Former SAS soldier, 55, to row 3,100 miles across Atlantic for extreme charity challenge with help of Leeds Beckett University

Leeds Beckett University has helped to prepare a former SAS soldier for the charity challenge of a lifetime.
Ian Rivers is to row across the Atlantic in a small boatIan Rivers is to row across the Atlantic in a small boat
Ian Rivers is to row across the Atlantic in a small boat

Ian Rivers, 55, will row a small boat 3,100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean with only the stars to guide him in a bid to raise money for the SAS Regimental Association’s Sentinels programme and St Michael’s Hospice in Herefordshire.

The qualified ocean yacht master will row between nine and twelve hours each day and estimates that the crossing will take him around 95 days. He set off on his challenge last night from New York.

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Ian has faced a lot of adventure in his life. He joined the army and fought in theatres of war across the world and was a member of 22 Special Air Service Regiment for more than a decade. In December 2012, whilst working for an American news network, he was kidnapped in Syria. He escaped his captors and managed to find his way to safety using only natural indicators.

He explained what attracted him to this extreme rowing challenge: “I’d describe myself as an adventurer. I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, ever since I was a kid. I’ve wanted to attempt this challenge since I was in my 20s.

“I’m looking forward to the calmness, the equilibrium of being alone for a long time. If I’m honest I don’t like my own company so it’s the ultimate challenge for me to be on my own for that long.”

Leeds Beckett University has helped him prepare for the challenge and will support him throughout. He has been assessed by a specialist team at the brand-new Carnegie School of Sport building and has been seen by experts in physiology, psychology, nutrition, physiotherapy and strength and conditioning. Each expert will use their knowledge to support him.

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Professor John O’Hara from the Carnegie School of Sport is one of the team who will be supporting Ian: “Ian came to us for advice and guidance on preparing for such an immense challenge. We used experts in various areas to look at Ian’s training and nutrition plan and offer help where needed.

Experts from the university assessed Ian's overall condition, musculoskeletal function, and established if there were any injury risks. They also measured his body composition to ensure he has enough muscle mass to get through the challenge.

“We looked at his nutrition plan and the resources available to him at sea for preparing food and fluid intake. Our key focus is ensuring he is well fuelled and hydrated, as well as maintaining his muscle mass and staying illness free," Professor O'Hara said.

“Ian has a good level of knowledge of the nutrition needed for his training so we worked with him to suggest key adaptations including menu cycling to relieve food boredom, additional snacks to add variety and extra fuel for long days, extra protein to boost intake and maintain muscle mass, and meal replacements in the event of sea days with sea sickness.”

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During the challenge, the Leeds Beckett team will be receive automated data via apps on his physical activity, which will mainly be rowing, and his stress and recovery status from heart rate variability data.

They will also get a daily email from Ian which will include information on what he has eaten, his body mass, and his sleep patterns. This will help us understand how he is coping physically during the row. We can then advise him if we see any problem areas that need looking at."