other person for company and nothing to see apart from the emptiness of the ocean, I thought you would have to be mad to take part!

Meanwhile, Ben Fogle, now a successful TV presenter had also seen adverts publicising this race and despite the fact that he could barely row, the adventurer inside of him was determined to take part. He just needed to find a partner. James Cracknell meanwhile had just won his second Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics and was contemplating whether or not to retire or keep training for the next Olympics in 2008. At an end of year awards dinner, a slightly inebriated Fogle saw his chance and went up to ask Cracknell if he'd join in. "NO" was the immediate reply. Fogle retreated, tail between legs, wondering who else he could ask but unbeknownst to him, he had planted a seed that would not go away and about 1 month later he got back in touch to change his answer to "Maybe".

The two started to plan and try to arrange sponsorship and by November 30th 2005 they were sat in their 23ft long home for the next few weeks on the island of La Gomera, ready to start their challenge. It hadn't been easy, hey had come close to being barred by the organisers for being so disorganised and Ben Fogle was still not a very skilled oarsman but they were ready to go. For the next 49 days the only other living souls they would see were one another and to get to their destination, it would be all down to their manpower.

This book was first released only a few months after their epic adventure had finished and takes the form of a diary, where both of the men write interspersing memories, from the build up, all the way through the voyage itself. You would have thought that there wouldn't be too much to write about when your day involves moving backwards and forwards with oars in both hands, day and night with nothing to see excpet endless blue. However, they manage to keep you enthralled as they regale memories, often with very different recollections of the same event. There was drama such as when the boat capsized and Fogle was washed overboard, or when their water pump failed. It was at this time you saw the difference in characters as Fogle just wanted to go for the adventure whereas Cracknell, after two Gold Medals could not quell the competitive streak inside, always thinking about "THE RACE" rather than the achievement, even down to the point at which he was enforcing water rations. With their pump broken, they could dip into their emergency reserves being used as ballast, but this would incur time penalties in the race itself! There are also the down periods, such as Christmas Day when they shared satelite phone calls with their families, including for Cracknell his young son. There are also lighthearted moments such as discussions of rowing naked to reduce chaffing and also, the impacts chaffing was having on their bodies (not a part to read when eating!).

When the pair finally arrived in Antigua they were met by their families and they had done it, they had been the first two man boat to finish the race. I can't imagine the joy and relief but unlike some people who apparently never speak again after the stress caused by such a crossing, the two who had barely known each other a couple of years earlier, had become great friends. Indeed, Cracknell was best man at Fogle's wedding, Ben having proposed to his girlfriend the day after arriving in Antigua.


Cracknell and Fogle on board their boat
Cracknell and Fogle on board their boat | Source

I really enjoyed reading this book when it came out. As I mentioned earlier I was already a rower myself so was a fan of Cracknell's and I had considered being a fellow competitor (although having read the book even more glad I stayed on shore!). Despite what in many ways is quite a monotonous journey, I could not put the book down and would recommend to anyone who likes adventure or remembers either individual.

Following this adventure the two have done subsequent adventures together such as travelling to the South Pole or cycling a rickshaw from Edinburgh to London. Their plans for further adventures were put on hold when Cracknell suffered life-threatening head injuries following a cycle crash that has left him with ongoing health issues but in 2013 they did team up again. However, these adventures aren't covered in this book although there are some other great books out there.

If you are in the UK like me, then find this book at Amazon through this link!

Have You Read This Book?

4 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of The Crossing
Through Hell & High Water [Region 2]
Through Hell & High Water [Region 2]

In addition to the book, a documentary was aired with video footage from their trip. If you read the book I would really suggest catching up on the documentary as well! You can watch a promo of this documentary below.

 

In the UK like me? Use this link instead!

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    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 3 years ago

      An amazing story. Ben Fogle sure gets up to stuff.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @BritFlorida: Thanks! That's very kind!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      I'd missed the fact that this had been selected as Lens of the Day! Like Anna below, I can see why. Going on reading list right now!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @tazzytamar: Thanks for the lovely comments! Definitely a book to be read!

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 3 years ago from chichester

      Wow I see why they gave you LOTD :) brilliantly written lens and what looks like a really great read :)

    • tedwritesstuff24 profile image

      TedWritesStuff 3 years ago

      I admire what they did, but gee I find Fogle to be a really annoying, look at me type of person.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @lollyj lm: Many thanks for the Congrats!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 3 years ago from Washington KS

      What an accomplishment!! Loved the lens and congrats on LOTD.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @EnthusiasmMadame: Thank you!

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      EnthusiasmMadame 3 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! I don't know if I would have the willpower to do what they did! What an incredible feat. Thanks for the review.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @delia-delia: I think crazy more than courage! Thanks for the Congrats!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 3 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! It was bad enough for me to cross the Ocean on a ship...but in a small boat and rowing??? I don't think so! WOW, what courage...or a bit crazy!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @ManinderPalSingh: Thanks!

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 3 years ago

      I can't imagine myself rowing a boat on a endless sea. They're truly conquerors.

      Thanks for the awareness and information about the book.

      Congrats.

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      ManinderPalSingh 3 years ago

      Congrats for being chosen for the best lens of the day.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @nicenet: Thanks for the like and comment!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Ruthi: It must be such a stressful environment and at times so boring but the sense of achievement must have been huge

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      Ruthi 3 years ago

      I can not even imagine the dynamics of being this duo rowing across the Atlantic, alone, together. What an adventrue it surely must have been and from what you have shared here, yes, I would truly enjoy reading The Crossing.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @TerriCarr: Definitely something to tell the Grandkids!!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Dressage Husband: My Aunt and Uncle are sailors and thinking of doing some longer trips now they're retired. I think for me it's just the idea of being so cooped up for so long that would put me off!

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      The crazy guys. I am a sailor, but have never had the desire to try an around the World trip or anything such as this. Too attached to life and not taking unnecessary risks I guess. Kudos to those that do though. Still not sure that I would want to put the lives of rescuers at risk too though. Great LOTD and an interesting read to see what make the psyche of those that do tick!

    • TerriCarr profile image

      TerriCarr 3 years ago

      Sounds pretty cool. An experience to remember for a lifetime.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Diana Wenzel: Thanks. I have to agree with you, I love the idea of doing the adventure but actually reading a book like this makes you feel like you experience it without the downsides!!

    • astevn816 lm profile image

      astevn816 lm 3 years ago

      a very nice lens and a really impressive story

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      This is my kind of book. The adventurer in me loves to experience others who are kindred spirits. I won't be making this kind of crossing, so I'll live it through the duo who did. Congrats on having your review chosen as Lens of the Day. That's a grand adventure of its own. Row on!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: Thank You!

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      anonymous 3 years ago

      Excellent review. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @fibonacci1123: Thanks, I'm glad you really enjoyed it!

    • fibonacci1123 profile image

      fibonacci1123 3 years ago

      Congrats on such a well deserved LOD. It's a very thorough review!! Very impressive.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @SusanDeppner: I think when push comes to shove most of us live more on the safe side!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @esmonaco: Thanks for the congratulations!!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @topclimb lm: Thanks, I'm so glad you liked it!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      What a great review. I still think people who take on challenges like this are more crazy than not, but I guess I got the "play it safe" genes and they got the "live a life of adventure" genes. Makes for great reading for those in either category. Congratulations on your well-deserved Lens of the Day honors!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Merrci: Many thanks on the congratulations!

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Sounds like a great book, and what a fantastic achievement for these guys. Great Review and Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Congratulations of Lens of the Day! Great review. This sounds like a fascinating read, and it's very cool that the two are still friends.

    • topclimb lm profile image

      topclimb lm 3 years ago

      Thansks for a great review and LotD!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Marten22: Thanks, I really suggest you check it out!

    • Marten22 profile image

      Marten22 3 years ago

      great review, sounds like a fantastic book! I really like this kind of books.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Colin323: Quite jealous that you have a signed copy. I actually have two but neither close to being signed!

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      Colin323 3 years ago

      Great review; great book; great achievement by these two guys. I have a copy of the book signed by both men.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @DeeDeeGee LM: I was at St Aidans college at Durham Uni and also at Milton Keynes when I was home for holidays

    • DeeDeeGee LM profile image

      DeeDeeGee LM 3 years ago

      @stereomike83: Which club did you belong to? Dittons is on the Thames near Kingston not far from Hampton Court.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @DeeDeeGee LM: I don;t know that club unfortunately. Is pretty amazing and must be pretty cool holding a World Record!

    • DeeDeeGee LM profile image

      DeeDeeGee LM 3 years ago

      @stereomike83: He was captain and then president of Dittons Skiff Club. He used to row a lot but now tends to do more skiffing.

      Rowed across the Channel....... pretty amazing. My BIL is in the Guinness Book of Records for rowing all the way down the Thames from the source.

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @Arachnea: Thanks!

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      Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

      I like this twist on the reality show genre. Excellent review.

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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @jennabeezer: Glad you enjoyed the review. I like the idea of adventure but to be honest, not sure I would have the guts when it came to actually doing something epic like this!

    • stereomike83 profile image
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      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      @DeeDeeGee LM: Which rowing club is he captain of? I hung up my oars a few years ago (as am very competitive and couldn't bear doing it solely for pleasure but might start again soon!) but my parents are still very involved. In fact they rowed across the Channel in a much bigger boat and seeing how hard that was makes this even more impressive.

    • DeeDeeGee LM profile image

      DeeDeeGee LM 3 years ago

      Great review! I know / knew James Cracknell as he came over to Spain with my nephew to visit when he was about 14. Lovely boy.

      I haven't read this book although I did follow his journey live at some time. I will see if I can get a copy of it when I am in the UK next week. My brother in law probably has a copy as he was captain of the rowing club that James used to belong to.

      I didn't know that Ben and James didn't know each before the trip. Amazing trusting your life to someone you don't know!!

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      jennabeezer 3 years ago

      Yikes! Sounds like an adventure that would seal a life-long friendship for sure! Open water just scares me TO DEATH. Thank goodness that literature lets me live vicariously! Enjoyed this.