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Transatlantic charity rowers encounter shark and cargo ship

Posted onPosted on 17th Feb

Mansfield’s transatlantic charity rowers, George Nelson and Russ Davis, have encountered a large shark and a cargo ship in the past couple of days as they continue their remarkable challenge to row 3,500-miles unsupported from Portugal to Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

The brothers-in-law, who want to raise £250,000 for dementia charities, are spending more than three months in their tiny Innovation Nottinghamshire Memory Boat and have again been hit unseasonal weather hampering their progress.

George said: “It’s been another hard day rowing in the heat of the sun with little or no wind! Our speed is less than 1mph, which once again puts us at risk of running out of food!
“Resting is not an option as we’d only drift backwards in the current, so we row constantly, aiming to make at least some progress around the clock. But we did have an adventure…
“Russ was on rowing duty at 1am and noticed around 40 to 50 dorado fish as they positioned themselves on each side of the boat. They do this in anticipation of the disturbance caused by the boat, startling and driving the smaller fish into their path (similar to how fielders position themselves in cricket or rounders to catch the ball).
“They’re very much the resident predator sitting at the top of the food chain around the boat. But this time, they started acting chaotically…
“When Russ glanced down at the port side oar, he spotted a three-metre hammerhead shark right beside the boat, under the oar shaft.
He was close enough to touch it!
“The shark swiftly darted under the boat, colliding with the daggerboard (keel), juddering the boat as it bullishly headed straight into the group of dorados. It repeated this behaviour at least three or four times!
“Russ said he was both scared and excited (and the hairs on his legs were standing up)! This magnificent creature appeared as a muscular killing machine, circling the boat, scaring everything around it (including us), and clearly establishing its dominance at the top of the food chain.
“After about an hour the shark disappeared and normal order resumed once more; the dorado regrouped and chased the flying fish, and I got thumped on the head with another one, whacking my glasses!
The previous day the rowers noticed a fairly large cargo ship on the AIS ((ship tracking system), progressively moving closer to them.
George added: “Concerned about a potential collision we monitored its movements and when Russ noted a shift in its direction, (appearing to head directly towards us) we activated the VHF radio to make contact.
“At this point the ship, identified as ‘Legrit’, was only about 500m away from us – and let me tell you, it was huge!
“We made contact with the bridge and duty officer, who informed us that the captain was so concerned to see such a small vessel so far from land that he made a conscious decision to detour and check that Russ and I were safe.
“Wow! Ocean angels! What a humbling gesture. Once they were satisfied that all was well, the ship left us and continued westwards. We didn’t take any photos when it was in such close proximity as we’d only capture a solid wall of paint!”
George and Russ – known as Oar Blimey – set off on a three-month adventure of a lifetime on 1st December, aiming to row unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean and raise £250,000 for two dementia charities. They will each row for two hours at a time and then rest in between – and hope to complete their marathon row in mid-March.
The two men had no experience of a rowing challenge, although George did take part in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race in 2015-16. Russ had no previous experience of being at sea.

The 3,500-mile challenge began in front of a small group of supporters in Portugal and the duo want to reach Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

Team Oar Blimey are rowing in a Rannoch Adventure R20, which is just 6.5m long and 1.2m wide, in their bid to help Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure and Ladybrook Enterprises.

The rowers can be tracked at or download the YB Races app and add their race, “Oar Blimey Atlantic Ocean Challenge 2023”.

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