THREE brothers are gearing up to spend Christmas Day aboard a 28ft rowing boat, tucking into freeze dried reindeer stew and a specially blended dram, as they tackle an ocean challenge that will have them at sea for nearly two months.

Ewan, Jamie and Lachlan MacLean make up Team Broar, one of 35 crews which will row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge sponsored by Cairnhill Structures, Panda Brew, Ardoch, University of Glasgow Chancellor's Fund and Nairn's.

The brothers, sons of whisky expert Charles MacLean, are raising money for two Scottish charities, Feedback Madagascar and Children First, and have already exceeded their fundraising goal of £250,000.

Speaking to The Herald from La Gomera, Jamie, 26, an architecture student at Glasgow School of Art, said: “Mentally and physically, we’ll go to places we’ve never even dreamed of. But it will be worth it for the chance to have an experience which will be a defining moment in our lives, and to make a real and lasting difference to two incredible charities.”

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The idea to take on the gruelling challenge was born one night over a bottle of whisky 18 months ago. And as it comes ever closer, the brothers are getting excited – and resting as much as they can.

Jamie said: “We’re pinching ourselves. I don’t think it’ll sink in until we’ve actually set off. It feels like it’s been a long time coming, we’ve put in so many hours and effort that it’ll be a huge relief to start.”

Training included hours of gym sessions per day and regular rows across Loch Lomond and up the West Coast of Scotland – a place very dear to the brothers’ heart after spending childhood summers roaming wild at their grandparents’ home in the hamlet of Nedd, Wester Ross.

Jamie said: “We spent large portions of our childhood there terrifying mum and dad.
“When we were growing up there was no phone signal, no house phone, no wi-fi and  no TV.
“So we had to be creative about how we entertained ourselves. It’s our favourite place in the world.”

A rowing pilgrimage from Arran to Skye saw the brothers collecting hundreds of bottles of the finest whiskies from 16 distilleries that will be mixed by their father to produce a blend commemorating the Atlantic crossing and auctioned off to add to the fundraising total.

Jamie and Lachlan, 21, a philosophy student, both live in Glasgow while older brother Ewan, 27, a design engineer for Dyson, lives in Bristol, so training together for the last year has been an opportunity for them to spend time together. And sibling squabbles are not going to feature during the crossing, despite the anticipated lack of sleep.

Ewan, Jamie and Lachlan will row for shifts of two hours followed by one hour of rest, but the schedule is fluid to allow for any of the brothers to rest up when they need to and should the weather demand it.

Jamie said: “The sleep deprivation is probably the scariest thing. It’s kind of the largest unknown, how we will cope.
“If one of us is struggling the others will step in. In some ways it’s a good thing that we’re three but we have to be flexible.”

Another concern is hallucinations due to lack of sleep and low sugar levels. “It can be little things from your oars to little squeaks on the boat that sound like voices. It can get quite full on seeing vivid images. We’ve heard of one rower who saw zombies coming out of the water,” he added.

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Energy expenditure is expected to be around 10,000 calories a day but the brothers will carry ample supplies of freeze-dried food and snacks including nuts, Nairns oatcakes and porridge.

All keen musicians, they will be downsizing their regular instruments to take on board. Lachlan’s accordion will be replaced with a mouth organ, Ewan’s guitar for a ukelele and, while Jamie will take a set of bagpipes to pipe them in and out of the race, he will be reaching for a whistle to bolster their mood at sea.

Charles said: “Although the boys will be stuck with freeze-dried food on Christmas Day, I’ve made sure they can at  least enjoy a dram, so I’ve given them a very special bottle from my collection.
“From a young age, they’ve always gravitated towards the outdoors and marched to the beat of their own drum. This is no different.

"There’s nothing quite like being told your sons have decided to take on a challenge that most people wouldn’t dream of – to make a real difference to the lives of others. And what’s most special for me as a father is the fact they’ve chosen to do it together.”