INTO THE BLUE
It’s 3,000 miles of ocean, two hours on and two hours off for around 40 days – a St Albans geologist is taking up the challenge of rowing the Atlantic
Would you test yourself to the edge of human endurance? There are those in Hertfordshire who will. Meet Isaac Kenyon, a 24year-old world record holder from St Albans, also a philanthropist, pioneering geologist and possible madman planning to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.
Dubbed the world’s toughest row, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race starts from La Gomera in the Canaries in December and finishes in Antigua in the West Indies around 40 days later.
Isaac is part of the fourman Atlantic Discovery team taking on the race. Fellow crew members Ben Ajayi-Obe of Berkshire, Jack Hopkins of
Somerset and Cameron Parker, living in Zurich but spending a lot of pre-race preparation time at his sister’s home in Herts, will set off in a 28ft rowing boat, loaded with almost a tonne of manpower, supplies and equipment. They will row continuously in shifts of two hours. Atlantic Discovery and the other 30 boats taking part will be unsupported during the crossing. The extreme journey will be a test of mental and physical endurance, beyond anything the participants have encountered before.
So what motivated Isaac to face extreme temperatures, sun exposure, freeze-dried meals, severe sleep deprivation, callouses, blisters, seasickness, 20ft waves and, most scarily, the unknown?
‘This crossing is an opportunity for me to combine my desire for personal growth, my love of all things salty and my interest in helping others.’
He adds that a big part of this three-year experience is learning about himself. ‘It’s how I deal with challenging situations, overcome difficulty, manage stress and find my limits. I’m also building on my project management, fundraising and negotiation skills and setting the foundation for my future career aspirations.’
‘It’s an opportunity to combine personal growth, a love of all things salty and helping others’
Isaac discovered a love for the sea a few years ago through his national level competitive swimming and, despite living almost at the furthest point from the coast in Britain, he had a keen interest in learning to row and sail.
‘Over the past 10 years I have taken part in at least 15 different sporting events to raise money for various causes. It gives me a really good feeling to be making a small contribution to people who don’t have the same privilege of good health and circumstance that I have.’
For team Atlantic Discovery, it’s Ben’s mother Rose who is the inspiration. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 18 years ago, shortly after her daughter was born and Ben was still at school.
‘I always feel humbled when I listen to Ben telling me how his mum overcomes her symptoms with determination and grit every day,’ Isaac says. ‘Atlantic Discovery has chosen to row for Rose (#row4rose), hopefully raising awareness of MS which affects 100,000 people in the UK. Our total fundraising target is £60,000, which we hope will make a difference.’
How do you prepare for such a mammoth challenge?
‘First I had to learn to row and start training. As part of the process, Ben and I did a couple of world record attempts. I am pleased to have been awarded a world record for longest ergometer row on an indoor rowing machine in the lightweight category (83 hours in May). Ben holds the world record for heavyweight category (100 hours and 30 minutes). Earlier this year we achieved the world record for longest continuous row on an indoor rowing machine mixed team (33 hours in January).
‘In addition to making sure we are in top condition physically and mentally, we are preparing our boat Ellida, our food and water supplies, learning and understanding safety and navigation procedures, teambuilding, managing our PR and social media presence, approaching potential sponsors and fundraising for our chosen charities. There’s not much time for a social life!’
Atlantic Discovery team, with Isaac at the front, in their heavy weather gear
Atlantic Discovery on a training exercise off Weymouth
The crew will face 20-foot waves, exposure and sleep deprivation on their epic journey
Atlantic Challenge – unsupported across 3,000 miles of ocean from Africa to the West Indies