After over a month at sea, three Scottish brothers have set three World Records in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – dubbed the toughest row in the world.
Not only are they the fastest trio to ever have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, beating the previous record by a whopping six days, they are also the first three brothers to row any ocean, and the youngest trio to ever paddle their way across the Atlantic.
Ewan, Jamie and Lachlan MacLean, sons of acclaimed whisky writer and connoisseur Charles MacLean, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December last year, spending Christmas and New Year in the middle of the ocean, and completed the epic 3,000-mile row to Antigua in exactly 35 days, nine hours and nine minutes.
The MacLeans overcame severe seasickness, battery issues, storms, dehydration and utter exhaustion – as well as the typical rowing blisters, aches and pains that come hand in hand with the endurance sport – to reach Antigua last night. The sound of Jamie’s pipes sounded their arrival on the horizon, and they made their way into shore to be welcomed by hoards of friends, family and well-wishers.
The three brothers, who are originally from Edinburgh, finished third overall in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, beating many teams of four and five to the finish line. While they are accomplished rugby players, competent sailors and all-round sports aficionados, rowing the Atlantic had yet to be ticked off their list.
‘I mentioned this Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge to Jamie and Ewan, and they were both dead keen,’ said Lachlan, in an interview with Scottish Field before they waved goodbye to the shore. ‘Next thing we knew, Jamie had signed us up to the race. It’s like when you’re brother signs you up for a half marathon, except this was a little more extreme.’
At just 21 years old, Lachlan is the youngest of the crew and took a sabbatical from his philosophy studies to take part in the row; while Jamie, 25, followed suit, pressing pause on his architectural studies at the Glasgow School of Art. Ewan, meanwhile, at 27 years old, has managed to juggle a full-time role as a design engineer at Dyson with intense training – a fact that continues to baffle his siblings:
‘We’re not really sure how he’s still got a job to be honest,’ jests Lachlan. ‘But he seems to be multi-tasking quite well.’
They were joined by all manner of wildlife along the way, with dolphins and even a lone butterfly joining them for some of their remarkable journey.
With his feet firmly back on solid ground, Ewan spoke of their incredible journey: ‘They had to twist my arm but I will be forever grateful to my brothers for convincing me to do this. This was, without doubt, the defining experience of my life. It was incredibly difficult but the way we came together, the way our bodies and minds coped with every single challenge, will stay with me for a long time.
‘It definitely tested our relationship, but it was remarkable how we were able to lift each other up as we struggled. It has brought us closer together, although I am looking forward to getting to see and talk to some different people!
‘We don’t do things by halves, so we were always going to go for a World Record. I’m incredibly proud of beating the record, but mostly, I’m proud of the money we’ve raised for charity and the difference we’ll make to two causes very close to our hearts. Who knows what comes next. We’ll be eyeing up other oceans.’
They have been supporting two charities – Children 1st, Scotland’s children’s charity, and Feedback Madagascar, which provides locals on the African island with access to clean water. Now that they have smashed the World Record, BROAR hope to reach their fundraising target of £250,000.
To kick-start their fundraising drive, they rowed 300 nautical miles in 2019 up the West Coast of Scotland, pillaging from local distilleries. Setting off from Arran and making the long journey to Talisker on Skye, the brothers’ expedition was remarkably fruitful – they collected over 400 bottles in just ten days, helping them creep closer to their target.
The strength of character that these three young men have displayed is truly remarkable – for every one of their 1.5 million strokes across the Atlantic Ocean, we send them many congratulations.
To read more about BROAR’s fundraising drive, pillaging for whisky up the West Coast, take a peek at the latest issue of our whisky and spirits magazine, Cask & Still.