Leeds Beckett University academics supporting Atlantic rowing challenge
Ian, who is 55 and a qualified ocean yacht master, approached Leeds Beckett after working with the university previously when it supported the British Army’s attempt to summit Mount Everest via the West Ridge in 2006. He has been given expert advice from academics from the Carnegie School of Sport and the School of Health on various aspects of the challenge.
He will be rowing for between nine and twelve hours each day and estimates that the crossing will take him around 95 days. He set off on his challenge last night.
Leeds Beckett University has helped him prepare and will support him throughout. Ian has been assessed by a specialist team at the brand-new state-of-the-art Carnegie School of Sport building and has been seen by experts in physiology, psychology, nutrition, physiotherapy and strength and conditioning. Each expert will use their knowledge to support him.
Professor John O’Hara from the Carnegie School of Sport is one of the team who will be supporting Ian: “Ian came to us for advice and guidance on preparing for such an immense challenge. We used experts in various areas to look at Ian’s training and nutrition plan and offer help where needed.
“We started by assessing his overall condition and establishing if there were any injury risks, particularly to his lower back and shoulders. We then looked at his musculoskeletal function, specifically related to rowing to make sure he had a good range of movement, function and strength. We then assessed his rowing specific endurance capabilities to understand how much training would be needed to get him to where he needs to be to be able to undertake the challenge.
“We measured his body composition using our dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry which takes precision measures of fat and lean mass. We needed to make sure that as Ian increased his training, he wasn’t losing muscle mass.
“We especially needed to make sure he is going to be in peak condition to take on the amount of rowing that will be needed and that he has enough muscle mass to keep him going.
“We looked at his nutrition plan and the resources available to him at sea for preparing food and fluid intake. Our key focus is ensuring he is well fuelled and hydrated, as well as maintaining his muscle mass and staying illness free.
“Ian has a good level of knowledge of the nutrition needed for his training so we worked with him to suggest key adaptations including menu cycling to relieve food boredom, additional snacks to add variety and extra fuel for long days, extra protein to boost intake and maintain muscle mass, and meal replacements in the event of sea days with sea sickness.”
Dr Barney Wainwright is a Senior Research Fellow at the Carnegie School of Sport and another member of the team: “During the challenge, we will be receiving automated data via apps on his physical activity, which will mainly be rowing, and his stress and recovery status from heart rate variability data.
“We will also receive a daily email from Ian which will include information on what he has eaten, his body mass, and his sleep patterns. This will help us understand how he is coping physically during the row. We can then advise him if we see any problem areas that need looking at.
“Members of the team will speak to Ian on his satellite phone every couple of weeks to check in with him and this will be a chance to see how he’s coping mentally as well as physically. We’ll be focusing on how he’s feeling, how hard he’s finding the rowing, how he’s sleeping and how long for and what his mood is. It’s very much a balance between effort and recovery and mental state.”
Ian has faced a lot of adventure in his life. He joined the army and fought in theatres of war across the world and was a member of 22 Special Air Service Regiment for more than a decade. In December 2012, whilst working for an American news network, he was kidnapped in Syria. He escaped his captors and managed to find his way to safety using only natural indicators.
He explained what attracted him to this extreme challenge: “I’d describe myself as an adventurer. I’ve always been drawn to the ocean, ever since I was a kid. I’ve wanted to attempt this challenge since I was in my 20s.
“I’m looking forward to the calmness, the equilibrium of being alone for a long time. If I’m honest I don’t like my own company so it’s the ultimate challenge for me to be on my own for that long.”
Ian is raising money for two charities during the challenge - the SAS Regimental Association’s Sentinels programme and St Michael’s Hospice in Herefordshire.
To find out more about the sort of support we are providing Ian and to follow his progress please visit Sentinel Rowing Challenge | Leeds Beckett University