Our Story So Far
Written by Jon Lakin
We are four average guys in our late twenties who have decided to take on quite a challenge for Movember. Mark Gibson, Steve Baker and myself worked together and one day back in June 2016 we were chatting over lunch in a sandwich shop about mental health and how exercise makes a huge difference to one’s well being. We discussed the idea of taking on a physical challenge but we were just average guys in office jobs, not Ranulph Fiennes or Bear Grylls. The previous night I had seen online about a rowing race across the Atlantic ocean. I jokingly said well what if we did that? And the other guys said well why not? So we did. None of us had ever rowed before.
A month later after a bit of convincing we managed to get Steve’s brother Dan on board with the campaign and we were ready to get started.
So how did we get from a conversation in a sandwich shop to being 3 months away from flying out to the start of the race? The campaign ahead of us 18 months ago was enormous and required a detailed strategy with lots of hours work, all by just the four of us alongside of our day jobs. The tasks covered everything from charity fundraising, social media, learning about the expedition training and of course the corporate funding. We had a lot to learn!
The challenge began with a conversation around mental health so raising money for a charity involving that was the obvious choice. However after sitting down with the team to decide the charity it became apparent that everyone had personal accounts of men’s health in general as well as mental health. We decided on The Movember Foundation which raises money for all these brilliant causes. These guys are fantastic and unfortunately are more known for their moustaches in November than the fact they are a year round charity supporting the worthy causes of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, suicide prevention and mental health. This pulled the group together with a common cause which fundamentally comes down to encouraging men to talk more about their health with one another. Everyone has a Dad, an uncle, a son or a friend who is affected by these causes. This seemed like a more worthy cause than any and since we were four average guys, what better platform to spread the word.
We then came up with the team name “Nuts Over The Atlantic”. A play on words for being slightly mad for doing this and also having men’s health links...
At the end of 2016, to raise money for Movember, we came up with the #NutsGoRow tour. This tour would see us rowing in central city locations around the UK. Logistically these were huge to sort out. At first it looks easy but the hours chatting to councils and conference calls with the guys on banner and flyer designs, were relentless. Nonetheless we got them booked in and the tour set off. We set up a marque, two rowing machines and some flyers about our campaign. We then rowed for 36 hours, 2 hours on, 2 hours off, replicating our regime on the boat. The two guys off shift would then engage with the public, spread the word about Movember and raise our profile. These events raised some great funds for Movember, the most profitable being in Cardiff.
Other events we’ve attended include the Southsea Fitness Festival, Bristol Harbourside and Bristol Balloon Fiesta. At each event press was arranged, interviews conducted and more funds raised for charity. It’s worth noting that from the beginning of the campaign we all felt it right to keep charity fund raising and our corporate fundraising to fund the boat and race completely separate.
Due to our budget we had to manage it all ourselves (some teams on this race have project managers and social media teams behind them). This itself sounds easy but is quite an undertaking once you understand what’s ahead. You have to gain followers to raise your profile and then keep them engaged for 18 months. To do this you need a strategy. A weekly schedule was drafted covering topics such as training, charity, sponsorship, events and the race. These then have to be tailored for the particular social media outlet. We are much better at it now, but still have a lot to learn.
Our website also had to be built and designed within our team, luckily Dan is a website designer so we had some expertise on board but it still requires huge effort and needs to be constantly maintained with the more press we get.
Currently we are in a race against time to get out boat finished to be shipped in October. We have transported it to Scotland to the legend that is Leven Brown to get kitted out with all the equipment that is required to safely get across an ocean. We then have to complete a qualifying row before shipping it out.
The Expedition Ahead
Since we knew literally nothing about ocean rowing we had to start at the very beginning. First of all we had to learn about what to expect during the race. In three months we will be facing 40 foot waves, storms and an unrelenting 2 hour on, 2 hour off schedule 24 hours a day for 3,000 miles until we finish in Antigua.
That boat itself is 9 meters in length, not much over a meter wide with two cabins either end for storage, equipment and sleeping. We will navigate by GPS and make water via a desalination unit. If we have any support during the race we are disqualified, therefore everything we need for the race will be on the boat.
We have had to learn about all the equipment we will have to kit our boat out with, from sat phones, to the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), the para anchor to solar panels, all of which was alien before we started.
We talked to as many people as possible, went to talks, and spent hours learning on the internet. In February we attended our sea survival training and (luckily) passed. This covered basic first aid, how to get into a life raft and radio and satellite communications. Since then we have attended an additional ocean rowing course provided by Atlantic Campaigns that informed us of the day to day logistics of living at sea. We are now more mentally prepared for what to expect, however nothing will be able to fully prepare us for what we will experience. The second stage sleep deprivation and hallucinations didn’t sound great.
Training essentially consists of two elements. For us this was learning to row and then hitting the gym to put on weight. We were all a little nervous when we turned up to the rowing club saying we were going to row the Atlantic in 18 months and didn’t know anything about rowing. But after a few months of weekly training sessions we were starting to get the hang of it. Secondly, during the race you lose up to 20kg of body weight. We therefore need to go to the gym and eat everything in sight, especially now we have 3 months to go there is no time to slack. Leading an ocean rowing campaign has turned out to be round the clock logistics and admin making it hard to squeeze in those all important gym sessions.
Of course an expedition of this scale requires huge funding. Currently we are funding it by a combination of self funds and some fantastic sponsors. Developing a strategy to get businesses on board has been tough and to be quite honest has consumed our lives. Due to the race itself generating a huge amount of press and with the National Geographic as a media partner we naively thought sponsorship would be easy but it’s been an education in how to communicate this to companies. The hardest part has been tracking down the right person to speak to.
We have a range of packages starting with “The Hundred”, we are aiming for one hundred businesses or people to pledge £500 to get their logo on our boat, social media content, and invite to our exclusive event. The bigger packages include larger logos and even the opportunity to name the boat. We also offer a range of speeches, corporate days out on the boat, team building exercises and talks on nutrition which our current sponsors are taking full advantage of.
We have some fantastic sponsors on-board but still have a way to go. Currently this is our main focus but the sooner we have sponsors on-board, the sooner we can spend our time on raising money for Movember which is what this challenge is all about. That’s how the conversation started and we want to hit our target of £100,000 raised.
We fly out to La Gomera on the 29th November later this year and the race starts on the 14th December. I hope this short article has provided background to our story, the magnitude of the work that has gone into it and what’s to come. Stay tuned to keep updated on our campaign. If your company is interested in partnering with us and realising these excellent marketing opportunities please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on social media @bythehundred or check out our website www.nutsovertheatlantic.co.uk. We are always keen to talk about our campaign!
Text “NOTA99 £2” to 70070 to donate £2 to The Movember Foundation.