Pair bid to row Atlantic, 60ft waves, shark attacks and just 3,000 miles left to row…



A 22-year-old student will aim to become one of a select handful of people to have rowed the Atlantic, starting on December 12. But Oli Glanville, from Kennington, may be the first to attempt it less than a year after first taking up the sport.

He will row 3,000 miles in about 90 days, alternating sleeping and rowing along with childhood friend George Randell, 22, from Dulwich – they were at Dulwich Prep London secondary school and Oxford together.

Oli, who completed his masters degree in Environmental Governance in September, has the ocean in his blood. His dad, Charles won the Fastnet Race in 1979 with brother-in-law Peter Blake – twice winner of the America’s Cup.

Oli is rowing the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge for Alzheimer’s because his grandfather – another sailing enthusiast, died of the illness.

Oli Glanville knows all too well the risks he runs trying to row the Atlantic. The 22-year-old from Kennington hopes to cross the 3,000 miles of “The Pond” in about 60 days with his best friend, George Randell, and raise thousands for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Oli had not picked up an oar until this year, but the ocean is in his blood. His uncle, Peter Blake, won the 1990 Round the World Yacht Race and was twice victorious in the Americas Cup – but was shot dead by pirates on the Amazon in 2001. Oli’s dad, Charles Glanville, whose sister married Blake, sailed with the New Zealander on the route the boys are taking in 1978. He was also on the crew of a boat which beat the course record by eight hours in the 1979 Fastnet Race under Blake – though that was overshadowed by a disastrous contest that year, when a storm led to the deaths of 15 competitors and three rescuers.

Oli and George have been planning the arduous journey for more than six months, while graduate Oli completed his masters in environmental governance at Oxford. George, from Dulwich, and Oli face the ultimate test to their friendship with sleep deprivation and confined space pushing them to their limits.

But they will also have the legacy of Charles’s dad, John, to draw on – he was an accomplished sailor and Oli often went out on the water with him on visits to his grandparents’ home in Emsworth on the south coast, which is one of the reasons why they are hoping to raise money for  Alzheimer’s – both Oli’s grandparents died of the affliction, so he hopes to raise vital funds for dementia research.

The duo are both taking on the 3,000-mile Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, which starts on December 12, goes from the Canary Islands to Antigua and is known as the world’s toughest rowing race ­–  more people have been to space than rowed the Atlantic. The duo will be at the mercy of storms, huge waves, container ships and even great white shark attacks.

The 22-year-olds will row for 90 minutes each with the other sleeping, on an almost non-stop rotation for around 40 to 60 days. They will have to cope with salts sores, blisters, strained muscles, sleep deprivation and, with just the vast ocean to look at for days on end, hallucinations.

“In a way it is quite selfish to spend 60 days on a boat with limited communication,” said Oli. “We will be exposed to the elements as soon as we leave harbour. There could be 60-foot waves, and container ships might not be able to see us.

“We could also have close encounters with sharks, because we will go slowly enough for algae to start to form on the hull – which attracts fish, which attracts sharks. We will have to try to keep it clean. We expect there will be hurricanes too. The mind starts to wander. I will have plenty of time to think about my future career while we are on the boat, though.

“But the financial side will be very difficult, too – just getting to the start line.”

Also advising them is Olly Hicks, who lives nearby, and from December 2018 will attempt to become the first man to row around the world – and will attempt it in the notoriously dangerous Southern Ocean, beneath the capes of South America, South Africa and Australia.

“Olly has been very helpful, especially advising us on sponsorship,” said Oli. “It will be very expensive, even before we start raising money for charity. His project is vast in comparison.”

The duo, who have called themselves The Oardinary Boys, are hoping George’s rowing experience and Oli’s sailing and navigational skills will help propel them to victory over the other nine pairs in the race. George, who is raising money for the Against Malaria Foundation, said: “Some people just do it to complete the crossing – they take pressure cookers and fishing rods – but we are aiming to do it as quickly as we can.

“Physically we are going to be one of the top crews. We’ve got good technique and the rower/sailor combination will also be an advantage. Oli’s navigational experience should help us plot the best routes to avoid the worst of any storms.”

Oli and George have been friends since they were 10, having attended Dulwich Prep and secondary schools together as well as both studying at Oxford University. However, they admit the challenge will push their friendship to the limits.

Oli said: “We’ve had some very frank conversations about how our friendship is going to be tested. It is a very confined space. You have to get changing places with a grumpy guy who has done 90 minutes of rowing – or one who has been woken too soon after 90 minutes of sleep. Being so close together for such a long time we could end up hating each other, but I think we are in a good place and our friendship will give us an advantage. We have already cycled 1,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End unsupported in nine days; and cycled 1,000 miles around Norway, so we have an idea how we will react.”

Regardless of how quickly they complete the challenge, they will be at sea for both Christmas and George’s birthday. George said: “The race organisers will give us each a stocking to open on Christmas. We will probably give ourselves 45 minutes to enjoy Christmas and then will continue rowing.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do for my birthday yet. I was thinking of having some letters from loved ones to open on the day but it might make me too emotional.”

The pair have made sure they are fully prepared, both emotionally and physically, for the row with strict training plans and regular acclimatisation rows out at sea in the R20 Rannoch Concept Class boat. They will each burn around 10,000 calories a day and are likely to lose 20 per cent of their body weight during the challenge. They are currently trying to eat around 3,000 to 3,500 calories a day with the aim of putting on 15kg to 20kg before they set off so their bodies can cope with the constant calorie burn. On the boat they will aim to consume 5,500 calories a day, eating freeze-dried “space” meals, plus snacks such as biltong and peanut butter.

George: “We have a jet boiler, but as you have to wait 10 minutes for it to boil, we’ll probably just eat the meals cold so we can get more time to sleep. The chicken korma is best; the beef stroganoff is not so good.”
The pair have been in full-time training since April, although George has also had to recover from surgery in July to repair a recurring shoulder problem, having dislocated it around 30 times following a rugby injury in 2013.

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