(One of) Two Boys in a Boat

Aside from work for publishers and copywriting agencies, I occasionally get asked to help out on personal projects. Last winter, I got chatting to a neighbour, Rod Sparks, at our local gym. He told me that his son Jamie and his friend, Luke Birch, were about to take part in the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, attempting to become the youngest pair ever to row the Atlantic. They were also aiming to raise £150,000 for the Breast Cancer Care charity, a cause close to Luke’s heart as his mother is a breast cancer survivor.

In the coming weeks, I followed the two students’ pre-race fundraising activities and then the race itself via the 2boysinaboat.com website. On Monday 27 January, after 54 days of non-stop rowing (the boys rowed individually in two-hour shifts for the entire crossing, with no more than 80 minutes sleep at a time between shifts) covering 3,000 nautical miles, they crossed the finishing line to complete their unlikely mission. In the process, they had raised over £300,000 for Breast Cancer Care.

A week or so later, Rod asked me to interview Jamie about the entire experience before some details became hazy. So we sat down one afternoon and over four hours Jamie recounted everything from the genesis of the idea to participate in the race, through the intense technical, mental and physical preparations, to the trials of rowing an ocean in a 24-foot long boat which tested his friendship with Luke to the limit and caused unspeakable pain in his nether regions. It sounded like a nightmare, generally, but the intermittent visceral thrills and overriding sense of achievement compelled Jamie to start planning his next expedition within a couple of days of finishing. I suspect completing this extraordinary challenge may just be the beginning of the adventure.