Most of us here in Oxford will be talked into giving rowing a try at some point, be that dabbling in the odd college rowing session or signing your life away by committing to the University level rowing regime. However, it’s safe to say that there are few people brave enough, and perhaps crazy enough, to literally eat, sleep and breathe rowing for 40 days straight to race across the Atlantic Ocean in the Talisker Whiskey Challenge.
A pair of twin Oxford students, alongside their two older twin brothers Jack and Hamish, are taking on this challenge in a bid to become the first four brothers to row an ocean, alongside raising a massive £150,000 for charity. Euan Friend, a University College alumnus and incoming St Cross College post-graduate, and his twin Arthur Friend, an incoming St Anne’s post-graduate, will split their year in Oxford between the classroom and the gym. Both of them will undertake PGCEs in Maths and Physics and an intensive rowing training programme in the build-up to the Talisker Whiskey Challenge next year.
This Saturday, the Friend brothers got their campaign off to a flying start at the Exeter Quayside. This officially launched their Atlantic campaign, which is named The Friendship. They rowed up the Exeter Ship Canal to a cheering crowd of friends, family, bystanders and the sound of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune; a fitting tune in reference to the oldest twin, Jack, who has taken on the role of team captain.
After mooring up alongside the Piazza Terracina, people could take a closer look at the 28-foot boat that will carry them, unassisted, for 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean. They will start in the Canary Islands and finish up in Antigua. However, while the boys and the boat were impressive aspects of the day, the real star of the show was the Friend brothers’ grandmother, Elspeth, in whose honour the boat was lovingly named. Elspeth spoke beautifully of her pride in her courageous grandsons, revealing that while initially she “couldn’t believe it when they told [her] what they were going to do” she was “so proud of them.” After her speech, Elspeth carried out the ceremonial renaming of their boat, smashing a biodegradable bottle of champagne over the bow and officially christening it “Eppy”.
While the actual race may be over a year away, between now and then the brothers face an ocean of hard work to get them to the start line. They’ll be training in preparation for the physical and mental challenges that lie ahead, aided by their coaches Duncan Roy, a triple Guinness world record holder, and Gus Barton, who has trained 23 teams who have successfully completed ocean crossings. While Arthur admitted that he has “never been a massive fan of the water”, they’re fully committed now and regularly take Eppy out for rowing weekends in Exmouth.
Aside from the gruelling training regime, the behind-the-scenes work required to secure the sponsorship funding to actually get the boat to the Canary Islands is monumental. On top of that the boys have set the ambitious target of raising £150,000 for three fantastic charities. These include CHAT, a vital service for those struggling with housing issues in Mid-Devon; Drive Forward Foundation, a UK registered charity that helps children and young people that have been through the foster/residential care system to achieve their full potential; and Friends of Kiwoko Hospital, a charity supporting the work of a Ugandan hospital. The administrative preparation is certainly no small feat.
As their campaign gathers speed, this impressive band of brothers will certainly be one to watch. With a Friendship Ball planned for December and an appearance at Henley booked for next July, it seems like we will be seeing plenty more of these brothers and their Atlantic campaign.
If you’d like to follow them on their journey you can get involved at:
Facebook: The FriendShip Atlantic
Image credit: Sam Edwards.