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The row around Great Britain is one of the toughest rowing races in the world. Four students from the University of Exeter and University of Edinburgh have been training for the past year for this race, hoping to smash four world records in just one challenge, along with an ambitious fundraising goal of £150k for the British Red Cross and JustOneOcean.
Sunday 5th July will see Oliver Dawe-Lane (Skipper) Arthur Chatto, Harry Lidgley, and Charles Bromhead set off from Tower Bridge in haste, postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, to row around Great Britain, over 2000 miles, unassisted. They are the youngest team to stand at the start line of this challenge and it sure beats the standard, post uni 'adventure' to Thailand!
We caught up with Arthur to get the lowdown on this physical and mental challenge. When it comes to challenges Arthur is no stranger and is a keen mountaineer scaling Mont Blanc, The Matterhorn etc as well as scuba diving and ice diving.
What made you want to take part in this particular challenge?
“The four of us were looking for an endurance event that would really push us. As we all have different sports interests, from trail running to mountaineering and rugby, we needed a sport that we could all pick up and learn the technique quite easily, so we decided on rowing. None of us had rowed before so we were all at the same starting point. One year later and we’re hoping we’ve mastered it.”
You’re currently the only team that is officially attempting the GB Row Challenge. Were you tempted to drop out?
“We’d put so much work into training for the event that we didn’t want the pandemic to stop us from achieving our ultimate goal – to raise money for the British Red Cross and JustOneOcean. Through the monies raised for the British Red Cross we will be helping vulnerable people affected by COVID-19; a very worthy cause. Also, as we are in our final year of our studies, attempting the row this year will be our only chance before we head our separate ways and find work.”
You’re the youngest team to have ever attempted to row non-stop, unassisted around the UK. You’ve also set yourselves four world record breaking challenges, tell us about them and how crucial is it that you achieve them?
“We’ve set ourselves four world record attempts. To be the youngest team, the fastest team overall, the fastest team to row from Tower Bridge to Land’s End and the fastest team from Land’s End to John o Groats. The record is currently held by a team of four men, who back in 2013 completed it in 26 days, 9 hours and 9 minutes. To be honest, at this stage we’ll be delighted to successfully complete the row and we’re trying not to focus too heavily on how long it will take. We’re taking enough food for 40 days, just in case!”
What do you envisage the challenges will be?
“We’re aware of how dangerous this row is, due to the strength of the tides in certain places, the choppy waves and risk of capsizing etc. When we went on our last row we experienced what’s called wind-over-tide, when the water moves in the opposite direction creating high waves. This was rather alarming for us all. Ultimately, this is going to be a test of our strength, stamina and endurance as well as mentally challenging.
The physical side of the row is going to be tough and the sheer endurance that we’ll be putting our bodies through along with the risk of salt sores, muscle atrophy, exhaustion and so on. We’re not underestimating the mental challenge as well. Sleeping in shifts of no more than two hours is going to be tough.”
Training together in lockdown must be difficult, how have you prepared as a team for this epic row?
“We’ve self-isolated and been living together for some time now so that we could hit the training hard as a team, whilst also keeping ourselves and others safe. We have one rest day a week and the rest of the time we focus on strength training, metabolic conditioning sessions, running and using rowing machines.”
You need the right nutritional intake for all that training. What’s your dietary regime like?
“Our meals are predominantly carbs and protein-based with pizza and pasta being our go-to favourites. We tend to keep our dishes easy to cook and can be seen leaving Tesco with huge bags of pasta!”
During the row you’ll be helping the University of Portsmouth with its micro-plastic survey. How is that going to work?
“There’s two parts to the survey. There will be a temperature gauge on the rudder of the boat that will measure the temperature of the water as we row around the UK. We will also be taking water samples at various stages a few times a day. The team at the University will then have the opportunity to analyse these samples and understand more about the microplastics in the water.”
Being on a boat with three team mates over a period of a few weeks is going to have its own challenges. How will you cope with each other’s idiosyncrasies?
“Humour! There’s no other way. We have a couple of songs that always lift the mood – one being Jolene by Dolly Parton and the other is Dani California by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.”
What will you miss the most during the challenge?
“Without a shadow of a doubt I’ll miss my cocker spaniel Hoogly! Oh and being able to eat on a flat surface – strange as that might sound. Whilst out on the water nothing stays flat for long.”
Team Exe Endurow has great support from the likes of Clarity Environmental, AllSports Nutrition, Cazenove Capital and of course Elliot Brown Watches. Why did you choose to approach Elliot Brown Watches as a sponsor above other watch brands?
“Elliot Brown is a British company that makes watches tough enough to survive extreme conditions. With Row Around Great Britain being seen as one of the toughest rowing race in the world it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. I’m wearing a Tyneham automatic from the range with a rubber strap. Being able to see the time glow up at night thanks to the Superluminova detailing is going to be reassuring.”
We wish Arthur and the rest of team Exe Endurow the best of luck over for their epic expedition. We’ll be catching up with the team during their time on the water and when they finish to hear how it went.
If you’d like to make a donation to the two amazing charities here’s the link: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/exe-endurow