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Atlantic rowing challenge from Canary Islands to the Caribbean for West Norfolk villager

Physical and mental endurance will be required as a West Norfolk villager prepares to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic as part of a team of four.

Tom Phillips, 34, and of Great Massingham, will be taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December to raise funds for two worthwhile charities.

This demanding challenge sees teams from across the globe row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to the Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda.

Harry Hearn, Alex Soskin, Ed Batchelor and Tom Phillips are pictured from left to right, aka team 'Oardacity'. Picture: SUBMITTED
Harry Hearn, Alex Soskin, Ed Batchelor and Tom Phillips are pictured from left to right, aka team 'Oardacity'. Picture: SUBMITTED

Under the team name 'Oardacity', Mr Phillips will be rowing two hours on and two hours off for roughly 30-40 days alongside three close friends - Harry Hearn, Alex Soskin and Ed Batchelor.

And the team are currently training while in isolation with the ambition of winning the race and perhaps even breaking the World Record of 29 days and 15 hours. The team have had to find creative ways to maintain fitness levels with gyms being closed, including even using their partners as weights at times!

Mr Phillips, who works as a chartered surveyor for Brown & Co. Property Consultants in Lynn, said: "What the race presents is the ultimate physical and mental challenge, something as monotonous as rowing for 30 days. But we also have to prepare for really freezing conditions as well as temperatures up to 35 degrees.

The logo for team 'Oardacity'. Picture: SUBMITTED
The logo for team 'Oardacity'. Picture: SUBMITTED

"We will experience calm, still seas and 40, 60ft swirls so we have got to be ready for every eventuality, as well as considering what are the essentials are to take with us."

With it being Mental Health Awareness Week, Mr Phillips said the team want to promote awareness of the two charities they are fundraising for-MIND and the Christina Noble Children's Foundation. The latter supports the world’s oppressed and marginalized children, which entails looking after their mental well-being.

Founded in 1946, Mind is a mental health charity in England and Wales, which has been described as being close to the hearts of the 'Oardacity' team. They intend to raise £200,000 to be split between the charities, who require the support "now more now than ever".

The team believe that promoting awareness of the charities was a "no-brainer" to them, as they hope to help change the stigma around mental health. As well as donations, the group are also looking for corporate sponsors for the Atlantic challenge.

Mr Phillips said he has been interested in the Atlantic race ever since watching Olympic rower James Cracknell and television presenter Ben Fogle complete the challenge in 2005. It will be the first time that he has ever rowed competitively himself.

The Great Massingham resident added: "We are very keen to get on the sea and start practising. Prior to lockdown, we were doing indoor rowing in the gym but it is a test to be exposed in that environment on the water.

"We have purchased a boat and we are waiting to be able to get down to the marina. It became very real when we saw the boat had arrived. It will become more of a reality when we have done the first session on the water and that butterfly feeling will no doubt come. We are so invested in the process that I just can't wait to get to the start line. There is some nervous apprehension as well."

Over six million euros has been raised for charity over the past four races of the Atlantic rowing challenge.

Described as the "toughest row", the challenge sees 30 teams compete. For more information on the race visit https://www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/ and to sponsor, and follow the progress of Mr Phillips and his 'Oardacity' team visit https://oardacity.com/

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