The Mancunion

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Manchester grad to row across Atlantic

Race to raise money for breast cancer


A University of Manchester graduate will row across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for breast cancer.

Geography graduate Nick Rees and his friend Ed Curtis plan to row from the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa to Antigua in the Caribbean – a journey of almost 3,000 miles, as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The event, which starts on 2 December 2013, is considered to be the world’s toughest rowing race – the duo will row unsupported and self-sufficiently the entire way.

The inspiration for the journey is Mr Rees’s wife Ellen, 33, also a Manchester graduate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.

“Ellen has showed incredible strength to get through it,” he said. “She is our inspiration for wanting to take on such a big challenge for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

“Knowing the money raised will help fund new treatments and help save lives is our motivation for this unbelievably tough race.”

The pair hopes to raise £250,000 for charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

The challenge is not for the faint-hearted, with unpredictable and extreme weather conditions and up to 40-foot waves. The fact more people have been into space than rowed the Atlantic, is a testament to its difficulty.

Physically, rowers have to deal with blisters, irritating rashes, sleep deprivation and rowing two hours on, two hours off, around the clock for weeks. The pair will typically burn 8,000 calories a day and lose 20 per cent of their body weight during the race.

Mr Curtis said he was up for the challenge and believes their close friendship would help them through.

“I love a challenge and there are few bigger challenges than this,” he said. “We have to be a bit mad to take this on, but we should get through it because we are both very determined and, more important, close friends.

“Following Ellen’s breast cancer treatment we had to do something to fight this disease which affects so many.”

The pair have bought the winning boat from last year’s race, received tips from others who have completed the epic ocean crossing, and is now juggling rigorous training with their work commitments and family life.

Mr Rees added, “There is still a lot of work to do over the next 12 months but we’ve already achieved so much.”

To find out more about their challenge, visit their website,