Reindeer stew and power failure at Christmas for UK adventurers rowing Atlantic

Rowing adventurers from the UK enjoyed reindeer stew and faced power failure on Christmas Day as they continued to steer a course across the Atlantic Ocean.

Three fathers – Steve Woolley, 47, from Harrogate, Neil Furminger, 58, and Matt Garman, 53, both from Seaford, East Sussex – and solo rower Lara Vafiadis, 33, from Malvern in Worcestershire, represent two of the boats in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The race sees participants attempt to row more than 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua and Barbuda.

With the race beginning earlier in December and carrying on into the new year, those involved enjoyed Christmas at sea, including a festive dinner that may raise a few eyebrows.

Mr Garman, skipper of the Ocean Dadventure crew, told the PA news agency: “It’s been tough to consume the calories needed and the Christmas Day reindeer stew tasted much like a beef stew.

Three fathers make up the Ocean Dadventure team – Steve Wooley, 47, Neil Furminger, 58, and Matt Garman, 53
Three fathers make up the Ocean Dadventure team – Steve Woolley, right, Neil Furminger, centre, and Matt Garman (Ocean Dadventure/PA)

“Steve is favouring a reindeer soup whereas Neil and myself have more of a sweet tooth and keep our calories up with Jelly Babies and Haribo.

“There were pork scratchings and nuts also on the Christmas Day menu for their high calories. We each need to consume about 6,000 calories per day.

“We did take a half-bottle of whisky for Christmas Day but chose cans of fizzy drinks instead. Whilst we’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced seasickness, we don’t fancy the alcohol.”

But for Ms Vafiadis, Christmas dinner was the least of her worries, with her first present being a power problem – however, she was later able to enjoy gifts and cake.

“Waking up on Christmas morning to a complete power failure was not the best start, but I managed to sort it out and know now what not to charge at night,” the 33-year-old said.

“It felt very odd to be away from family at Christmas. Talking to them on the phone was hard but I know it won’t be long until I see them at the finish.

“I then spent Christmas Day evening on para anchor as the winds picked up so much so I had to make sure I wasn’t getting pushed back east.

Lara Vafiadis spent Christmas alone on the boat
Lara Vafiadis spent Christmas alone on the boat (Lara Vafiadis/PA)

“Presents-wise, I had a few cards and some little gifts to make my journey better – chocolate, skincare items and a digital photo frame that had been loaded with so many different photos from my boyfriend… but mainly of my dog.

“The Christmas cake was excellent. I waited until the afternoon and enjoyed it while sat on my oars just watching the waves.”

Both Ocean Dadventure and Ms Vafiadis are raising money for a number of charities and good causes, including Prostate Cancer UK.

Ms Vafiadis’s journey took on extra significance when her father, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer six years ago, died just weeks before she began her row.

“I’ve found being away from home and my mum incredibly hard, as I know how much this first Christmas without my dad is affecting her,” she said.

“The past two weeks being on this boat alone all I’ve done is think of him. I talk to him, especially when rowing at night, and I have to hope he can hear me somewhere.

“When I’ve had a problem he’s always on my mind, telling me to take a step back and reassess everything, which always helps.”

To find out more about the two boats and the charities they are raising money for, visit and