The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge: The world’s toughest rowing race returns

On 12th December 2019, 35 teams from around the world left the shores of La Gomera, Canary Islands to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua. For the first time, two Diageo employees have joined the race and embarked on the challenge of a lifetime.


The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - The Wilderness Bar, rowers chatting to Matt Smith

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is set to include the biggest fleet in race history, with the highest number of female participants to ever compete.

One of the world’s most incredible challenges, every year Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge inspires people all around the world, as it is truly an expedition made for the wildest of spirits; those that wish to challenge themselves in the toughest of adventures and that wish to take on a feat unthinkable to most.

Made up of thirty-five teams and over 100 rowers – from all around the world – the participants have spent months, even years, preparing for this epic adventure. Competitors will experience 40ft waves, changeable weather and living off powdered food in their incredible journey to the finish line. 

“Everyone who takes this challenge on has a special spirit, a spirit that will enable them to achieve extraordinary things over the course of the race. We all have a bucket list of things in life that we challenge ourselves to try and accomplish - for the 103 rowers who leave the harbour this week this is a dream moment. It’s something they have all sacrificed a huge moment to prepare for - months and even years – and they will inspire millions of people with their stories.”

Carsten Olsen

CEO of Atlantic Campaigns

Talisker is proud to be title sponsor for the sixth year. A challenge with a purpose, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is an inspirational event which draws out the wild spirit in everyday people to achieve extraordinary things. The oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, Talisker Single Malt Scotch is very much a product of its rugged, coastal home. As a whisky Made By The Sea, we want to do our part to protect our oceans, the most important ecosystem of our planet.

The day before the race, Talisker served up the ultimate wild adventure creating a unique remote island wilderness experience. Only accessible by sea, it bought together a tribe of like-minded outdoor adventurers, explorers and ocean enthusiasts including Talisker Whisky Atlantic rowers, British Adventurer, James Aiken, friend of the brand Matt Smith and endurance athlete Ross Edgely all who shared their story of passion for adventure and love of the ocean. 

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - The Wilderness Bar from above

Guests enjoyed ‘wild’ Talisker cocktails created by Italian bartender, Giorgio Lupi, who was crowned the winner of Talisker’s Wild Spirit Bartender competition. Wild foraged food was served and prepared over an open fire by Talisker’s Wild Chef, on a FireTable, designed by filmmaker and friend of the brand, Guy Ritchie. The innovative new dining experience is a celebration of outdoor cooking and encouraging togetherness with an innovative design that allows you to sit back and relax watching your food being beautifully cooked, whilst giving warmth to your gatherings for hours. 

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - The Wilderness Bar, Matt Smith

For the first time, two Diageo employees are set to join the race and embark on the challenge of a lifetime. Firstly Jon Merotra, National Business Manager based in Sydney, who has been preparing for this moment for the last two years. His team of four – The Atlantic Ambition – are raising money for Alzheimer’s Society, MS UK, and CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), and the Marine Conservation Charity which carry out vital ocean research and combat against plastic pollution.

Team 'Atlantic Ambition' with Diageo employee - Jon Merotra

Joining Jon on the 3000-mile voyage is Oliver Palmer. Ollie, Head of Customer Marketing, Middle East and Americas, is competing with his three friends, who together form Team Fortitude IV. The Fortitude IV squad – having also undergone months of gruelling training – is raising money for the West London Zone charity, which works with children in schools across west London to help them flourish and achieve their full potential in adulthood.

Team 'Fortitude IV' with Diageo employee - Oliver Palmer

With the sheer scale of the challenge at hand, both Jon and Ollie, alongside the 101 other participants, are undertaking one of the most exhaustive feats and from all at Diageo, we wish them the very best for the weeks ahead!