Somerset fundraiser counts down to record-breaking Atlantic row 

Tom & SamA Somerset rower preparing to tackle one of the world’s most perilous ocean routes marks a crucial milestone this week as his specially-designed boat begins its own epic journey to the US.

The 23-foot-long ocean rowing boat will leave the West Country on March 21, to be towed initially to Nottinghamshire and then on via container and cargo ship to New York.

The boat’s departure starts the clock ticking on an extreme physical challenge for 25-year-old Sam Coombs, from Clevedon, and his fellow rower Tom Rainey, 23, from Salcombe in Devon.

Sam will fly out to the US in mid-April to be reunited with the boat and in May the pair will set out to row her back from New York to Salcombe. If they succeed, they will become the youngest duo ever to row unaided from the US mainland to the UK mainland, covering some 3,400 miles across the hostile North Atlantic.

They will face waves seven storeys high, icebergs and gale-force winds. Of the 60 crews to have attempted the journey, just 23 have completed it. Five people have been lost at sea.

The pair will have no support yacht and will carry all of the freeze-dried food and supplies they need for the journey, which is expected to take up to three months. They will rest for alternate two-hour periods in a tiny cabin at one end of the boat, with one rowing while the other is sleeping.

Tom&Sam rowing

Sam and Tom – who have named their expedition Ocean Valour – are aiming to raise £250,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity. Tom’s father Luke died from a brain tumour in December 2012 – a loss which, in Tom’s words, “rocked the family to the core”.

Sam and Tom have undergone months of physical and mental training for the Ocean Valour endeavour. The pair also hope to break a 117-year-old record for the fastest journey in a rowing boat between New York and the Isles of Scilly, which stands at 55 days.

Their vessel was designed and constructed by boatbuilder Justin Adkin of Axminster-based SeaSabre. Just six feet wide, it is equipped with a satellite phone that will allow Sam and Tom to make contact with family and friends while they are on route.

Tom&Sam Rowing2

On the morning of Saturday March 21, Justin will carry out a final briefing for the rowers in Axminster before Tom hitches the boat to his car and heads to Newark in Nottinghamshire. Justin will run through everything from how to repair the electronic system if it goes down to fixing a hole in the boat and mending a snapped oar.

Sam said: “The last two years have involved an enormous amount of hard graft, preparing for the challenge. Now we’re excited about getting under way – we are really looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference for a cause we are both passionate about. We are prepared for up to three months of physical pain but the mental challenge will probably be the hardest part.”

The pair’s departure date from Manhattan will depend on the weather but they are hoping to set off in early May. Some of Sam’s family, including his parents, who are also from Clevedon, will be there to wave them off.

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “What Tom and Sam are aiming to achieve is astounding.

“Their determination is inspiring and we are profoundly grateful for their commitment to raise money for us in this extraordinary way.We will be following their journey day by day and wish them lots of luck for their incredible journey.”

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About The Brain Tumour Charity Registered Charity No. 1150054 (England and Wales) SC042096 (Scotland)

The Brain Tumour Charity is the UK’s leading brain tumour charity, formed as a result of the merger of The Brain Tumour Charity (formerly Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust), Brain Tumour UK and The Joseph Foote Trust in March 2013.  It is fighting brain tumours on all fronts – investing in research, providing support and information and raising awareness.  It adheres to national recognised accreditations and best practice guidelines for every area of its work.

The Brain Tumour Charity offers a comprehensive support and information service for anyone who is affected, from a Support & Info Line and support groups to Information Standard accredited fact sheets and family days.

It funds and promotes the UK-wide HeadSmart campaign, raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and young people to make earlier diagnosis a reality.  Earlier diagnosis will reduce long term disabilities and save lives.  In just two years HeadSmart has reduced average diagnosis time from 9.1 weeks to 6.7 weeks.

Find out more at:

Brain tumours – the facts

  • Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40.
  • Over 9,300 people are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumour, including 500 children and young people – that’s 25 people every day.
  • Almost 5,000 people lose their lives to a brain tumour each year.
  • Thousands more are diagnosed with secondary brain tumours, which are not recorded.
  • Brain tumours reduce life expectancy by on average 20 years – the highest of any cancer.
  • Just 14% of adults survive for five years after diagnosis.
  • Brain tumours are the largest cause of preventable or treatable blindness in children.
  • Childhood brain tumour survivors are 10 times more likely to suffer long term disability than well children. This accounts for 20,000 additional disabled life years for all the children who are diagnosed each year.
  • Research offers the only real hope of dramatic improvements in the management and treatment of brain tumours. Over £500m is spent on cancer research in the UK every year, yet less than 2% is spent on brain tumours.