So maybe you'll pass on this one.
Mick left his home Brighton UK and is currently in San Francisco preparing mentally, physically and logistically for the race. While he's not approaching it lightly, it's not completely virgin territory for him either. He is an experienced adventurer, having crossed the Atlantic twice and circumnavigated the Falkland Islands in a kayak. A former Royal Marine, he is also in the Guinness Book of records as the skipper of the first and only rowing boat to cross the North Pacific from Japan to San Francisco. He did that in 2009 with his friend Chris Martin, a journey of 7000 miles that took more than six months.
Still, this particular crossing has special significance for him. "Sparky was invalided out of the Marines after losing his sight in the selection process for the Special Forces. In the 80's support for recovering veterans was limited to say the least, and it took ten years before he was given any rehabilitation. I'm glad to say that things have changed now with organizations like the two we're raising money for, The Royal Marines Charity and Blind Veterans UK."
On a personal level, Mick knows that feeling that comes with doing something truly special, and wants to share that: "I also think this will give Sparky something that was robbed of him when he was injured along with his sight. He will be the first blind person to row the Pacific. Already a legend in the 'Blind Veterans' community helping others, no one could be more worthy of being that first person than Sparky. It will be an honor to help him achieve that."
Of course, those are all laudable goals, but it still comes down to two guys in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean for more than a month. Not many people's idea of a good time. So why do it? For Mick, it dates back to the formative experience of turning 18 while serving in the Falklands War. "I had my birthday two days before the surrender, and had a highly sharpened appreciation for life, and how quickly it can end. For me it drove me to do something that mattered, and ocean rowing was it. It was a way to show that ordinary people can do extraordinary things." Or as he put it in the book he wrote about his epic North Pacific crossing, "The colours are never brighter than when you think you might be looking at them for the last time. That intensity of life can become addictive, and rowing oceans was how I dealt with that addiction."
Even though he knows the general gist of what he's getting into, Mick knows that there will be challenges: waves, sun, sharks and storms, not mention hours and hours of tedium as he and Sparky row and row and row. The race rules mandate that they do it all unaided, on their own for as long as it takes. They will be able to communicate and post their progress, and for the first time in the race's history, all crews are being provided with video cameras and the ability to upload footage along the way. Still, they will be alone, very alone. I asked Mick what he would miss the most. "There's part of me that wants to say nothing, which to a large degree is true. But obviously loved ones are the one thing you really miss and unsurprisingly appreciate more than ever." But he is an ex Royal Marine, so there is more: "showers, tea kettles, a comfy bed and a decent pint of Guinness!"
Marc Wollin of Bedford gets seasick easily. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.