The Ocean Brothers
I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Greg, one half of the Ocean Brothers, about his recent 3000-mile row across the Atlantic with Jude, his bro.
Jude, at 18, is the youngest man to ever achieve this challenge. They are also the only brothers to ever attempt it together and as far as we know, the only vegans too. What a pair of absolute legends!
Greg and Jude were inspired to take to the sea to raise awareness of skin cancer and raise money for the British Skin Foundation - something they did with aplomb, raising an incredible £92,000 (and counting - they’re aiming for 100k and you can donate here)
"Our father Peter had a long battle with skin cancer - almost as long as Jude’s life. After 16 years, he passed away when Jude was 16.
"We needed to do something to not only pay tribute to our dad but also raise awareness about skin cancer. Somehow, this plan materialised and for reasons I’ll never know, we decided it was a good idea!
No amount of training could have prepared us for the reality of crossing the Atlantic in a rowing boat. It was a mixture of denial and foolhardy ignorance that saw us set off in January. By maritime law, someone always has to be on lookout, so for 51 of our 52 days at sea, we rowed continuously, taking it in turns.
Rowing was the easy bit. The challenge was the psychological impact.
The most frightening moment was three days in. The waves were 30ft high and ferocious. They lashed at us, engulfing the boat, nearly knocking us into the sea.
We worried container ships wouldn’t see us on their radar. Our technology failed us. There were times Jude wanted to give up. He was homesick, he was understandably scared. We lost our only means to make drinking water without having to use a hand pump, our navigational equipment malfunctioned, we struggled with sleep deprivation in conditions so dangerous we feared the boat would capsize, miles from land, alone at sea.
There were injuries to address too. Jude developed Achilles tendinitis by not moving his feet enough. I had a rotator cuff injury, but rum certainly helped ease the pain. The conditions on board were soggy and wet. Salt water left our skin dry and spotty. We have plenty of scars to forever remind us of our journey.
But when tapping out is not an option, you dig deeper than you knew you could and find strength you didn’t know you had. And there were many beautiful moments. Dolphins swam beside us. A bird flew with us all the way. Sometimes flying above us, sometimes resting on the boat. We liked to think maybe it was our father, approving of our crazy way of paying tribute to him.
"On calm evenings, the night sky was alight with thousands of stars. Without phones, social media and adverts, there’s a lot of headspace to realise how much all that stuff distracts from the natural world. Endless peace is not something I’d ever been able to manufacture at home, even when meditating.
We are proud to say we did it all on a vegan diet. A company in Dorset designed seven bespoke dehydrated meals for us. We ate three times a day and snacked on millionaire’s shortbread, protein bars, mixed nuts and dried fruit - we ate 6000 calories a day and still lost weight, which is inevitable when burning as many calories as we did.
We were dependent on each other to survive and our conversations explored new heights. I left Gran Canaria alongside my little brother, but I arrived in Barbados alongside a man and friend.
"We arrived in Barbados on Mother’s Day. Our mum, Alexandra, was waiting for us along with lots of other cheering friends and family. When it was all over, we came home by cruise ship - P&O ferries brought us home and even provided vegan cheese! It was novel to be at sea again but this time with the luxury of dry bedding, a loo that wasn’t a bucket and running water.
"The experience inspired us to question the way we treat our planet and we hope that, going forward, we can help other people ask the same question. We’ve become disconnected from nature. It is up to us, the younger generation, to stop accepting things the way they’ve always been. To change the world.