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Eat, Sleep, Row, Repeat: Team NOMAN reach half-way point of their Pacific crossing

Four young men from the UK, Jack Carter, Nick Kempster, Chris Blacketer and Mark Gleeson, all 24, have reached the half-way point in their attempt to row the 3,100 kms from California to Hawaii.  Living aboard a 24ft ocean rowing boat, with no motor or sails to help propel them across the team, just their sheer determination and physical strength, Team NOMAN (www.nomancampaign.org) are making great progress, rowing just over 1,600 kms in 25 days, under incredibly tough conditions.

Each day their hands get a little more blistered, their stomachs decrease in size but Mark has said “The worse thing by far is the pain in our backsides. Spending pretty much 24 hours a day either sitting or lying on them, they are now not in the best of conditions. Myself and Nick are on a constant stream of painkillers just to get through the days.”

Their nights are the biggest challenge – they can’t hear themselves speak because of the wind and the constant waves breaking over them, keeping dry is a challenge, but as they get closer to Hawaii, hopefully they can begin to shed the layers and live the dream of rowing naked across the Pacific!

That’s not to say that hard work and no play make Jack, Chris, Mark and Nick dull boys as there are plenty of lively moments to keep them occupied during their time on the ocean. The team have sighted dolphins and whales (sharks remain unmentioned but that may be due to Jack’s incredible fear of them), ‘bossed around’ the tankers who dare encroach onto their course via the vhf radio and even had something of a run in with the US Navy and Coastguard who it turned out were undertaking firing practice in the exact part of the massive expanse of Pacific that the boys were in. Cue a swift deployment of the parachute anchor to keep the NOMAN crew out of danger whilst Chris instructed an army reconnaissance plane overhead to track their position.

Clearly they acted well as LCDR Travis Gill of the US Navy contacted the boys on their blog to thank them for their cooperation in difficult circumstances: “It was the VX-30 Bloodhounds who were trying to locate you that morning. With the moderate sea state and the multitude of white caps it was very difficult to find you visually from 1,000 feet. We were able to see you once you helped talk us onto your position. Thank you for your cooperation in deploying your sea anchor and staying outside the hazard area. Best of luck to you all, your journey to Hawaii, and your fight to endHPV.”

Despite these perks, a life consisting of 2 hours on, 2 hours off at the oars takes its toll mentally on the rowers but spirits remain high as the boys have remained focused on their goal. Mark said, ‘We’re sat here knowing we have over 1,400miles of open ocean left to traverse, fighting off huge waves, hunger, and sore bums and living in a world less than 24ft in length. It is an incredible achievement already, that we’re almost halfway but please don’t let our sacrifice be in vein! We’re putting ourselves through this hell to raise awareness about HPV-related cancers.’

‘HPV is the cause of 5% of cancers worldwide which is huge! Currently there is a vaccine to prevent the spread of this virus, but the issue is only women get the vaccine in the UK.  We want to see universal vaccination for girls and boys so that finally we can end 5% of cancer, something so massive yet so obtainable! Please, please, please, any donation, small or large, will go a long way to making an HPV cancer free future possible.  The tides are turning and change is coming, the BMA recently unanimously voted to encourage universal vaccination. Together we can end HPV related Cancer.’

The team are hoping to reach Hawaii soon for several reasons, ideally so that they don’t get deported for overstaying their visas, but also so that Chris can escape the monotony of his least favourite meal, macaroni and cheese (by all accounts they’ve got enough to have it every day for the next month).

The team’s friends and family cannot wait for them to be back on dry land but Chris’ girlfriend Rachel told us ‘Every morning the first thing I do before my eyes even focus is check the yellow brick app tracking their progress and see how far they have moved whilst we have all been asleep. The challenge these boys have taken on is enormous and the campaign they are rowing for is momentous. I could think of no better cause for the boys to support and I am so proud of what they are doing both on the water but also towards eradicating HPV.’

Please support Team NOMAN by finding out more and donating at www.nomancampaign.org, @nomancampaign or texting END to 70660 to donate £3

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