And a very happy New Year to you all, unless you
are in Ethiopia, in which case Happy Easter! Enjoy that chocolate, don't eat it
all at once!
This isn't going to be a conventional blog from us;
we are both going to say a little piece (now that we have a soap box to stand
on!) and then James will return to our 'nornal' day-by-day accounts
This time last year i was on the Isle of Mull, in a
place called the Wilderness (it's on the map, have a look, and yes it's pretty
wild!). This year James and i find ourselves in a genuine wilderness and have
taken a moment to appreciate the magnitude of the task we have set ourselves. By
this, i don't merely refer to rowing across an ocean but to this whole
project, which has taken up our lives since its inception in July
I first heard that it was possible to cross the
Atlantic by human power alone back in 2001 when a friend told me of one Martin
Wood's plan to row the Atlantic. In 2003 Martin made his crossing in the boat
Pacific Pete. The next time i was to be confronted with Atlantic Rowing was when
i met Chris Martin, Pacific Pete's captain of the ship for the 2005 race at
Henley in July 2006. i was highly impressed by Chris and what he ad done, and
the row was on my mind when, quite out of the blue, James sent me an email 2
weeks later with a link to the race website and a little script saying simply:
"Let's do something stupid like this."
At the time i was looking for a project, i needed
something to really focus on in my life and this seemed like the ideal
opportunity. James seemed at first an unlikely compatriot, but his enthusiasm
from the start and his undoubted dedication to fitness (James is naturally
rather chubby and only looks the way he does due to hours of grooming in
the gym) impressed me enough to agree immediately to his proposal.
Within a few days of having sent our deposit and
upon the realisation that we were now committed we decided that we'd like to do
our bit for charity if at all possible and use the row as a vehicle for that.
For me there was no choice who i wanted to support, i don't abide the
poor or the homeless so wasn't going to raise money for them, it had to be
a conservation and education charity and i could think of none better than
Bristol Zoo Gardens. The zoo, as well as being a wonderful destination for
all the family, also runs several important conservation programmes, which James
will touch on in his piece here. The Zoo also acts as a home for animals that
would otherwise have suffered a terrible existence elsewhere: for example Jock
the Gorilla was rescued from a circus and the dwarf crocodiles were rescued by
customs on their way to become Jimmy Nail's shoes. Rather than have these
animals put down, the Zoo provides a home for them and offers us the chance to
learn about these wonderful animals, which in turn will hopefully inspire many
of us to try and influence the plight of these species in the wild.
It has been a true pleasure to work with the staff
at Bristol Zoo over this past 18 months and it has been an honour to promote
their cause in any way we possibly can.
In terms of this as an adventure, it has surpassed
anything i have ever done before. The incessant nature of what we are doing, the
relentless power of the ocean, the confines of the boat, the enormity of
the distances involved and so many other things add up to make this a
phenomenal challenge, and that is to ignore the immense challenge to get to the
start line in the first place, which took more out of me than i care to write!
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people
who inspire me in every way, my marvellous family whose enthusiasm for life and
for adventure knows no bounds and my wonderful friends who contribute to my
life in so many ways. I always aim to be inspired by them and to inspire them in
turn in my actions and deeds. We have but one life with which to chart our own
course and more fool they who neglect the wonderful opportunities we
have to explore, adventure and inquire. Don't stand idle and let life pass you
by; the stories you tell your grandchildren are yours to write.
I will leave you with the words of Rudyard Kipling
and the last verse of the poem 'If':
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
with sixty seconds worth of distance
yours is the earth and all that is in
and which is more you'll be a man my
Happy New Year everyone, i hope you run your heart
Happy New Year to you all! i hope that you had an
enjoyable time, for most of you it is back to work tomorrow.
i thought today would be a good day to tell you
about why i am here, how it started and what i/we hope to achieve from it. it
started in june 2006, i was already familiar with the atlantic rowing race but
had never relly paid much attention to it. at that time james cracknell and ben
fogle were getting a lot of publicity having just successflly completed the
race, i looked through their website and the website of woodvale (race
organisers) and became hooked. now who could i ask to seriously consider taking
part with me......after exhausting my phone book, handing out flyers and even
asking the checkout guy is sainsburys there was still nobody i thought suitable.
then i thought of niall, now the guy had claimed to have done a lot of stuff so
i thought id ask him (he didnt know anyone else either), i sent him a link to
the website with a messge 'lets do something stupid like this'! to which he
responded with enthusiasm. before long we had paid a deposit, met with our
excellent boatbuilder and were well and truely commited.
we thought the challenge could be an excellent tool
to raise money and publicity for a worthwhile charity, when niall suggested
bristol zoo i thought it was an excellent idea, they are very local to us, carry
out excellent work in the community and abroad and we are both passionate about
animals (in a legal way). we soon met with jo gipps the director of the zoo who
was very enthsiastic and suggested we chose one of the zoos many conservation
projects to specifically support. the one which stood out for us was the
Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund (CWAF) who are involved in trying to put a stop
to the bushmeat trade in western africa.
Bushmeat is a huge problem in and around cameroon
where wild animals are being killed in huge numbers for their meats which is
then sold at markets or shipped worldwide, often these animals have young which
if they are not killed are often sold of as exotic pets. in particular species
of lowland gorilla, chimpanzees and drills are being hunted and killed on a
daily basis, at the current rate some of these species may well becoame extinct
in the next century! CWAF aims to provide a safe and secure environment for
these animals to live and breed, they also nurse back to help animals which may
have been hurt (gunshots are common), raise young and reintroduce them as they
get older. But their work does not stop there, they are actively going out into
the community educating locals about these amazing animals, also providing
farmland and farming techniques so that people may feed themselves without the
need for illegal meats.
the work of CWAF is invaluable in sustaining the
populations of these species, therefore niall and i have been pleased that over
the last year we have been able to gain a fair amount of exposure and publicity
for the cause albeit mainly locally. our original aim was to raise a large
amount of money for CWAF to help sustain them for years to come and with your
help this may still be possible. Unfortuantely the atlantic rowing race is a
very expensive event to take part in, fundraising and sponsorship has been much
harder than either of us thought it ever would be, especially as we both work
full time. therefore it is unfortunate that the cheque which we handover is
unlikely to be as large as we would have hoped. However we hope to continue
supporting the Zoo and CWAF by taking part in future challenges and publicising
the cause throught the local community and schools.
i also hope that this challenge may inspire some of
you to try something amazing, maybe something you thought might not be
previously possible. i am very much a normal guy (ok maybe a bit better looking
and in better shape), i have never travelled nor did i even go to
university. the most adventurous thing i did before this was work in malia for a
few weeks and wear a short sleeved shirt in the winter. yet i decided i wanted
to do this and now i am, in the process we even managed to break a world record
for indoor endurance rowing! a couple of years ago i would never had thought i
would do anything remotely like this, yeat i am truely grateful to be here and
will come out the other side a much better, stronger person.
it has amazed me the support that has been shown to us, for myself it has
particularly been from from my family. my parents certainly arent used to one of
their children doing something like this and although they are of course worried
about me they have been fantastic from day one. my sisters make the effort to
email every day which is great, their support has also been amazing and i
feel closer to them than ever before. then of course ther is my girlfriend jess
who i have mentioned before, she has been truely remarkable and has been my main
source of motivation. jess i love you and cant wait to see you!
i wish you all avery successful and happy 2008, i
am very much looking forward to what the year will bring.
Please be warned that not all my blogs will be this
serious, tomorrow i a going to pop a couple of nialls special pills and see what
have a great new years day, appreciate where you
are and who you are with.
oh a quick hello to my lovely neices
erin - i hope you are looking forward to going back
to school, remember youre too young for a boyfriend and uncle james will have to
have a word!
tayler - im really looking forward to your birthday
party, the place sounds great!
evie - we have a fish which now lives under the
boat and swims out whenever we throw anything overboard. i named it Dora for