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Two men, a boat — and 3,000 miles to go

By Roseena Parveen

Launch at Farmoor Reservoir 

Who in their right mind would row 3,000 miles across the wild Atlantic Ocean when they don't even like rowing?

Who would risk life, limb and sanity for 70 days in a small boat doing something they find boring?
Despite preferring kayaking, Oxford conservationist Nathaniel Spring and his best friend William Stableforth will do just that when they take part in the Ocean Rowing Society's Atlantic Rowing Regatta starting on January 20.
But it is all in a good cause —— two in fact. The pair, who will form one of 15 teams in the event, hope to raise ?10,000, which would be shared between

Expedition media launch at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxford with Olympic Rower, Sarah Winkless (right) and Elizabeth Wheeldon (second from right) – Marketing Director from Katharine House Hospice

Katharine House hospice in Adderbury and the Community Boathouse for Oxford project. They also have to raise ?35,000 just to take part. Mr Spring, 29, of Charles Street, Oxford, spends his summer evenings at Falcon Rowing and Canoe Club, near Donnington Bridge, kayaking rather than rowing. Dr Stableforth is doing much the same in Derby, where he works at the Royal Infirmary.

"I don't actually like rowing. It's boring," says Mr Spring, who works for the Earthwatch Institute in Summertown.

"I don't actually like rowing. It's boring," says Mr Spring, who works for the Earthwatch Institute in Summertown.

"It's more the challenge of endurance on the sea that's appealing to me. It's something I've always wanted to do. We haven't actually trained in a rowing boat.

Ocean rowing is very different to rowing on the calm Isis in Oxford. In any case, it's all right. Kayakers can do anything."

The pair will take part in ocean rowing trials and will head out to the Canary Islands to the starting point of the race early to get acclimatised. They are training for triathlons and other events to ensure they are fit.

Mr Spring said: "The aim is to get mentally prepared and become very strong and fit. Getting across is the most important thing.

“Being able to cope with someone else for three months and keeping positive is the bigger challenge, not the rowing itself."

The rowers will race from St Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands to Port St Charles, Barbados, hopefully in about 70 days. Everything depends on the weather, says Mr Spring.

"You can have Olympic rowers who take 110 days, while a couple of amateurs can make it in just 40 days, all because of the weather," he said.

The pair's race plan is for one person to row at a time. During daylight, each will complete two hours of rowing, then take a two-hour break, while the other takes over. At night, they will do four-hour shifts.

Rest periods will be spent in a tiny cabin built for one person and kit.

They will have to contend with waves up to 40ft high, big ships, sores and possibly whales and sharks. When storms hit, the boat is specially designed to self-right.

Despite the hazards, they have dreamt about the trip since their student days at Cardiff University.

Mr Spring said: "Both of us have been doing things like this on a smaller scale all our lives. At university we both independently read accounts of John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth rowing the Atlantic. We said then we would do it too.”

Mr Spring said the charities were chosen because they reflect their own beliefs. "My mother used to work at the hospice. It's a place that needs support from the local community and I'm glad to help,” he said.

“I'm also a kayak racer with Falcon Rowing and Canoe Club, who are behind the Community Boathouse for Oxford project, and I believe very much that these sports should be open to all. Having a community boatclub would be a massive bonus to the east Oxford area."
Oxford's Community Boat House Project, led by Falcon Rowing and Canoe Club in Meadow Lane, Oxford, aims to provide more opportunities for disadvantaged people to take up river sports.

Falcon chairman Peter Travis said: "It's a great honour that Nat and William are using their big event to back the boathouse scheme.”

Katharine House hospice in Adderbury provides specialist palliative care for patients with cancer and other incurable illnesses.

The hospice needs to raise ?1.3m a year to provide a free service to patients and their relatives.

Only 28 per cent of its income comes from the Government.

The hospice's fundraising co-ordinator, Sue Lane, said: "We are delighted to learn Nat and Bill are doing this for us.

"We have many supporters in the local community.

“Many do unusual things, but an Atlantic row is very unusual.

“?10,000 is an impressive aim. We're very grateful."

Competitors must carry food to last 90 days on the boat, making weight an important factor. A water maker, which removes salt from seawater, will use energy from solar panels on cabin roof. It takes two hours to produce 10 litres and the result may taste slightly salty. Due to the physical demands of rowing hours on end, each rower must eat 6,000 calories per day.

Nat and Bill's boat measures 7.5 metres long and 1.8 metres wide. It has a small sleeping cabin. Ocean rowing boats are made from materials such as marine ply, fibreglass and cedar wood, and can cost up to ?35,000 second hand.

Their boat has satellite navigation systems and phones, life jackets, a safety line and a harness to ensure they cannot be lost overboard.

The pair are appealing for donations. To help, e-mail



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