Thirty teams set off on the world’s toughest rowing race tomorrow and three of them are from Yorkshire. Catherine Scott reports.
More people have gone into space than have completed the 3,000 mile row that is the Talisker Whisky Atlantic challenge.
Teams set off tomorrow from San Sebastian in La Gomera, in the Canary Islands to row the Atlantic to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is, without doubt, the world’s toughest rowing race. Competitors will each burn over 5,000 calories per day. They will lose 2o per cent of their bodyweight before they cross the finish line some 45 days later – not to mention contending with the 50ft waves, sea sickness, sleep deprivation, salt sores and sharks.
Among the 30 teams attempting this epic challenge are three teams from Yorkshire.
Marcus Beale is planning to row the Atlantic solo. He is no stranger to epic challenges having done the gruelling Marathon Des Sables although he had never rowed before deciding to take part in the Atlantic challenge.
“There will be lots of challenges and I know at times it will be terrifying but I think the biggest challenge will be the solitude,” says the father of two from Leeds.
Marcus is funding the entire trip himself so that any funds raised go to his chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, which is very perswonal to him.
“When I look back, it is hard to get my head around how much cancer has affected my family and those around me, and how much help and support we have received from Macmillan.
“My first experience of cancer was losing my best friend at school, Paul, to Leukaemia.
“At such a young age, it was hard to comprehend. “
Since then he has lost an auntie, an uncle, a stepfather and a sibling to the disease. His mother is in remission and throughout Macmillan Cancer Support has been there to help the family.
“Sadly there are those close to me still fighting the disease or in remission,” says Marcus, 50.
“It’s hard to comprehend. The one reassuring thought throughout this is that Macmillan will aim to always be there for us. However, I have realised that this can only happen with continued financial support through donations.”
Marcus has been training for more than a year for the challenge which will see him away from his family for Christmas.
But if successful he hopes to be one of the first Yorkshireman to row the Atlantic singlehanded and unsupported.
Hell Oar High Water
Chris Nicholl and James Tordoff, both from Bradford,make up “Hell Oar High Water” (HOHW) who had no rowing experience before deciding to take on this epic challenge.
“We are not ex/serving military, athletes or adventurers – we didn’t even have any rowing or ocean experience until a long time after we had signed up. Yet we believe that anyone can achieve the unthinkable and make a difference regardless of their background or perceived ability and we hope to demonstrate this through our row, whilst raising money and exposure for our chosen charities,” says James.
“We first started talking about taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge over four years ago now. It was an idea that snowballed and was one that we just couldn’t shake. The opportunity to challenge ourselves and show that anything is possible played a huge part in our decision to finally sign up to the challenge. That was over two years ago.”
It takes a certain sort of person to be able to cope with the physicality’s of a row such as this, as the punishment will be relentless. Typically, two hours rowing, two hours rest, day and night, non-stop until they complete their mission. Their bodies will change and become weak but their minds will have to stay strong.
They will be spurred on by the knowledge they will be raising much needed cash for three local charities,
“It was very important to us that the money we raised for charity went to helping people within the Bradford area and CentrePoint was the first charity that came to mind. I had to leave home at 17 without knowing where I would be living but with help from friends and family I managed to find a solution. However some young people are not so lucky and don’t always have a support network,” says Chris. “This is where Centrepoint shines and can offer support to vulnerable young people by giving them the practical and emotional support they need to find a job and live independently.”
The second charity is the Bradford Hospitals’ Charity,
“Three years ago my family was hit hard with the premature arrival of my nephew Jacob,” explains James. “The level of care and support that not only Jacob received but also his parents, for over six weeks, was incredible and we are forever grateful. Without this hospital and its team he wouldn’t have survived.
“The money we raise for Bradford Hospital Charity will be donated exclusively to the neonatal unit. It’s incredibly important that the unit gets the extra funding from the charity to improve the facilities for babies and their families.”
The third charity is Ben, a service for anybody who works or has links with the automotive industry, which both men have links to.
Team Force Atlantic
Richard Hall, Chris Hames, Alex Walsh and Kian Helm are four serving soldiers, strangers to each other until united by a posting to the Army Foundation College, Harrogate.
They have become the first official British Army team to enter this event. The Army Foundation College, which transforms over 1,000 16 to 17-year-old civilians into soldiers each year, and represents the most comprehensive soldier basic training system in the world. The team is passionate about what it does because they have seen the transformational effect the college has on the lives of some of the UK’s most disaffected and disadvantaged teenagers.
Their primary aim is to demonstrate the travel, adventure, competition and challenge opportunities that the Army lifestyle offers to young people. Their sole charity is ABF The Soldiers’ Charity which has a vision that all soldiers, veterans and their families should have the opportunity to avoid hardship and enjoy independence and dignity.