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

Hertfordshire Life - - ATLANTIC CHALLENGE - WORDS & PHO­TOS: Penny Bird

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

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