Photos by Kirk Robert

British-born Charleston restaurateur Ben Towill and chef Charlie Layton of Basic Projects, owners of Basic Kitchen and Post House, are stepping out of the restaurant and kitchen to a different environment at the end of the year — literally.

Since January 2021, Towill and Layton have been extensively training for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a competition that calls for teams of rowers to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera, Canary Islands, to English Harbour, Antigua. Held annually in early December, it’s an athletic feat that takes rowers 32 to 86 days to complete. 

Towill and Layton, dubbed The Dreamboats for the competition, decided to take on the challenge during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide them a bright light during the dark days. They want to prove to themselves that anyone could get through tough times. 

“It’s quite well known in England,” Towill said. “I had a friend do it in 2013 and was absolutely amazed by what he did, the stories he had, challenges he faced and overall growth. I’ve wanted to do it ever since then.”

“I first heard about it from a documentary when I was about 11 or 12,” Layton added. “It was about James Cracknell, who was a British Olympic gold medal rower, and a TV personality named Ben Fogle. They had a six-part documentary of their journey across the Atlantic. I saw it and thought it was amazing and something I’ve been wanting to do since then.”

Though Towill and Layton have always dreamed of participating in the challenge, neither had any prior rowing experience, but are currently training with Charleston Rowing Club. Now in their second year of training, the pair are in the final months of preparation to cross the Atlantic, earning certifications in other fields, including ocean navigating, marine first aid and general sea survival.

As part of their campaign to participate in the Atlantic Challenge, Towill and Layton chose to help raise funds and awareness for The Green Heart Project and the 2041 Foundation, “one hyper-local [organization] and one that’s about as global as it gets,” Towill said.

The Green Heart Project is a Charleston nonprofit dedicated to educating kids about where their food comes from and connecting them to the environment. The 2041 Foundation is dedicated to the preservation of the poles, promoting sustainability, recycling and renewable energy to combat climate change.

“I really think that Green Heart and 2041 tie in really well together because at the core of it, it’s to build a better future for tomorrow, maintain what we have and understand our planet a little more,” Layton added.

“Our tagline at Basic Kitchen is ‘cleaner fuel, longer adventures,’” Towill said. The goal of partnering with The Green Heart Project and 2041 Foundation, he added, is to promote those longer adventures through healthy habits and clean energy. 

In addition to their training, The Dreamboats will make the rounds across Charleston, providing outreach and awareness for their partnered organizations. Starting in early March, expect to see The Dreamboats’ 25-foot vessel around town and at the end of April, the team will participate in rowing challenges at the Highwater Festival. 

For updates on The Dreamboats journey and where they’ll be for outreach, follow them on Instagram @dreamboats.us or head to dreamboats.us for more information.


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