A Fortunate Man - Jeff


Why row an ocean is the obvious question. My drive to do so comes from a host of personal reasons - and each reason is motivation enough.

An unsuccessful attempt to row the Atlantic last year (the crew I was part of never even left land) was a massive disappointment for me, far greater than I expected, but I never lost sight of my goal.

From the moment I made contact with Fiann Paul, the Skipper, I knew that my desire to actually row across the open seas had genuine potential and that this expedition was beyond just an ocean row. Pioneering and exploration through ocean rowing, I could not let this opportunity pass me by.

Whereas an Atlantic row would have involved being burnt to a crisp with the potential of ending up as shark waste, The Polar Row offers something quite different. Apart from its massivley differing geographical location, and differing time of year departure, I'm going to get to freeze my butt off and potentially have to go toe to paw with a polar bear. I guess the pros and cons of each row out weigh the other.

Since becoming part of The Polar Row crew, which aims to make pioneering history and set new world ocean rowing records, I've been consumed by the thrill, danger and the rewarding challenge of it all.

How eight rowers, from around the world, could unite in the way we have, which has been predominantly through a WhatsApp chat group, is a marvel in itself.

The attention to detail of the hundreds of considerations required just to get the boat in the water has been staggering. The team spirit that has developed amongst us is nothing short of utterly inspiring, and I can't wait to get into the boat with the crew and face the joys and perils our expedition will, without doubt, throw at us.

It's just four weeks before we set out on our pioneering quest and all the emotions I'm currently experiencing are challenging for the prime slot in my head each night before I attempt to sleep.

If the work ethic displayed in preparing for our departure, by each member of the crew, is anything to go by we should be able to offer water skiing off the back of the boat.

The pace and endurance of all involved is of Olympian standard. That is not surprising when you read of the credentials and World Records that Fiann holds in World Ocean Rowing, and that Alex is a five times World Champion and double Olympic gold medalist. Alex and I rowed together in a tank at Oxford University last week, it was a little intimidating for him, but I thought he coped with it quite well. 

The other five members of the crew - Carlo,Danny, Roy, Tor and Tyler all bring amazing pedigree in endurance and exploration pursuits and have all achieved the dizzy heights of human endeavours. 

I'm a single parent of three young men and I have never competed anywhere near this level, but nonetheless I also hold titles such as the bread winner in our family and the owner of the best car in the house, both of which my sons - Morgan,Bryn and Owain have me prove on a regular basis!

The training for this pioneering row has been quite a solitary affair. Hours on the erg, hours in the gym and hours not sleeping because of the head rush you get when you commit yourself to such a project.

My sons, and my partner Jane, have been amazing throughout all of the preparation phase. I guess all would rather I chased a different dream, one less challenging perhaps, but they have all offered their support and understanding of my desire to take part in this historic adventure.

Despite the hard work and trepidation in preparing for The Polar Row, I feel a very fortunate man to have this opportunity to confront the seas with its changing weather patterns, storms, cold climates, polar bears and whales and with no sun set for six weeks ( not that you really sleep ) and also acquiring a sore butt that will eventually end up resembling a pizza from the requirement to row 12 hours a day, for approximately forty days.

Most of all I'm looking forward to achieving success with the team in all the various ways that The Polar Row is being measured and to experiencing some of the more hidden away wonders of our planet.




Jeff Willis