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Rowers preparing for Atlantic challenge in aid of dementia causes

Posted onPosted on 6th Nov

Brothers-in-law George Nelson and Russ Davis will set off on a three-month adventure of a lifetime on 1st December.

The Mansfield men aim to raise £250,000 for charities by rowing unsupported for 3,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, from Portugal to Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

Team Oar Blimey will tackle the phenomenal fundraiser in a tiny second-hand boat, a Rannoch Adventure R20, which is just 6.5m long and 1.2m wide.

They bought it in the Isle of Man from someone who had rowed the Atlantic single-handed.

The physical and mental challenge will see them face threats from sleep deprivation, salt rashes and blisters, uncertain weather, killer whales and sharks, and huge tankers as they cross five shipping lanes — all in a vessel not much bigger than an estate car.

Their target is to raise money and awareness for charities helping people with dementia.

The two men, who are both in their 50s, have no rowing experience — and Russ has never spent time on the water. But they want to make a real difference to Nottinghamshire-based Our Dementia Choir, whose chairman is award-winning actress Vicky McClure, and Ladybrook Enterprises, Mansfield, which plans to extend its community work to further help people with dementia.

Their story of fundraising for the two causes, which will share whatever is made, has featured in the News Journal several times this year and now all their planning is going to be tested over the following three months.

George explained why he has been inspired to tackle the endurance fundraiser for dementia charities.

“My mother’s got dementia and during the covid pandemic, when things started closing down, her world changed,” he told Mansfield 103.2

“She deteriorated quite significantly so I wanted to do something to help Mansfield and Nottinghamshire to improve dementia services.

“With the proper support she can live a full and active life, so I made it my mission to help people with dementia, and the people helping them too.

“I set a target of raising £250,000 to inject into the community to help with dementia — to do that we’re going to row across the Atlantic.

“I was a managing director and decided I would give that up and spend the next two to three years planning, preparing, and executing this objective.”

He added: “We must set ambitious targets if we really want to make a difference to people’s lives.

“Almost one million people in the UK have dementia, which is currently without cure. However, with early diagnosis, treatment, and support, many can lead active and fulfilled lives.”

Team Oar Blimey said: “The common link between people living with dementia and rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is that, at times, the physical and mental strain will push us to our absolute limits.

The brothers-in-law will work in a two-hour shift pattern, with one rowing while the other rests and recovers, for around 80 to 90 days.

George, a keen sea fisherman who owns his own boat but has never rowed before, said he has been a lover of the sea since an early age and took inspiration from a cross-Atlantic row by Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell and Ben Fogle almost 20 years ago.

“Watching the dynamics between an Olympic rower, who wants to win no matter what, and a TV personality going along for the ride was really intriguing.

“The trials and tribulations they went through made me think it was something I would love to do.

“I want to test myself and push myself. I love a bit of rough sea, in a perverse way the rougher the better — there is a great adrenalin rush, exciting times.

“We have planned carefully, we’ve planned for things going wrong and then wrong again, but I want to live life and experience things.”

In contrast, Russ has zero experience of the sea, but is also keen for an adventure.

George explained: “Russ and I were watching England play Denmark in the football European Championships.

“At half-time, I asked if he fancied doing it. He replied: ‘George, my life is boring, I’m a long-distance lorry driver, I come home, do my washing, go for a walk with my sisters, then go away for four or five weeks at a time… I want an adventure I can talk to people about and get me out of my comfort zone’.”

The two men said as soon as they stepped on their boat they loved it and knew they were destined to buy it. It has a small cabin on the front, but no toilet — they will have to use a bucket!

Self-righting — providing they have got everything packed correctly and the cabin door is closed — the boat should flip back up straight away if they capsize.

To keep themselves entertained during the long journey, they will take audio books and downloaded songs to listen to, and the boat has satellite communications to enable them to stay in touch.

But their sea trials have not all gone to plan!

After an initial time on the water in April on the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness in Scotland, they went to Anglesey, planning to go from Conwy and row to the Isle of Man and then Scotland.

However, during the voyage deteriorating weather, and Russ suffering sea sickness as they attempted to ‘sit out’ the poor conditions, eventually led to them being towed back by the coastguard.

Reflecting on their personal journeys from their ‘day jobs’, as an engineer and long-distance HGV driver respectively, George added: “Volunteering and giving back is much more rewarding than going out to build a profit for a businesss. It’s been life-changing for me!”

He said it would be tough for the two men to set off from Portugal on 1st December and leave their family and friends behind for three months.

“Emotionally, those first few seconds when we leave will be hard — the point of no return. It will make me cry,” George concluded.


How to support the Atlantic challenge

Many local organisations, groups, businesses, and individuals have come forward to support Team Oar Blimey since the gruelling challenge was announced.

The rowers stressed that every penny raised would go to the two charities and help local people live with dementia.

Among the latest fundraising is a song specially written and sung by the band Trevena to support the rowers.

The single 4 Eternity can be bought and downloaded at It can also be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, iTunes, Amazon, and Deezer.

To find out more about the rowing challenge or to help support the cause, visit where you can make a donation or find them on Facebook at