Alone in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean in a 24ft-rowing boat, hundreds of miles from land, with the threat of icebergs, commercial vessels, whales, storm force winds and huge waves, the reassurance of possessing a reliable link to the emergency services is vital.
Two young rowers, Sam Coombs and Tom Rainey, are placing themselves in this predicament with added confidence due to the support of UK safety and communications specialist Ocean Signal.
Inspired by Tom’s father, Luke, who died due to a brain tumour in 2012, the duo is planning to begin the ambitious, unsupported crossing from New York to Salcombe in May to raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity. They will be bidding to become the youngest ever team to row from mainland USA to mainland UK and will also try to break the 55-day two-man speed record, which has stood for 118 years after it was first laid down by Norwegians George Harbo and Frank Samuelson in 1896.
Sam and Tom will be equipped with an Ocean Signal SafeSea® EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Response Beacon), two Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1s (Personal Locator Beacons) and an Ocean Signal SafeSea V100 emergency VHF, meaning the duo have all the necessary devices, for both themselves and the boat, to be able to alert the rescue services quickly and transmit their location in the event of an emergency.
The two rowers are well aware of the dangers they will encounter and unpredictable challenges to be faced during the expedition.
Sam said: “The connection between us, our boat and the emergency services is absolutely vital. Should the worst happen and we have to call in external help, knowing that Ocean Signal have chosen and provided us with equipment that we can rely upon is very calming for both Tom and me on board, and our families back in the UK.
“Risks come from a wide spectrum of places. Effectively, anything that renders us in imminent distress is worthy of firing the EPIRB. Most of these are going to be to do with something damaging our boat – it could be a collision with an abandoned shipping container, losing a battle with a thousand ton tanker that didn’t see us and that we could never avoid, or even my ‘favourite’ the dreaded whale strike.
“If we had to trigger the PLBs, it’s almost safe to assume that we have been separated from the boat, which is the last thing you ever want to happen. It means that we have fallen overboard, either without being connected to the runner or, more scarily, we have been ripped off of it in terrible conditions.”
Sam and Tom will secure the EPIRB inside the boat so that it will be accessible and secure, but close enough to the outside so that the signal strength will not be affected.
In an emergency, it will provide an accurate location when activated using a 50-channel, integral GPS for quick transmission of information to the authorities.
The rowers will also attach the rescueME PLB1s to their harnesses, as they are going to be tethered to the boat at all times while rowing. As it has been developed as the world’s smallest personal locator beacon, the beacon will not hinder movement during the rowing stroke. Once activated, by one hand if necessary, search and rescue services are contacted via the designated 406MHz Cospas-Sarsat satellite system with position provided by a 66-channel GPS and a 121.5MHz homing beacon, plus high intensity (1 candela) strobe light.
Planning to start the 3400-mile crossing in May, Sam and Tom could be at sea for up to three months depending on the conditions and will be aiming to take full advantage of the Gulf Stream to push them on their way as they chase the record. They will row in two-hour shifts and burn up to about 8000 calories each per day during a challenge which will be exhausting both physically and mentally. In the event of a storm, they will have to throw out the sea anchor and wait for it to pass.
Safety is one of the most important aspects in planning the voyage and involves many different measures. For example, their boat is self-righting and is built to be robust enough to cope with the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic. Also, when they take cover in the stern cabin, the rowers will strap themselves in using five fitted point harnesses in each of the bunks.
Sam added: “It would be foolhardy not to be concerned about the risks and dangers of the row, but we will use that apprehension to make sure any possible flaws are rectified. We have a goal that we are stretching ourselves to achieve and that is to raise money and awareness for the Brain Tumour Charity.”
The rowers are aiming to collect £250,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity, which provided Tom and his family with help, advice and support after the death of his father, passionate sailor Luke Rainey, almost two years ago.
Having spent a large portion of their lives on the water, as surfers, international sailors and kayakers, and studied the marine environment at Plymouth University, Sam and Tom have also taken on an environmental mission to complete during their voyage. They will be recording the positions of the North Atlantic garbage patch, an area of man-made marine debris stretching hundreds of square miles, to raise awareness of the harm the plastic inflicts on wildlife and to push for measures to clean and save the oceans.
James Hewitt, Ocean Signal Sales and Marketing Manager, said: “We are delighted to be able to contribute by providing Tom and Sam with our products for their remarkable voyage and proud to be associated with an inspirational expedition which is raising money for such a worthy cause.
“We will be following their progress with great interest and wish them all the best in completing a fast and successful crossing.”
Sam and Tom have received support and sponsorship for the project from several sources, for help to build the vessel and to provide essential kit and supplies.
They have set up a dedicated website inviting people to buy a piece of the boat or follow them on their voyage. For more details, visit www.oceanvalour.co.uk.
Safety and communication products from Ocean Signal offer exceptional value, meeting or exceeding international technical and safety standards. Careful design and innovation provides commercial shipping, fishing and recreational users the confidence that their Ocean Signal equipment will work to, and beyond, their expectations when it is needed most.
For further information on the rescueME PLB1 and the full range of products available from Ocean Signal, please go to www.oceansignal.com.