The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records






For immediate release: Saturday, 19 April, 2003


- Betfair Indian Ocean World Record Row To Raise Ј1/4 Million for SPARKS Charity -

(Carnarvon, Western Australia, 19/4/03) Mike Noel-Smith (45) and Rob Abernethy (31), two ex-soldiers from the UK, today set out on the Betfair Indian Ocean World Record Row from Carnarvon, about 1000 km north of Perth, Australia, to Africa, a distance of 4400 nautical miles. The two British motivational training and change management experts will be putting themselves through the toughest self-motivation test yet as they attempt to row, unaided, across the Indian Ocean in record time. The duo hope to make landfall on Reunion Island in about 60 days time, setting an official Guinness World Record. The row is sponsored by Betfair (www.betfair.com), the company revolutionising betting, and it is hoped to raise some 250,000 for the children's charity, SPARKS, monies which will be used specifically to help fund investigations into septicaemia at the University of Portsmouth.

Mark Davies, Director of Communications of the title sponsor, Betfair, said:

"Rob and Mike have prepared thoroughly for this venture for the past 8 months. The boat, betfair.com, is kitted out with the latest GPS navigation, charting and communication equipment and we believe this is the best equipped and safest ocean row ever. The boys, too, are in great shape and for the last eight months have been training under the supervision of British Olympic Medical Centre with Bill Black, the British Triathlon Coach."

The ocean-going boat is just over 7 metres long and 2 metres at the beam. Fully laden it weighs just less than 1 tonne. For their start the rowers will have the benefit of a full moon which will not only give them good night-time visibility but means that the trawlers which frequent the busy fishing lanes around the islands 30 miles off the coast will be in port, minimising the possibility of collision. They will also have the benefit of easterly winds in the first critical days to get beyond the Continental Shelf and the Lewin Current. During this period Noel-Smith and Abernethy will probably need to row together. Given Easterlies, they will find themselves in open ocean, about 200 miles off the coast, in 3 to 4 days. From there the pair will row in 3 hour stints, 24 hours a day, except when they need to take shelter.

SPARKS, Sport Aiding Medical Research for Kids, was set up by some of Britain's best-known celebrities from the world of sport and entertainment to fund vital research into conditions that affect babies and children, including childhood cancers, premature birth, spina bifida and bone diseases. SPARKS' aim is for children to be born healthy. Over Ј9 million has been raised for SPARKS-funded research all over the UK in the last decade. SPARKS sporting and event ambassadors Will Greenwood, Tracy Edwards and, most relevantly, world-famous rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster, are all endorsing the Betfair Indian Ocean World Record Row.

Tim Foster, part of the famous gold-medal winning coxless fours team at the Sydney Olympics 2000, said on behalf of SPARKS:

"Mike and Rob feel very strongly that the funds they generate from the row go into a specific project and the Portsmouth University team is doing groundbreaking research into how to combat the devastating effects of bacterial septicaemia. This form of meningitis has an 80% fatality rate and survivors are often left with severe disabilities. The funds raised by Mike and Rob will help ensure this good work goes on.

What Mike and Rob are attempting is very brave. With its unique currents and weather patterns, including tropical cyclones, the Indian Ocean can be very unpredictable. However I'm sure their training and preparation will see them through."

To keep up their strength Noel-Smith and Abernethy will eat their way through 6000 calories of rations a day. Food will be cooked in a cramped cabin which will also act a sleeping quarters. As well as high energy drinks they have their own watermaker as well as 30 litre water containers that double up as ballast. The pair will complement their diet with fish from the Indian Ocean which, as well as being the world's third largest, is also the richest in marine life. To optimise progress, the crew have the backing of a team of meteorologists, one in Australia, one in California, who will give them up to the minute information on weather, winds and currents.

The public can follow the duo's progress on a specially created website (www.transventure.com) and can find out how they themselves can support the row via that site and the SPARKS website (www.sparks.org.uk).

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors: 

1. Betfair (www.betfair.com) was the first person-to-person betting exchange and retains an estimated 90% of the market. A betting exchange allows punters to bet on prices set by punters themselves rather than by a bookmaker, which, by one independent study, results in Betfair's odds being 20% better than bookmakers' starting prices. 

2. Betfair was launched in June 2000 and is already the UK's No 1 online betting company. At peak times the exchange - based on the NYSE - matches up to 12,000 bets a minute. 

3. The company's co-founders - former professional gambler Andrew Black and former JPMorgan vice-president Edward Wray - were jointly voted Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2002.

4. In 2002, Betfair was the 4th biggest sponsor of horse races in the UK in terms of the number of races covered. The company is also currently the shirt sponsor of the Premiership's Fulham FC.

5. Strategic investors in Betfair include Benchmark Capital, UBS Capital, JP Morgan Chase.

6. Mike Noel-Smith was born in Cheltenham in 1957 and was educated there at Whitefriars. He spent 18 years in the Gloucestershire Regiment of the British Army, seeing service in the Far East, Middle East, Central America, Europe and Northern Ireland. He captained the Army rugby side and played for the Combined Services. He was awarded a Commendation for Bravery in 1982. He is married with 3 children, aged 16, 14, and 10.

7. Rob Abernethy was born in London in 1972 and educated at Millfield School, Durham University and Sandhurst before being commissioned into the Royal Gurkha Rifles, seeing service in Hong Kong and Brunei. Rob played rugby for the Army, Combined Services and, professionally, for London Irish. 

For further information, please contact:

Stewart Ross (Ross Media Relations) 
Tel: 07966 540787

Rhydian Lewis (Betfair)
Tel: 020 8834 8222

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