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Tom Riley and Jim Davidson, who met while members of the University’s rowing team, plan to spend 60 days crossing 3,800 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, in a four-man boat to raise funds for Surfers Against Sewage and Our Blue Light. 

And not only are the pair hoping to break records during this epic voyage, but they will also be collecting data that will feed into the University’s psychological and environmental research. 

The Mainland to Mainland Atlantic 4 challenge will be longer than most Atlantic crossings; starting and finishing on the mainland rather than islands, it will cover 800 extra miles. 

The challenge starts in Portimao, on the south coast of Portugal where the team will set off in its Pure Class boat called Trilogy. They will then push southwest towards the Canary Islands, before tracking the African coast towards South America. Once level with the Cape Verde Islands, they will head due west across the vast Atlantic Ocean to French Guiana, approaching Cayenne – the capital of French Guiana – where their challenge ends. 

Tom, who studied International Development Studies and Natural Hazard Management, said: “The idea of rowing across the Atlantic was planted some time ago and has been in the back of my mind for several years. Now is the time for that challenge to be realised. By rowing continuously for over 60 days to cross a 3,800-mile ocean in a 29ft boat, this is an adventure that will push my mind and body to the limit. 

“Finding teammates with a similar appetite for suffering proved easier than expected. My old University of Chester rowing partner Jim jumped at the idea.” 

Jim, who studied Sport and Exercise Sciences while at the University, has been a rowing coach since graduating, having worked for British Rowing, and is now the head rowing coach at George Herriot's School in Edinburgh.  

“I am sure my coaching experience, together with my sports science background, means I can add useful skills and knowledge to the crew. This is something I aim to share as much as possible during our crossing. 

“I have always had a craving for adventure. I have travelled to over 50 countries across six different continents, with plenty of challenges along the way. The most notable of which was a 3,000km hike from the bottom to the top of New Zealand, with my long-suffering wife, Michelle! 

“The thought of rowing the Atlantic has been at the pinnacle of my lifetime goals as it is the ultimate adventure. When Tom first mentioned he was rowing the Atlantic and asked me if I fancied joining him, there was no mulling it over. I had already done that for years. I was ready. My answer was yes!” 

Tom, a paramedic by day, added: “We’re not ignorant to the monumental challenge that lies ahead of us. Leaving behind loved ones to sign up for weeks of sleep deprivation, sea sickness and sore bottoms. But I am excited to push myself, discover new experiences, make new friends and, most of all, set off on an adventure. 

“I am eager for the opportunity to raise awareness and funding for our two chosen charities. So much enjoyment will come from the crossing, not least the ocean wildlife that we’ll see. It seems only right to give a little back. 

"We’ll be collecting a range of data for the University’s Biological Sciences Department, but we are particularly excited to be collecting data on microplastics in the ocean. This fits well with our project that aims to raise awareness of the ocean crisis.  

“We are also doing daily video diaries for the  Psychology Department to gain an insight into how athletes cope in extreme circumstances.” 

The University is one of several sponsors for the trip, and the pair are extremely grateful for the support. 

Tom said: “We both had a fantastic time at university both academically and socially. Rowing was a big part of our lives and where we made our close friends. The generous sponsorship from the university will help us to buy some of the vital safety equipment for the crossing such as communication equipment to stay connected with the land.” 

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