In June 2018, four British men plan to row their way into the record books by becoming the fastest four-man crew to row the Indian Ocean. Only half of the crews that have attempted the crossing have been successful – less than 50 people can claim to have rowed across the Indian Ocean. To put that into context, over 500 people have been into space, and Everest has been summited over 7,500 times.
The quartet will start their journey in Exmouth, Western Australia and row 3,600 nautical miles in a 29-foot long ocean rowing boat until they reach their destination in Port Louis, Mauritius. The crew will be unsupported and once they leave Western Australia, they will be on their own and at the mercy of the elements and vast open ocean.
The journey is likely to be fraught with many dangers and discomforts. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion are real concerns, especially as they will be rowing non-stop day and night in a 2-hour on/off shift pattern. Extreme weather conditions and temperatures could hamper their challenge. And then there are other dangers that are less obvious such as passing tankers, whales and sharks – all of which could inflict severe damage or even sink the boat.
Because there is no support crew, the men must also deal with any health issues – salt sores, blisters, infections etc. and boat or equipment fails themselves. The crossing will be an enormous mental and physical challenge.
The crew will leave Exmouth in Western Australia and arrive in Port Louis, Mauritius. If they achieve their goal, they will have rowed 3,600 miles of open ocean. Much of their success will be dependent on the weather system they encounter on route. In 2014, a crew of four who had intended to make land in Mauritius found themselves being pushed North by a large weather system and ended up in the Seychelles adding another 800 miles on their journey. This is a huge worry especially when you only have a limited food supply.
The current system that dominates the Indian Ocean should push the boat in the right direction towards Mauritius and the prevailing winds for that time of year is expected to work in their favour. Of course, the weather is unpredictable so the team will have a weather router in the UK to keep an eye on things and assess how it might impact their journey.
Their average speed will be in the region of 2-3 knots so they will not be able to navigate any large meteorological event. Having regular updates will ensure they put themselves in the best possible position at the speeds they will be travelling.
Another advantage of having Port Louis as their final destination is that large container and cargo ships pass through regularly. This means that the crew will be able to transport the boat back to the UK saving money on shipping costs. Those savings can be passed on to the charities that they are raising funds for.
Raise awareness and funds for Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease
The aim of the Indian Ocean Row is to raise awareness and much needed funds for Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. The crew want to improve and build the support network for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s at a young age. They also want to spread the word and promote the benefits of exercise and healthy living as a way of improving the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s.
Supporting vital research into Parkinson’s
Robin’s involvement in the row will support vital research into the disease. Oxford Brookes University’s Movement Science Group will closely monitor Robin’s motor skills pre, during and post the row to better understand how his metabolic, cardiovascular and neuro-muscular system cope and adapt to prolonged endurance activity.
Already the study is providing important insights into the condition and could redefine how Parkinson’s is viewed and ultimately treated through new drug therapies and neuro-rehabilitation programmes.
Row the Indian Ocean Schools Project
As well as promoting a healthy, active lifestyle to those living with Young Onset Parkinson’s, the crew are using the row as an opportunity to encourage school children to take up exercise and be inspired by the world around them.
The crew will live-stream to schools around the country so that children can chat to them about a whole host of topics including geography, oceanography, meteorology and marine life and conservation. The boat will also be fitted with a tracker so the children can follow the crew’s progress online.