Anna and Cameron McLean have used the Microsoft tool to contact loved ones, and receive weather and race updates from a crew on shore during the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Known as “the world’s toughest row”, participants spend 60 days at sea in a small boat, braving 40-foot waves, sharks, illness and a schedule that sees them sleep and row in two-hour shifts as they make their way from La Gomera in The Canary Islands to Antigua. To put the gruelling race in context, fewer people have rowed the Atlantic than reached the summit of Everest.
While many mixed-sex teams have completed the challenge, Anna and Cameron believe they are the first brother and sister to take part.
Speaking via Teams on the 35th day of their journey, Anna said the Microsoft tool had been crucial for receiving messages of support that have kept the siblings going.
- Part of the Microsoft Teams call between Anna McLean, in the Atlantic, and Andy Trotman, in the UK
“We can use Teams to communicate with anyone in the world from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That’s been essential,” she said. “Teams has been such a dream because we’ve been able to maintain a two-way dialogue with our family and friends back home, as well as our sponsors. We have been able to share real-time updates and pictures, and get information such as the weather forecast. That’s been a big contributing factor to the success and speed of our crossing. Teams has helped us navigate the best and most direct course.
“It’s been easy to set up, too. We connect to the internet via a satellite, and then open up the Teams app on my phone. That’s it.”
Anna, 25, and Cameron, 32, are currently third in the pairs race, in a field of 34 vessels. They are each burning 10,000 calories a day and fighting against sleep deprivation, exhaustion, blisters and bruises. Meals consist of “space food” that has to be mixed with water and left on deck so the sun can warm it up. Sea water is filtered for drinking, and they aim to drink at least 10 litres a day.
Even though they are experienced rowers, having competed at university, nothing could prepare them for a race of this magnitude.
“The nights are brutal,” said Anna, who works for Microsoft partner AlfaPeople. “With a lack of moonlight, the nights are so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face or the waves that crash over the side of the boat and threaten to capsize you. The sea was so rough one night that we broke an oar.
“Then, each new day brings new challenges. Our water maker and autohelm broke, and we have been followed by what I estimate to be a 14-foot shark. But we have no choice but to overcome those challenges through strength and perseverance.”
Anna and Cameron are rowing to raise money for UN Women, an organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. “The impact they have for women and girls everywhere is just phenomenal,” Anna added.
The pair have around 300 miles to go before they reach the finish line, and Anna is already looking forward to some simple luxuries.
“I can’t wait to see my mum and dad, and give them a big hug,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to a hot shower and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.”
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