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Rowers aim to smash 4,000-mile Indian Ocean record

MONDAY 17/02/2003

13:37:22

Two British adventurers today announced a record-breaking attempt to row 4,400 miles across the Indian Ocean. 

Former Army officers Mike Noel-Smith, 45, and Rob Abernethy, 30, are planning to row from western Australia to Africa in the hope of raising £250,000 for children`s charity Sparks.

The friends are flying to the west coast of Australia at the start of April where they will acclimatise for up to one month before setting off.

Mr Noel-Smith said today: ``I`ve done a lot of adventurous stuff in the jungle, but have always relished the opportunity to do something a bit harder than the norm.

``It has taken us a year to put this project together and if everything goes to plan our journey should take 65 days.

``I can`t wait to set a new Guinness world record for crossing the Indian Ocean as well as raising funds for charity that will spur us on.``

They will be the first British double-handed pair to make the crossing and will row three hours on, three hours off every day with slightly longer shifts at night.

They are planning to launch from the Western Australian region of Kalbarri for the 4,400 mile journey to the French Department of the Reunion Island, which lies east of Madagascar.

Olympic rowers Greg Searle and Tim Foster, both supporters of Sparks, attended the launch at the London offices of the voyage sponsor, on-line betting firm Betfare.com.

Mr Foster said: ``In terms of duration on water two and a half hours is a long session for us, but to repeat this every day for 70 days is an incredibly tough challenge.

``Their military training puts them in good stead for their day in day out competing against time and distance.``

Mr Searle said: ``These two guys will be with each other 24 hours a day and that is a difficult challenge. The strains of everyday activity and silly things get out of proportion but they can`t just step off the boat and do something else.

``The achievement will be pretty amazing.``

Mr Noel-Smith, married with three children, is a business leadership consultant. He left the Army in 1992.

Mr Abernethy ended his military career in 1999 and currently works for Betfare.com.

They hope to return to the UK early in July.

The pair are attempting to smash by 14 days the unofficial 64 day record set in 1971 by Swede Anders Svedlund.

Mr Noel-Smith said: ``We know that we can both row the boat and are physically fit enough but the ability to get on with each other is going to be almost one of the prime routes of our success.

``The most difficult thing will be the expectation of moving faster than we want to and combating potential disappointment.

``The other thing is boredom - there is only so much sea you can look at and from a physiological point of view that will be difficult to overcome.``

They have been undertaking an intensive training programme under the guidance of British Olympic triathlon coach Bill Black.

The attempt will be carried out without support vessels in an ocean notoriously susceptible to tropical cyclones.

The boat has global positioning satellite navigation and communication equipment. The team`s full time meteorologist in Australia will give reports weather and currents.

Funds raised by the attempt will finance a Portsmouth University team doing Sparks linked research into how to combat the effects of bacterial septicaemia.

This is a form of meningitis which has an 80% fatality rate and survivors are often left with severe disabilities.

The rowers` progress can be followed on a specially created website - www.transventure.com

Information on supporting the row is available on the Sparks website at www.sparks.org.uk


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