British teachers to embark on a rowing race for a cause
Lee Felton and Sean Lannon gear up for SquareOneAtlantic.
Dubai - British teachers based in Dubai will embark on the world's toughest rowing race to raise awareness on global human trafficking.
Two men, two months and one small boat. December 14, 2015, may spark little interest from many this year, but for two British expatriates, it will mark the beginning of an epic challenge to combat global human trafficking.
Next month, Dubai-based teachers Lee Felton and Sean Lannon will embark on the 3,000km Talisker Atlantic Challenge - also known as the 'toughest rowing race' in the world.
Initially, when speaking to Khaleej Times back in September, the duo planned to battle the open Atlantic as part of a foursome, but circumstance has left them no choice but to go at it on their own.
"We planned on having a four-member team, but one of our guys had to drop out because of family issues and we just never found that fourth member who was willing to take part," Felton told Khaleej Times last week.
The obvious challenges ahead will see the pair - dubbed SquareOneAtlantic - vigorously row through 50-foot waves and endure the odd encounter with a whale or shark.
But with 50 per cent of the expected team now missing in action, the biggest challenge now will be their physical and mental strength. Felton said he has the will power and mentality to succeed, but time will tell whether his arms can take the pressure of 12-14 hour rowing shifts.
"We're trying to focus on the positives. Less people means less equipment, more space on the boat and less food to share. The rubbish thing about it is the extra rowing we'll both have to endure."
Packing an extra two stone in weight since September, Felton said the sudden weight gain may seem odd to most, but it was actually recommended by the competition organisers.
"We're going to be burning up to 8,000 to 10,000 calories per day. That's an incredible amount, so the extra weight will soon burn off."
The pair's 29x6-foot boat will act as their place of work, rest, and sleep throughout the predicted 60-day duration. And it will be a small cubby-hole, measuring 6x3-foot, which will offer the only shelter from the outside elements.
"That tiny space will become a luxury, a safe haven and maybe even a life saver for us."
Given the dynamics of the boat, Felton said it is able to "self right itself", meaning if the boat rolls over, it can easily roll upright again.
"As long as we shut the hatch and keep the water out from that area, we can safely stay there if the boat does roll. A guy I did a sea survival course with was in that situation once. His boat rolled 24 times and he likened it to being in a washing machine." But for now, Felton said he is focusing on the positives and concentrating more on the art of "being prepared".
"I'm going in with the attitude of 'get in the brace position and hope for the best'."
Despite having just half of the team they hoped for, Felton and Lannon only expect to add another four days on to their journey, but the path to the finish line will be tough. Rowing in sync from morning to evening for nine hours each day, the duo aims to take 20-minute breaks every three hours to "stretch their legs and rest their arms".
During the evenings, they will split the rowing shifts into four-hour segments.
"Someone has to keep rowing, otherwise we will lose a lot of days. The plan is to take a four-hour nap while one rows. We'll alternate that pattern in the evening," he said.
And then once a week will come the "big treat".
"That's when we'll use the para-anchor. It's like a big parachute that we'll fill with water and it will act as an anchor to keep the boat stationary. When we drop that we'll both try and get in some good solid sleep."
Why they are doing it
This ultimate test of endurance will see SquareOneAtlantic survive on little to no sleep, dehydrated freeze pack food and desalinated sea water.
With a $2 a minute satellite phone acting as their only connection to the outside world, the question of 'why?' was an obvious one.
"The physical and emotional strain will be testing but we're raising funds for 'Sport for Freedom' which raises awareness on human trafficking. To me, that's reason enough."
Just weeks before the trip, friends and family have been putting bets on how hairy the men will return, given the zero access to grooming facilitates on board.
And a bald-headed Felton is sceptical of the outcome. "I'm a little thin on top so if my hair does grow it will likely have a little bald patch in the middle like Friar Tuck from Robin Hood."
Felton and Lannon land in Gran Canaria - the competition's starting destination - on November 30 and will spend Christmas and New Year at sea.
With plans to conclude the race in Antigua by early February, 2016, the duo is all set for the complexities ahead. To give them something to work towards, they have booked a ticket to return to Dubai on February 12 so as to enjoy Valentines Day with their partners.