Rowing the Atlantic with The Entrepreneurs’ Adviser, Guy Rigby
Are you looking for your next big adventure? How does rowing across the Atlantic sound? Think you’re not fit enough? Too old? Think again.
Guy Rigby, former chair of the Entrepreneurial Services Group at Smith & Williamson (now Evelyn Partners), and founder of advisory and mentoring business, The Entrepreneurs’ Adviser, holds the world record for the oldest pair ever to row across the Atlantic (aged 68), and he’s looking for crews to do the same for 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027.
But before we get into that, in this episode of The Melting Pot, we find out why a man in his late 60s would want to row the Atlantic, and more importantly, how on earth did he pull it off?
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On today’s podcast:
- UnLtd – the charity
- Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean
- The daily rowing routine
- Training for the row
- The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge
Rowing, Finance, Startups & Growth Companies with Guy Rigby
Guy Rigby is a returning guest to The Melting Pot. Last time he was here, he was still at Smith and Williamson, responsible for founding their entrepreneurs’ practice, which oversees the financial affairs of hundreds of entrepreneurs and their businesses. He spoke about his book – From Vision to Exit: The Entrepreneurs Guide to Building and Selling a Business.
Since then, he’s rowed the Atlantic. And now, along with rowing partner David Murray, they hold the world record for the oldest pair ever to row any ocean.
“I had the idea pre COVID. We planned it pretty much throughout COVID. And when we left, last December , when we set off from La Gomera on December 12th, we managed to avoid catching it [COVID].”
Astonishingly, the pair made the crossing in 53 days, three hours and 42 minutes, raising a total of just over £753,000 for UnLtd, the charity also known as the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.
So, would he do it again?
“Not in my current situation, but never say never. However whilst I didn’t have this idea before we sold our boat, we have now ordered a new one, and I’ve agreed to run a five-year programme [for UnLtd], putting two people in the boat every year from 2023 onwards. Hopefully, we can raise another £1 million.”
UnLtd – the charity
The funds raised by Guy and David were donated to UnLtd, a foundation for social entrepreneurs. Its aim is to develop a generation of social leaders with enduring impact.
The charity finds, funds and supports these social entrepreneurs, typically in challenged communities, helping them level up. Over 50% of these businesses are minority, ethnic-led businesses, female-led businesses, or disabled-led businesses. Essentially, an incredibly underfunded area of start-ups, which need help to grow and market their companies.
“I’ve worked with entrepreneurs for many years, and it just rang a bell with me. I just thought this would be a great thing to do. So I think our funds are going to have supported somewhere [around] 50 entrepreneurs from the funds raised.”
Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean
“As you can imagine, the whole thing was amazing. I mean, there were obviously some challenging moments and some moments where I thought ‘what have we done, and why have we done it?’ But, arriving in Antigua after 53 days, three hours and 42 minutes, getting there safely, still being friends with my rowing partner David, raising £750,000, and taking a world record definitely justified the challenge.”
So how on earth did Guy get to this place?
Rowing across the Atlantic, says Guy, is not like sitting in the gym with your steady 25 strokes a minute, trying to break two minutes per 500 metre splits.
“This is a long game. You’re rowing two hours on, two hours off every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The only time we stopped, twice for about an hour, was for David (the younger of the pair!) to hop over the side to clean the bottom of the boat. But other than that, you just never stop. The boat is always moving.”
The daily rowing routine
For 53 days, Guy and David rowed non stop, but what does a day out at sea entail?
In the daytime, says Guy, when you’re not rowing, you are eating, washing your clothes, washing yourself, cleaning the boat, etc.
“We used to look forward to the nights because that meant that when it was dark, all you do is come off the oars, go in the cabin and go to sleep. And at night you’d snack while you were rowing, so you didn’t bother with any hot food or anything. And the moment you’ve finished your two-hour slot, you go out like a bloody light and sleep for an hour and a half.”
The one thing Guy did struggle with was sleep deprivation, becoming very disorientated. At 1:45am, when his alarm would go off for his 2am shift, he’d not remember where he was or what he was doing, and he’d open the door and be surprised to find David rowing.
Training for the row
So, how does one get ready to row across the Atlantic? With a personal trainer, says Guy. He reckons it would have been easier if he was a bit younger, but still, he used to row 3-4 times per week, and run 2-3 times per week.
Towards the end of his training, he was rowing a half marathon once or twice a week. Then, between March and September 2021, the pair trained in the boat itself, on the sea.
“Our longest trip was from Salcombe to Falmouth and back, which is about 150 miles. Via the Eddystone lighthouse. That was a fantastic trip, I really enjoyed it. It took us about four days, two hours on, two hours off, we did Atlantic format. But I have to tell you, rowing around the UK is far, far more difficult than rowing across the Atlantic. Because you’ve got rocks, boats, and tides.”
Segueing into a new role
For Guy, the row was a segue between semi serious working and having more fun doing stuff he actually wanted to do. Having spent 11 years (from 2008 to 2019) as a partner at Smith and Williamson, and then as a consultant until 2022, he realised he wanted to do his own thing.
“Now I’ve stepped back and I’ve started Guy Rigby, The Entrepreneurs’ Adviser, and I’m working with founders of businesses, typically doing it on my own, with 50 years of experience.”
Guy, by his own admission, is reasonably good at figuring out whether something’s going to work or not.
“I’ve probably seen multiple ways that people are attempting to do whatever it is they’re trying to do, and therefore have some idea about what is likely to work better than what isn’t… And I’m a good red flag man, I’m a good intermediary between businesses and their advisors. Because I hate wasting money on professional advice where it’s not required.”
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge
If you’re interested in taking part in a rowing challenge in support of UnLtd, Guy is looking for volunteers.
“I tell you, anyone can do it. It’s the most amazing experience. And if you do have any listeners who think they’ve got the desire, and wherewithal, because you’ve got to be able to raise some money for the charity, I am looking for rowers for 2024, 2025, 2026, and 2027.”
So, do you have what it takes?
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