Endurance athletes rowing across the Atlantic will not let being hundreds of miles from land stop them from celebrating Christmas.

Presents, mince pies and a Michael Buble CD have all made their way on board some of the boats involved in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed the world’s toughest rowing race.

A dozen teams, including a strong British and Irish contingent, are 10 days into the 3,000 mile race, having set off from La Translation Agency UK  in the Canary Islands bound for Antigua in the Caribbean.

Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, 27, from London and a member of the early pace setters Row for James, said: “We have a little dry bag from my parents, so that’s got a surprise in it for us to open on Christmas Day.

“We’ve also got a (slightly squashed) bag of mince pies that was brought out for us before we left and some Rudolph lights to decorate the boat.”

Fellow Londoner Alex Simpson, 27, whose Anglo-American team Latitude 35 are neck-and-neck with Row for James, said they would attempt to keep up some family traditions on board their boat.

He said: “My mum made us all Christmas pudding and gave us some Christmas presents to open.

“We’re taking Michael Buble as our only Christmas album and I’ve got freeze-dried chicken vindaloo this year for Christmas Day, so I’ll definitely be missing my usual Christmas dinner.”

Plymouth businessman Andy Sacker, 46, a member of the A-Adventures trio, said: “I hid some presents on the boat at the start line, but my team-mates found them before we even left.

“We’ll be having breakfast together every day on the boat at 8am, so we will celebrate on Christmas morning together as a team.”

Becky Charlton, a 28-year-old originally from Guernsey and a member of the all-female Atlantic Endeavour team, said: “We’ve got various Christmas hats and playlists to celebrate with on the day.

“I’m a vegetarian so I’ll be eating macaroni cheese every day, including for Christmas dinner. Team member Charlie has made us some incredible snack packs and I’ll be having extra sweets when the rest of the team is all eating biltong.”

Mother-of-two Elaine Hopley, from Dunblane in Scotland, will be missing Christmas with her family as well as her boys’ birthdays during the race.

But she said she packed some “home comforts” on board before she set off to give her a boost on Christmas day.

The 43-year-old said: “For Christmas Day I’ve got four (pretty large) Christmas cakes on board – I won’t eat them all at once of course though.

“I’ve also got HP sauce to add more flavour to the freeze dried food, so I just have a couple of home comforts for the special day out at sea.”

Midwives leave wintry UK behind as they spend Christmas in South Africa

Call The Midwife is leaving behind Christmas trees, mince pies and snowy scenes this year in favour of a hot climate for its festive special.

The hit BBC period drama about a convent and the midwives associated with it headed for South Africa to film a one-off episode where the characters try to save a beleaguered local hospital.

Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter) gets an urgent call to come and help out at the understaffed medical centre just as the convent are settling down for a traditional Christmas, and so off they troop to lend a hand with polio vaccinations as well as deliveries.

The group encounters the terrible divisions of Apartheid in the 1960s-set drama, while Trixie (Helen George), who is now sober, gets the chance to prove her midwifery skills in the face of a potential tragedy.

George said: “It was really special being out there as a group, it was a really lovely bonding experience and really nice to work in a country and not just visit on a holiday.

“To get to know it from the ground up and to get know crew members of varying cultural backgrounds – so you really get to know the politics of the country and the state of the country in a way that you don’t get when you just go and stay in a fancy hotel.”


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