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Two more Brits prepare to row across the Indian Ocean

By Liza Kappelle

03 April 2003 

TWO British adventurers will spend three weeks acclimatising in Western Australia before chasing solo countryman Simon Chalk across the Indian Ocean in a bid to break a rowing record. 

Mike Noel-Smith, 45, of Hereford, and London-based Rob Abernethy, 30, touched down briefly in Perth today before flying to Carnarvon, 900km north of Perth, from where they will launch their row to Reunion Island, near Africa. 

They follow 30-year-old Chalk, of Devon, who set off alone on February 27 to try to break the unofficial 64-day record row to Reunion Island set by Sweden's Anders Svedlund in 1971. 

Chalk chose to set off further south than Noel-Smith and Abernethy, from Kalbarri, 592km north of Perth. 

"Tell Simon we're coming," Abernethy joked at Perth airport today. 

The fit-looking pair, both former soldiers, spent a year preparing for their record bid, which will raise funds for Sparks, a British medical research foundation. 

"We're very pleased to be here," Abernethy said. 

"We'll have three to four weeks in Carnarvon getting acclimatised, getting used to the Indian Ocean, and some aspects of the boat, before we leave at the end of April, or early May." 

Chalk, who has battled wild weather, virtually conceded last month he would not break the record, although saying he was still determined to make the distance. 

But Noel-Smith and Abernethy believe they will make it with the aid of expert trainers and route plotters. 

"We want to do it quicker than 64 days, which is the unofficial record," Abernethy said. 

Their comments came as Chalk began the 34th day of his row amid good weather. 

The engineer has rowed 1814km, but is still only 1592km from Kalbarri due to early bad weather. 

He is 2564km from Reunion Island. 

"Hats off to him for taking it on by himself," Abernethy said. 

The pair will take turns to row a specially designed 6.5 metre boat which has high-tech navigational equipment, satellite phone, and solar-powered water purifiers. 

Last May, Chalk and a partner, 41-year-old Bill Greaves of Torquay, made an attempt as a pair to follow Svedlund's route. 

But their trip ended after just days when their boat hit a whale and sank, forcing their rescue.

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