My Life: Dan Howie

Dan Howie, right, and Will North
Dan Howie, right, and Will North
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As Dan Howie looks out at the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, he is struggling to comprehend that in just over a week he will set sail on the adventure of a lifetime.

On December 2, Dan, from Northallerton, and his rowing partner Will North will set off on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge which, they hope, will see them cover 3,000 miles in 40 days.

The pair this week arrived in La Gomera in the Canary Islands, the start of the gruelling race which will see 16 boats race across the Atlantic to Antigua.

“It is great to be here after such a lot of preparation,” says Dan. “To see all the other crews here is really exciting and yet we know that it is deadly serious.”

Before deciding to take part in the transatlantic race which will see Dan and Will take two hours on, two hours off shifts, the 28-year-old had never even rowed before.

He was made redundant from his job in the City and then found himself working for a sport marketing company which boasts James Cracknell amongst its founders.

Cracknell and Ben Fogle had previously rowed the Atlantic and it got Dan thinking that he wanted to do something incredible.

So he has spent the last two years preparing for the challenge. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

Dan’s first rowing partner had to drop out due to health problems, but he managed to convince an old University friend, Will, to join him.

Gaining corporate sponsors was also a challenge as they needed to secure £85,000 to enable them to take part.

“By June this year we were still £40,000 off and we were starting to worry. But then we managed to secure three sponsors in a matter of weeks. Then we could really start raising money for our charities.”!

Dan and Will hopefully aim to raise £150,000 which will be split between Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia and Lymphoma research and a Ghanaian orphanage and school.

“My girlfriend organised a black tie ball last week which raised more than £58,000, which was amazing,” said Dan.

Already physically fit, Dan has stepped up his training over the last year, which has meant hours on a rowing machine in the garden of his London home, at least an hour a day in the gym lifting weights to build up bulk, and taking part in triathlons and long distance cycles.

As well as preparing themselves physically for the challenge which could see them coping with 50ft waves and sharks, Dan and Will have been preparing themselves mentally.

“Before the boat was shipped out to the starting line we tried to spend as much time as possible in it out on the North Sea,” explains Dan.

“We managed to do three 24-hour rows, practising our shift patterns. Sleep deprivation is going to be a really big problem. I think we started to panic a bit at one stage, but it was really good to get an idea of what we are in for. We have also seen a sports psychologist who has taught us ‘chinking’ – breaking down the row into chunks and then giving ourselves rewards when we achieve them.

“Boredom is going to be a big factor as well. We have got loads of CDs and audio books that friends have done with us which will really help.”

The pair are old friends but they are well aware that hours on end at sea with little sleep could become stressful.

“We just need to be honest with each other and nip things in the bud if we start to get on each other’s nerves.”

Journey set to cover 3,000 miles

Dan Howie and Will North will set off from La Gamera on December 2, hopefully arriving in Antigua, 3,000 miles across the Atlantic 40 days later.

They will spend Christmas at sea.

More people have been into space than have rowed the Atlantic.

Among their sponsors are Dovecote Park and The Cleveland Tontine, both from North Yorkshire.

To follow their progress or to sponsor them visit www.atlanticrow2013.com