Doctors hit high seas for charity

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
VideoTwo British doctors who will row across the Indian Ocean left Geraldton on Thursday afternoon. Jack Faulkner and Ted Welman will spend three months at sea, travelling more than 5700km to Mauritius and hoping to break the current world recor

Two British doctors have set sail from Geraldton on the trip of a lifetime — rowing across the Indian Ocean.

Ted Welman and Jack Faulkner will spend three months at sea, travelling more than 5700km from Geraldton to Mauritius.

Having rowed competitively in high school and at university, the two wanted to try something that would push them to the limits.

They’re hoping to raise £100,000 ($161,444) for Medecins Sans Frontieres, a global medical charity that provides emergency medical care in areas affected by conflict, epidemics or natural disasters.

The charity, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is a non-governmental organisation working in 70 countries.

“We both feel quite strongly about them,” Mr Welman said.

“They do a huge amount of work all over the world, providing medical care and equipment to countries that need it most.

“They’re always in need of funds because they remain independent and don’t take anything from Governments.”

Only 20 boats have been recorded as having been rowed across the Indian Ocean.

If successful, Mr Welman and Mr Faulkner will be the fifth pair to complete the journey. But the 26-year-olds are also hoping to beat the world record set by two French men in 2012.

“The record is currently 85 days, two hours and five minutes,” Mr Welman said.

“As long as we come in at 85 days, two hours and four minutes, or less, we’ll be pretty happy.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to give the record a good stab.”

Rowing in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, the pair will be fighting sleep deprivation and sea sickness.

With no stops along the way, they will be living off of freeze-dried food, consuming about 5000 calories a day.

The pair have been friends for eight years, having met while studying medicine at Imperial College London.

In the lead-up to their expedition, they’ve spent as much time together as possible, to prepare for the long time they will be stuck together.

But a falling out is the least of their worries.

“Being so close, we’ll know when each other is struggling and be in tune with how the other one is feeling,” Mr Faulkner said.

Mr Welman said big storms would be a concern, and their travels across a migration route between WA and Africa might tempt fate.

“Big storms are always going to be slightly terrifying,” he said.

“That boat, in theory, can deal with a lot but being caught in the middle of a cyclone and being chucked around, we’ll have to batten down the hatches in the cabin.”

“Also being on the main migration route between Western Australia and Africa is also a little bit tempting fate at times.”

When asked about the community backlash to the last two British men who attempted to row across the Indian Ocean from Geraldton, and had to be rescued twice, Mr Faulkner said they were well prepared.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to be as prepared as we possibly can, we’ve done a vast amount of work with weather readers and meteorologists to make sure that we’re leaving at the best possible time and our boat is in as top notch condition as it can be,” he said.

He also said in the event they did need rescue, it would be funded by an international industry pool if it was a commercial vessel pick-up, or fall within the local marine volunteer rescue’s budget.

The pair arrived in Geraldton on February 17 and are expecting to hit open water on March 15. To donate, visit www.doctorsadrift.com.

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