“When I spoke to Darren Taylor about his Pacific Row I hadn’t thought about how far rowing across the Pacific Ocean would really be. In fact, it had never even crossed my mind that this was something that people do. So when he said 2,700- 2,900 miles over 35-70 days I nearly choked on my cup of tea. Thoughts of myself on the rowing machine at the gym entered my head and giving up after 5km complaining: “it hurts”. Darren had my attention and I realised this was not just any old charity event this is set to be something epic.
Darren Taylor, 41, from Charlbury and his friend Alex Flynn ( http://www.alexflynn.co.uk), 41, currently training in France, have set themselves the challenge of entering The New Ocean Wave Pacific Rowing Race (http://www.newoceanwave.com). This is a race that will take them both nearly half way across the Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay in California to Honolulu in Hawaii. It is the first time that an organised race has been attempted in the Pacific and no pair has ever taken on this route before. Darren and Alex are currently the only British male pair in the race, so when they finish it will make them the first British male pair to ever row this route, but they are hoping to go one better and win the pairs category too.
Completely self-sufficient and using rugged purpose-built ocean rowing boat, governed all the time by a set of event rules and a mandatory equipment list to ensure a safe and level playing field, Darren and Alex will row this epic distance; alternating two-hour shifts between them 24 hours a day, every day, for however long it takes, they will compete for the highest accolade.
As I was speaking to Darren and he was telling me about winning this race, I thought there must be something very strong driving this man and motivating him. Then he told me about his rowing partner Alex Flynn and I started to understand. Alex was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at 36 years old and instead of just sitting back and asking ‘why me’, he set himself a challenge, the 10 million metre challenge to be precise. Alex aims to run, cycle, climb, swim, kayak and walk (including crawl) the equivalent of 10 million metres and raise vital funds for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust. Along the way, Alex has undertaken many challenges. In 2011 he ran 1,435 miles from London to Rome in 30 days (running the first 20 marathons in ten days and meeting the Pope) and in 2012 he traversed 3,256 miles across the USA using four different disciplines, becoming the first person to achieve this.
Darren has known Alex since school and had been following his 10 million metres campaign. Although very happy in his work as a Fire Fighter for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue, Darren has always enjoyed adventure and dreamt of rowing the Atlantic. He had sailed from Australia to England at the age of 17 and since then had longed for another adventure at sea. So he approached Alex and asked him if he would like to row the Atlantic with him as part of his 10 million metre challenge. Alex came back with the idea of the New Ocean Wave Pacific Rowing Race and the rest is history so to speak.
So what now for this intrepid duo as the race doesn’t take place until 7th June next year? Well it seems that deciding to row the race was just the start of things. First of all there is a lot of money to raise not only for their two chosen charities: Cure Parkinson’s Trust and The Fire Fighters Charity but also for their £50,000 carbon fibre boat.
Then comes the training, this team wants to win and therefore they have enlisted the help of Oxford University Boat Club to help them train. Darren is currently cycling 140 miles a week, doing two hours a day on the rowing machine and three, five mile runs a week and this is just the early days. Then there is the question of preparing mentally for this challenge. This challenge will push them right out of their comfort zones and for Alex this includes conquering a fear of deep water!!!
I asked Darren what he is most looking forward to with this challenge and he said that being able to use it as a platform to raise awareness of the long term links between Parkinson’s disease and the benefits of exercise.
“According to the Parkinson ’s Disease Foundation, there are up to an estimated 10,000,000 people worldwide that are living with Parkinson’s today. If we can reach even 10% of those people and inspire them to take up exercise as a way to combat their symptoms and having a better quality of life by doing something that is so easily achievable. That’s a lot of people, and it doesn’t stop with them, but also people who don’t have a chronic neurological condition but will feel inspired and energised to take up exercise too. How many times in our lives can we honestly say that we can be part of something that has the potential to help so many? How could I not want to be involved in that? How could anybody not want to be involved in something like that?”
Now the duo just need a little bit of help to get to California to start the race. They are looking for sponsorship from companies to help them with funding for the boat, race entry fees and other expenses that are involved when taking on an ocean row. They have already managed to raise a significant amount through companies agreeing to supply much of the equipment that they will need. The biggest sponsor that they have secured so far is Garmin, who have wanted to be involved with what the pair are doing since they were told about the challenge. They have generously provided all the electrical equipment for the boat.
The companies involved will get advertising in return for their commitment. The Pacific Row 2104 team have the backing of London’s award winning PR Company, Palamedes PR, The Oxfordshire Projects very own Black Dog New Media, Oxfordshire’s local press, as well as the national press. They are booked in to do an hour long slot on BBC Radio Oxford on the 11th of November, and are in talks with Jack FM to see how they can help. Alex’s 10 million Metres campaign has already made some friends within the TV world (BBC, CNN and more) and they are confident that there will be significant interest in this new adventure. On top of all this, sponsors will also have the knowledge that they are giving something back to people with Parkinson’s, which is the biggest thing of all.
Whatever Mother Nature decides to test this pair with, they will have to endure and succeed. Somehow, I believe that’s exactly what they’ll do.
If you would like to get in touch with Darren and find out more about this amazing challenge email:
Written by Jo Woodcock, Jo runs her own blog, Fe-line, that is all about music, fashion and inspirational stories: www.fe-line.co.uk