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Crew Prep to Row the Ocean to Raise Mental Health Awareness

8 July 2021By Laura Shaughnessy
Members of Team Atlantic R2R
Courtesy of Seb Evans

Written by

Laura Shaughnessy

Laura Shaughnessy has been the managing editor at Dockwalk since February 2018. Having grown up among the cornfields, she is ecstatic to be among the boats in the yachting capital of the world. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s in journalism, 15 years of experience with newspapers, magazines, and the online world, Laura has joined a great crew. When not writing about superyacht crew, she’s hanging out with her husband and their German Shepherd, working on house projects, or binging on Netflix.

It is nearly indisputable that being a superyacht crewmember is one of the hardest jobs you can hold. For Chief Officer Seb Evans on M/Y Plan B, downtime is overrated, because he is in the midst of training for a three-year rowing challenge that spans 3,000 nautical miles.

Evans is joined by his four teammates to compete in the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge:

  • Paul Roadnight, a British Army infantry warrant officer
  • Tom Atkinson, a plumber and construction project manager (who is also ex British Army)
  • Jordan Parkinson, bosun aboard a 75-meter motor yacht
  • Richard Parkinson, a self-employed hotelier (and Jordan’s father)

“What I can offer the team in terms of admin involvement whilst on board is definitely limited; however, I am lucky enough to have 2:2 rotation,” Evans says. “This definitely helps in terms of having enough time alongside work for team activities, training, and admin.” Having two young sons, Albie (3) and Billy (1) on the other hand means I am still kept very busy when at home! But I can still find the time for training and race-based admin on the sides.” Plus, he’s working on earning his Master < 3000 modules, a ticket he aims to complete prior to the 2023 race.

“I am looking forward to it all. I like to push myself in all aspects of life, and I see this challenge as one of the safest ways to completely push myself, mental and physically, to my absolute limits!”

The overall cost for entering the race for a five-man team can be around $100,000, with the boat itself costing roughly half of that amount. The rest is split across race entry (which covers safety boats, insurance, etc.), kit, logistics and shipping, courses, PR, training, and food.

“It is our ambition to at least raise the same amount, $100,000, for Rock2Recovery. We will also be able to recuperate many of the initial outgoings through equipment and boat sale post-race, which would also be put straight into Rock2Recovery,” says Evans. As of the end of June, they had raised $6,000. “This will be stepped up as we begin to roll out our own fundraising events over the next year,” he says.

Team Atlantic R2R formed in 2020 while Evans was recovering from surgery due to a rugby injury. “The name Atlantic R2R was born out of the link we developed early on with the charity Rock2Recovery,” says Evans. “Mental health is a subject close to many members of the team, but veterans’ mental health in particular is close to Tom and Paul since the death of a friend and former British Army colleague due to mental health issues.”

Rock2Recovery was founded by Jamie Sanderson RM and Jason Fox RM following long careers as senior-ranking Royal Marines, which resulted in medical discharges after diagnoses of stress illness and brain injury. R2R strives to create positive change when it is needed most, in part by recognizing the need for rapid preventative interventions, specific coaching, and assistance (including the provision of short- and long-term refocusing support for veterans leaving the service with brain injuries and mental health issues attributable to their period of service).

“The make or break of the race will be in the mind,” he says. “To keep going, two hours on, two hours off, for what could be two months is definitely not for everyone.”

“Unfortunately, I have seen people I know well and others I have not known on a personal level, struggle and ultimately take their own life,” says fellow R2R crewmember Paul Roadnight. “Five people I knew or knew of in 18 years. Some had long since left the military while others were still serving. Some had been the life and soul of the group and the last person you would have thought was struggling to cope. If help had been available to them, things might have turned out very differently,” says Roadnight, adding that Rock2Recovery provides emergency support to the individual and their family, making a fantastic difference to those that need it. “I could not think of a better charity more worthy of support and it is a privilege to take on this epic adventure in their name and raise some money to help them carry on their work.”

“We are, of course, all novice ocean rowers,” Evans says. “We have been very lucky to secure the help of ex-Olympic rower Natasha Howard. Natasha is based on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, where two of our team are based. Along with Tom and Richard, I attended a training session with Natasha earlier this month, getting my first taste of open-water coastal rowing. Tom and Richard will be training with Natasha every Tuesday, which should put them in good stead.” Evans adds that they’ve also been in talks with one of the top ocean rowing coaches with regards to physical coaching. This will start in January 2022 and will see them following a strict physical training regime for nearly two years.

Although the event is a 3,000-mile rowing race, Evans understands that the event is actually more of a mental challenge than physical. Beyond the many physical challenges, such as avoiding injury, an overall general physical preparedness is definitely needed. “The make or break of the race will be in the mind,” he says. “To keep going, two hours on, two hours off, for what could be two months is definitely not for everyone.”

Evans maintains a positive attitude: “I am looking forward to it all. I like to push myself in all aspects of life, and I see this challenge as one of the safest ways to completely push myself, mental and physically, to my absolute limits!”

Alongside fellow superyacht industry crewmember Jordan Parkinson, Evans says they plan to secure corporate sponsorship with the numerous yachting sector companies and individuals they have had the pleasure of working with over the years.

To donate, go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/atlantic-r2r.

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