Meet the young doctors rowing from Australia to Africa in shark-infested waters

They will be rowing 24 hours a day in two-hour alternating shifts for three months


In a few months two recently graduated doctors, Ted and Jack, will be taking on a 3,600 mile, non-stop row from Australia to Africa.

4,000 people have climbed Everest. 536 people have gone into space. Only 20 have rowed the Indian Ocean.

They will be rowing for three months, 24 hours a day in 2-hour alternating shifts, allowing one to eat and sleep while the other rows.

Ted told The Tab: “We will battle sleep deprivation, hurricane force winds and 50 foot waves. If we succeed, we will be the fifth pair to have ever made the crossing.

“We wanted to choose a challenge that would be back-breakingly difficult but also just about achievable.”

They are aiming to raise £100,000 for Medicin Sans Frontiers: “They place highly skilled medical staff, logisticians and water & sanitation experts in disaster zones, and carry out over eight million patient consultations every year. Since 1971, they have treated over one hundred million patients. We cannot think of a more worthy cause.”

I ask him if people often tell him he is mad. “Quite a lot. Mainly they just look at me and say ‘what the hell are you doing?’. I think people would be less shocked if I vaguely resembled a sportsman.

In March, weather dependent, they will set off from Exmouth, Western Australia and row for three months without stopping to Port Louis, Mauritius.

I tell him that seems pretty soon: “Yes, it’s fucking soon”.

The idea materialised “after a sports night” while they were studying medicine together at Imperial College London, Ted tells me laughing. “It was November or December time when the Atlantic Race was on, and we just thought that would be such a cool thing to do. We’re very good mates – we have been since med school, we have similar stupid ideas all the time.

“We tried to take a year out of med school, they said ‘sure you can take a year out, but you can’t come back after. So we waited till after med school. That was five years ago.

“A year ago we thought let’s give it a go – but even then I thought we’d never actually do it.”

He tells me they chose the Indian Ocean because, “it hasn’t been done very much as all, plus the world record is up for grabs.

“I mean it’s going to be really tough and we’ve probably bitten off more than we can chew.”

The biggest dangers they pair face are super-tankers, the weather, sharks, pirates and dehydration.

“We’d be stupid not to be concerned at all”, he says. “There are a number of risks, for one that we’re following the main shark migration pattern from Australia to South Africa. That’s sub-optimal.”

If they find themselves on the path of a big super-tanker they would have to radio them to adjust their course. “We can’t move very fast or change direction very easily and get out of the way. Super-tankers are probably the biggest danger actually, they move so quickly.

“We also have a radar on board which can detect pirates. That’s a concern as we get closer to Africa – it’s more of an issue if we get swept North. We can hide ourselves from the radar too or delay where we appear on it to stay safe. We’ll be carrying knives, but for practical reasons, not pirates.”

There is the possibility that Ted and Jack will face waves up to 50 feet tall: “Yeah, the weather – if you get caught in massive storms it can be quite terrifying. As long as we stay with the boat and stay harnessed in and we don’t lose it, we’ll be okay. The boat we’ve got can’t sink.

“But if you lose your boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean you are a gonner. We have these all-singing, all-dancing life jackets – who knew they could be so expensive.”

They have a water converter on board which takes the salt out of the sea. “That’s one of the big dangers – if that breaks we’ll be in deep shit. We have a handheld water pump as a backup but in the event the machine breaks we’ll be spending our breaks pumping water, which is less than ideal.”

They have rowed 48 hours straight so far, in the North Sea, which is “not a lot compared to 85 days. That’s two 85ths of it. We’re both slightly of the attitude that we don’t want to do too much and put ourselves off early.”

I ask him if he’s watching what he’s eating and drinking: “In theory, yes. Well to be honest with you, firstly I’m not that kind of guy, but also we’re meant to be putting on loads of weight as we will be burning so many calories on the ocean. We need to be fat enough and big enough that I can lose a large amount on the row and still be OK.

“We can only carry enough for 5,000 calories a day, each. We’ll be burning 8,000. Each food sachet is 800 calories and we’ll add in two teaspoons of olive oil, which by the way is 200 calories. I didn’t know that before. The freeze dried food is actually delicious”

Ted and Jack are working a lot of nights at hospitals which makes training tough. “I do a minimum of one training session a day, ideally two. First thing in the morning and last thing at night. Weekends too. I don’t normally take more than one rest day a week, which is pretty dull.

They’re not expecting it to be constantly rosey on the boat: “I think we’ll definitely fight – I don’t think anyone could stay in that close quarters with someone and not argue. Having said that we won’t see that much of each other because we’re doing these two-hour shifts. It’s going to be pretty anti-social.”

85 days from Exmouth, Australia to Port Louis, Mauritius is the world record, “so we’re aiming for 84”.

Ted finishes: “None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for our incredibly generous sponsors- CCube Solutions, Brickendon Consulting, Epic Private Equity, BPL Global, Karma group and Fitlegs stockings.

“We’re really excited, there’s been so much planning and aggravation and stress over getting funding together. We just want to get on the boat and do it now.”

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