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


Martin Wood one hour before departure.

Interview by Kenneth Crutchlow, St. Sebastian, La Gomera, Canary Islands, January 16th 2003

Martin WoodI was born 13th March 1969 in Barnet General Hospital (London) I went to Under Hill Junior School and then Queen Elisabeth School in Barnet then I went to Exeter University. I was in the Marines for a year I don't think I took it seriously enough unfortunately I had a good time I spent most of my time running around on the moors doing various things mainly learning how to look after yourself, and how to run a troop it was very good experience, in hindsight I wish I taken that opportunity more seriously. I was given a medical discharge and then I went back and did a MBA at Exeter University then I joined Rothchilds a firm in the City and then Standard Bank and then more recently Benfield. 

What was the first time you remember that you wanted to have an adventure?

I was 11 or 12 sitting with my Dad on the beach in Suffolk in the evening and we had BBQ and roast kidneys and things and Dad would tell me about his hitchhiking days around Europe and I remember sitting there thinking that sounds like the most fun you could possibly have that was the start of thinking about going around. 

When do you consider you had your first adventure?

My first adventure was very defiantly when I was either 14 or 15 I went off to Dunkirk for a week much to my parents disgust, the plane was to chase some girls that I had met the summer before in Lille, I did not get any further than Dunkirk and I discovered that they serve you beer in France when you are 14 and we sat on the beach for a week getting pissed. This was my first time away first time I had to look after myself first time I had to get myself anywhere and not have my meals put on the table and buy my own food and find my own accommodation and that sort of thing.

You are married?

Yes I met Jo when I took a year our from University and Jo took a year out after and we met on a preserve in Sumatra in Indonesia. I just followed her around for a few years eventually we got married.

How long have you been married?

We have been married just over 7 years in August, we have 2 boys Oliver who is 5 and Toby who is 3. Oliver sort of understands what is going on I think. I was delaying telling Oliver about the ocean rowing because I thought he does not yet have a concept about time one day he very casually said to me what's all this rowing stuff your doing Dad it forced my hand and I had to tell him all about it he was cool about it once I answered his questions.

Can you tell us how the idea fot you to row an ocean started?

It all started when a couple of friends of mine (Salamanca 97) were in the 1997 race and they had a really good time doing it and they had lots of stories to tell and I started thinking subsequent to that it sounded like a fantastic one off lifetime experience so I started making plans initially I thought it would take 3 months to plan the more I planned it the more I realized there was to do so 3 years latter having started thinking it would take 3 months I find myself getting ready to set off in 2 hours time.

How did you find a boat?

The main thrust of my help has come from Geoff Allum who lived in Teddington, I live in Tedington and one day I read about Geoff in the local paper I called directory information and got Geoffs phone number, at that time I was going to borrow Carpe Diem from Jan Meek and Geoff was planing a solo row across the Atlantic he had his boat all kited out really well as you would expect being as he already had rowed an ocean and for his own reasons he decided that the timing wasn't right for him so there was a boat going up for grabs which I snapped up as quickly as I could before anyone else got it, it has all steam rolled in the last 3 months It took 3 years of flappling about aimlessly and 3 months of actually getting it all done

Do you have sponship?

I did that the old fashion way I borrowed from my father, Over the 3 years I have talked to lots of potential sponsors most of them talk a great game they say "yes off you go no problem with money" but when it came to getting people to part with cash they wouldn't. I did have one company that has helped me out quite a bit Black Sun they are handling my web site other than them no one has actually come up with any cold hard cash.

Did you get the feeling that potential sponsors saw the row as a high risk project?

Potential sponsors did say if it goes wrong they did not want to have anyone say you paid for that man to row off and die... I think for quite a few sponsors it came down to the fact that it sounded like a great idea it might crab lots of headlines and when they looked at it further they realized that quite a few people had done it already and newspapers are getting quite picky about what they want, you have to do something quite different and quite difficult and so if you are going to do something that is going to get you in the papers you go back to the first problem and thats the last, so you have a catch 22 if it a nice quite crossing you wont get into the papers and if its a noisy crossing they dont want to sponsor you because you are in danger...

 It is not the easiest knot to untie.

Do you feel your life is at risk when ocean rowing?

No, not really. If I thought I was going to die I would not be going there is no two ways about it I am not going offon some death or glory adventure A lot of people have done this route it is unfair to say this is the easy route there is no easy route I know ORS calls it the trade winds route and that the right thing to call it but it is the route where statistically a novice like me has got the best chance of getting across.

The most famous novice of course was Jan Meek...

Yes Jan was actually a lot of help to me it was Jan's boat I had for a couple of years while I was flaying around and thats the boat I took out on the Irish sea and Jan has been a great inspiration she will admit herself that she went out and enjoyed herself and she was not a yacht person who had sea water in her veins.

Are you as relaxed as your demeanor suggest?

No, not really. I am flapping. I have not slept for a few days I have never been very good at appearing flaped I have always, even if I am panicking I would much rather think about things calmly and quitely that last one was not very popular in the Marines I have been in lots off situations you are always better off sitting down and thinking about what you are going to do and taking it calmly. 

What emotion fits you know two hours before your departure?

I am anxious, I am very nervous. I am very excited, I am pensive, I don't know what I am going to think when I get outside the harbor and the water starts to move and the wind whips up a bit I don't know how I am going to feel when I am waving to my Dad .that will be the last time I will see him for 3 months, a lot of emotions.

Is there anything you want to ad?

I want to say Jan is a gusty women I might have sounded a bit flip a few minutes a go she is a tough women and I do not want to take anything away from her I have spoken to a lot of people about this rowing and if anybody is reading about ocean rowing and thinks, I would quite like to do that, the only way you are going to get it done is by starting and don't sit there and think I might try it next year do it now because it will take you 3 years longer than think it will and if you don't start your never going to do it.

You're carrying a special letter? 

Yes I have a letter from the Owners of La Gomera Marina addressed to Thomas Herbert at Port St Charles I am looking forward to delivering the letter and hope that the two marinas become sister Marinas