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University of Bristol student attempting to break Atlantic rowing record

Jamie Sparks and Luke Birch

Jamie Sparks and Luke Birch

Press release issued: 2 December 2013

A University of Bristol student and his best friend are hoping to enter the record books by becoming the youngest team to row across the Atlantic as well as raising £100,000 for charity.

Jamie Sparks is about to start the challenge of rowing 3,000 nautical miles in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with his friend Luke Birch to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

The race will start today [2 December] from La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, and finish in Antigua around 50 days later.  If Jamie and Luke succeed, they will be the youngest pair to ever row the Atlantic in what is described as the ‘world’s toughest endurance race’.  Currently fewer people have rowed the Atlantic than have travelled into space or climbed Mount Everest.

Jamie, a 3rd year anthropology student, is no stranger to pushing himself - last summer he cycled 1,500 miles from Gibraltar to London.  He said: “We wanted a real adventure, and what bigger adventure could there be than rowing the 3,000 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean – a distance longer than the width of Australia – with only each other to turn to for help?”

Jamie and Luke, both 21, have been training since the summer of 2012 and are motivated to raise money for Breast Cancer Care through personal experience.  Luke lost his grandmother to breast cancer a few years ago and then last year his mother was also diagnosed and has been undergoing treatment. 

Luke, who’s studying at Edinburgh University, said: “My Mum received some fantastic care and support throughout her treatment, so if my big Atlantic row with my best mate, Jamie, can help ensure others get the same kind of care as my mother then it will be worth it.” 

Their training has involved rowing hundreds of practice miles on their boat and rowing machines, as well as gaining a RVA Yachtmaster Ocean Theory certificate, a First Aid certificate and a RYA Basic Sea Survival course completion certificate. 

During the race, they will not be allowed any outside assistance and will have to survive with onboard supplies, making up their dehydrated food with water produced by a solar powered desalinator. 

Jamie describes himself and Luke as being ‘tremendously excited’ and they have already raised £77,000 towards their goal.

The two-person challenge is non-stop, rowing in two hour shifts, and the friends will be burning 10,000 calories a day, facing 50 foot waves, three day storms and mental and bodily breakdown.  Their target for crossing is 50 days, and they will become the youngest pair ever to row the Atlantic, beating the current record holders’ age by 200 days.

Follow Jamie and Luke’s progress via their website, or on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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