A daring University of Northampton graduate who had never picked up an oar before is preparing to spend two months contending with hungry sharks, gigantic whales, hurricane-strength storms and 50ft-waves as he attempts to row across the Atlantic Ocean.
James Whittle, 24, has teamed up with friend Tom Caulfield, 25, to take part in the 2015 Talisker Whiskey Challenge – a 3,000-mile rowing race from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean island of Antigua.
The gruelling voyage is widely known as the toughest race on Earth, and is guaranteed to push James and Tom to their absolute limits both mentally and physically.
The pair, who will be rowing as The Tempest Two, will set off in December and row 24 hours a day in shifts of two hours-on and two hours-off for up to 60 days.
“We have never rowed before, but it doesn’t make us nervous as we understand that this journey, like most things in life, are made possible or impossible in your head,” said James.
“Having said that, this is an almighty feat that we are not taking lightly in any sense. We are training five-to-six days a week to get physically fit enough to row 12 hours a day each.
“We will not be novices by the time we start the row. We really want to use this journey as an opportunity to show that anyone can do anything if they want to enough.
“If you want to do something enough, then you can make it happen – so many people have advised us against doing this row and we are constantly told how stupid we are being but you have to put that aside and find the real reasons you want to pursue the activity.”
James added: “The majority of crossings to date have had close shaves with curious predators, with one boat being repeatedly rammed by a hungry shark and others escaping the unassuming power of a whale’s tail-fin by a whisker.”
To enter the race, The Tempest Two need to raise £120,000 to pay for the boat and other essential items including food packs for energy.
After that, all sponsorship will be split between the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Brian Tumour Research, with the duo aiming to raise £200,000 for the two charities.
James, who studied Sports Marketing at the University of Northampton, said: “Brain Tumour Research is a cause that is close to my heart because my mum suffered from a brain tumour while I was at university. Thankfully, she is in remission and has beaten the tumour – so this is my way of saying thank you to the charity.”
The University of Northampton has sponsored the Tempest Two, who are also being backed by Saracens Rugby Club, whose players have helped James and Tom with their training.
Alan Seymour, who is Sports Marketing Management Course Leader at the University, and James’s former tutor, said: “This is typical James, as he studied and involved himself in sports brand adventures, notably Red Bull, so this challenge is very appropriate.
“I wish him all the success in the world and undoubtedly he will use his skill, determination and competencies developed on the course to good effect in this worthwhile pursuit.”