We just heard about an innovative new fundraising campaign called Rowing4Research that made us want to jump into the proverbial waters — especially since I (believe it or not) was on the rowing team in college for a year in Long Beach, CA.
In this case, Alexander Bland nor Harry Martin-Dreyer, a pair of 20-somethings from the United Kingdom, plan to spend two months rowing a boat… 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, to raise money that will go in part to research for diabetes.
While neither are living with diabetes themselves, this is still a personal cause; Alexander’s older brother has been living with type 1 for years, which sparked the D-research angle of the rowing adventure that’s also raising money for leukemia as Harry’s charity of choice. The two hope to raise at least $150,000 to split between two charities — JDRF and Cure Leukaemia — before they set sail on Dec. 1.
Surely this will get a lot of support in their home country on the heels of recent news that Britain’s Home Secretary and Minister of Women and Equality, Theresa May, has been diagnosed with type 1.
Our newest addition, Amanda, recently caught up with Alexander, a passionate Type Awesome sibling, to get the scoop this incredible undertaking:
Alexander Bland, 26, from Shropshire (a county in England), met Harry Martin-Dreyer, also 26 and from Shropshire, in school when the two were 13 years old. They’ve remained friends ever since, and after attending university, they both moved to London for work. It was around this time that they decided to do something to give back to the community.
“As often is the case with these things, it evolved out of a discussion at the pub,” Alexander said. “We had the desire to do something a bit crazy. We were getting a bit claustrophobic in the city. We wanted to give a bit more back to society and try to find out a bit more about ourselves.”
After doing some research, the two decided to plan a trip rowing a roughly 23-foot boat from Gran Canaria Island in the Canary Islands, to Port St. Charles in Barbados. They plan to set sail in December, and the current route they’re targeting is just under 3,000 miles. Together, they’ll attempt the challenge across the Atlantic Ocean in the searing heat of the day and the darkness of night, rowing in two hour shifts, 24 hours a day and every day no matter what they face — tropic storms, 40-foot waves, colossal super tankers and even sharks!
Alexander and Harry each chose a charity to benefit. Alexander chose JDRF because his older brother, Ross, was diagnosed with type 1 at 16 years old. Ross is doing well now, but Alexander remembers that it was a challenge for his brother when he was first diagnosed. He suffered a hypoglycemic reaction at age 20 that resulted in memory loss, causing him to miss a year of university. Harry chose Cure Leukaemia because his mom died from complications resulting from treatment of the disease.
Alexander’s brother, Ross, says he struggled with diabetes in his teens and early 20s, but his brother was especially quick to help him regain confidence, so he could carry on with life despite all many early D-mistakes. That’s helped him take on his own adventures and challenges, just as Alexander and Harry are now doing with their rowing.
“Whether it’s fishing in the isolated mountains of Scotland or sailing the coast of Croatia, I always have to plan ahead to make sure that I don’t find myself in trouble,” Ross says. “No matter where am I am or what I’m doing, there will always be that concern in the back of my mind of what my sugar levels are, what my next meal will be and whether I have enough insulin. It will never go away.”
This constant concern is a key reason behind Alexander’s passion to raise money for diabetes research, to help improve treatments and eventually cure type 1.
So far, they’ve raised about $26,000 of their £100,000 goal (about $154,000), and they have additional fundraising events planned for the fall to help them reach their goal, including a 400-person dinner and an auction.
They expect the trip to cost around $80,000 total, which includes the cost of the boat, supplies and a small team that will communicate with them from land via satellite phone. These costs are being covered by corporate sponsors and will not be taken from donations received, which will go straight to the charities. While they plan to split the total funds raised equally between the two charities, anyone who donates can choose to donate to one cause over the other.
But fundraising is only half the challenge for Alexander and Harry, who admit they aren’t expert rowers.
“It’s a new sport for us,” Alexander said. “We’re training to get up to speed.”
Alexander quit his job in investment management to prepare for the feat. Harry will be quitting his job at the end of August.
Their training includes marathon rowing sessions of up to 12 hours at a time, cycling, swimming, running and gaining about 50 pounds each.
The pair will take alternating two-hour shifts — one sleeps while the other rows and vice versa — 24 hours a day until they reach their destination. They estimate that the trip should take about two months depending on weather, but they are bringing enough supplies for up to three months.
Their supplies include a water desalination machine, several sets of oars, life jackets, emergency beacons and food.
Alexander and Harry plan to communicate via satellite phone with a small team on land every day. The team will be monitoring the weather, and will alert them to any and all potential hazards. Other than that, they are unsupported, and said this means they need to be extra cautious.
“It is dangerous, there are risks,” Alexander said. “As long as we’re well prepared then we can mitigate these risks.”
The first successful crossing of an ocean by oar power alone occurred in 1896, according to the website devoted to the cause. Since then, several others have followed suit.
Alexander says they hope to add the research aspect to the record books for these kinds of crossings.
When they embark on their journey in December, you’ll be able to track their progress by visiting their Rowing4Research website, and support their efforts by donating to their cause as they row along.
And what does Ross think about this whole adventure?
“I applaud my brother for two reasons: Firstly, I am absolutely amazed that he has decided to undertake such a challenge. I, like many others, would never embark on such a long, lonely and gruesome voyage,” Ross said. “I am also delighted that he’s going through all that pain in aid of finding a cure for diabetes. JDRF are key players in achieving this goal and I am very happy to see Alex choose JDRF as I feel that the money he raises could not be better spent.”
Pretty amazing stuff… We wish Alexander and Harry the best of luck on their rowing adventures — and hats off to Ross for not only having such a supportive brother, but for taking on his own challenges and proving that ‘You Can Do This‘ even with diabetes!