When Duncan Roy rows across an ocean, it is about more than the physical challenge. Since he first rowed the Atlantic from Spain to South America, from December 2017 to February 2018, he has found a community that he lacked since being medically discharged from the military.

“It’s the sense of purpose more than anything,” Roy, 30, said. “In the military you have this huge sense of identity and purpose. But when I left everything I worked so hard towards in a team to achieve a task that is far greater than you, I lost.”

“The ocean rowing community gives me this sense of belonging. That’s what keeps me coming back,” Roy, British, said.

He rowed the Atlantic again in December 2018 to January 2019, from the Canary Islands to Antigua as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Now he has his eyes set on a different ocean.

Roy is part of a four-man team, Latitude 35 – along with American Jason Caldwell, Angus Collins and Angus Barton, both Britons – entered in the Great Pacific Race (GPR), from San Francisco to Hawaii, beginning in the first week of June. But this time, the star-studded team has grand ambitions. Each member already holds a world record and is intent on claiming another.

Captain Caldwell set the now broken Atlantic record in 2017. Collins was also on board, breaking his own 2016 record, and has also set the Indian Ocean record. Barton was with Collins in the 2016 record. And Roy holds the record for rowing from Cape Verde to South America, set during his first Atlantic crossing.

The team will row in shifts – two hours on, two hours off – all day and all night for the entire time at sea. The expedition is unsupported, so there’s no boat with them. They will carry their food and make drinking water through desalination.

“It’s a different dynamic to my other crews,” Roy said. “To your left and right you have guys with massive experience. That gives me more motivation to bring my A game. I want to make sure I’m pulling my weight and contributing to the team effort, physically and mentally. It’s about a high-performing team dynamic, it’s about being smart out there and not just putting power down all the time.”

Roy now shares his experience with other rowers. Since his latest Atlantic crossing, he has started his own business as an ocean rowing coach.

“It’s something I really genuinely enjoy doing. People gave me really good feedback about my coaching, so it snowballed into a business,” he said.

The new career has surprised him. He often reflects on the two years since he landed in South America, from his first crossing that was riddled with power issues and took almost 20 days longer than planned. “It’s been a very organic journey. Even the first trip, we faced all these issues, but I’m really grateful for that because it taught me about the ocean, and about how I react in those situations.”

But even with all their experience, there is so much that can go wrong, and they need to be prepared to adjust in the Pacific.

“The uncertainty when you’re out there, that’s the key thing. There’s lots of famous quotes, like Mike Tyson’s, ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face’. Well, ocean rowing is notorious for things going wrong. You can be happy in your head, making 80 miles a day, then suddenly you have an issue, like weather changing or equipment failing.

“Something changes, then everything changes, and then you are at the hands of Mother Nature. That can change your outlook from days to weeks,” Roy said.

It might be just two months to the GPR, but with travel restrictions and lockdowns imposed because of the global pandemic, many people are wondering if it will go ahead. Latitude 35’s boat is already in San Francisco with most of the equipment. If the team can travel to the start, they intend to row even if it’s not part of the race.

“I am just going out there with the thought process to give everything I have,” Roy added. “Whether that means getting a world record, winning a race or safely getting to the other side, I’m going to apply myself as much as I can to the project. So at the moment, that doesn’t make much difference in regards to the race.”