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Do you know when to push and when to pull?

The skill of reading what's ahead

On September 10th, 1492, Christopher Columbus made a final stop at the port of San Sebastian, La Gomera, before he began his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to what he hoped would be a new route to India.

A little over four weeks later, he discovered the continent of America by accident and landed in what we now call The Bahamas.

In December 2025, over 500 years later, I will leave the same port of San Sebastian and begin my voyage across the Atlantic, arriving further south than Columbus in English Harbour, Antigua.

I wonder what Columbus would make of my navigation equipment stored in the aft cabin at the rear of my boat.

Imagine if I could explain to him that my navigation came from satellites that sat beneath the stars he used.

Nowadays, rowers who have made it to La Gomera – and the start of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge race – often say that the biggest challenge is simply getting a boat to the start line.

With the training, exams, fundraising, and the level of planning required to cross safely, I feel that, right now, I’m in the middle of a voyage within a voyage.

The journey took a big step forward last week, as I spent a day training on a full ocean rowing boat.

A boat much bigger than my Rannoch Explorer coastal rowing boat, which I purchased in May to practice in.

What really stood out across the 7 hours of training was just how much the boat is affected by the prevailing conditions.

When we left Burnham on Crouch, we had the tide and wind against us.

The boat sat deep in the water and each stroke felt heavy.

When we turned the boat around and headed back to the marina, the conditions reversed.

The 1,500kg boat felt as light as my 50kg boat.

One of the questions I spend a lot of time pondering over is – how much time will I be rowing for within 24hrs?

Taking into account the need to rest, navigate, eat, etc. – what’s the optimum level of rowing for performance?

Ocean rowers talk of 2 hours on, 2 hours off each day being the most efficient amount for human endurance.

I asked my friend Nick, who’s an experienced sailor, about this 2 on / 2 off theory.

He laughed and said, "Mate, you’ll learn to row flat out for 20 minutes because you can read the situation and see what’s coming."

It gave me an epiphany that applies not only to ocean rowing – but to life in general.

A lot of things matter.

Preparation matters.
Body and mind condition matters.
Technique matters.

But the real skill is knowing when to push and when to pull.

Sometimes, it's time to push and give it all you’ve got.

Other times, you’ve got to accept things as they are and go with the flow.

Both are important. Too much of one and you’ll be out of balance.

Be out of balance for too long and you’ll be in trouble.

The real wisdom is knowing what the situation requires at any given moment.

It goes for parenting, growing a business, managing cash flow, and building wealth.

Ultimately, you can hear all the advice in the world, but eventually, you have to learn how to read the situation, understand what’s coming before you, and make those decisions for yourself.

That's how you learn to row your own boat.

Thanks for reading.


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