Soldier gunning for rowing world record says killer whales are ‘biggest worry’

Jack Jarvis will be rowing 15 hours a day for 90 days in a bid to become the first person to row from mainland Europe to mainland North America without support while raising money for brain tumour charity Brainstrust

Jack Jarvis rowing
Jack is trying to break the Atlantic rowing world record

Rogue killer whales and boat-sinking marlin are a soldier’s biggest worry as he prepares for a record-breaking charity row across the Atlantic.

Jack Jarvis, 28, is attempting to become the first person to complete an unsupported solo row from mainland Europe to mainland North America beginning on Friday.

His perilous 90-day journey from Lagos in Portugal to Miami in the US will span 4,500 back-breaking nautical miles across the open ocean.

But the physical challenges of skin-shredding salt sores and agonising chafing from rowing for 15 hours a day are the least of Jack’s concerns.

He says: “A lot of the things that really worry me are out of my control.

The soldier will be rowing for 15 hours a day for 90 days


Jack Jarvis)

“Those sort of things are marlin strikes, where a marlin’s bill pierces the bottom of the boat.

“That happened twice last season to two four-man teams.

“Also, at the moment, there’s a rogue pod of Orcas off the south coast of Spain that are biting the rudders off small vessels. And shipping containers that have fallen off ships worry me.

“They come along and won’t be on your AIS [ship tracking system] which then whack your boat, and that’d be you – your boat would be written off.

Jack says killer whales are his biggest concern


Jack Jarvis)

“But those things are out of my control so why waste energy worrying about them?”

Jack, who joined the Army at 16 and served with 3 Commando Brigade, is taking a career break from the military to attempt his record crossing.

While others have rowed the Atlantic solo before, no one has done so without support from mainland Europe to mainland North America.

That means he’ll be totally alone battling 20ft waves in gruelling days beginning at 5AM.

Jack will do cycles of three hours of rowing followed by one hour off until midnight.

His gruelling schedule could see him set a new rowing record


Jack Jarvis)

He says: “Even in time off, it’s not just time to sleep – the boat needs maintaining, like making sure the bottom is free of barnacles so you go quicker.

“You’ve got to cook all your food and use your desalination pump to make the salt water into drinking water.

“And there’ll be no creature comforts.

“A £24 bucket from the chandlery is what I’ll be going on, that’ll be my throne!”

Jack is undertaking his epic challenge to raise money for Brainstrust, a charity which provides support for people with brain tumours and their loved ones.

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In 2007, Jack lost his own grandfather, John ‘Budgie’ Stratton, to a brain tumour.

Jack says: “I was very close with my grandad.

“My mum and dad split up when I was very young, only about three or four.

“So we lived with my grandma and my grandad for the first part of my life.

“He was the first male figure I knew.

Marlin have previously jeopardised ocean rowing crossings by striking boats with their sharp bills



“He was a really funny guy, really caring, an awesome bloke who was taken far too early.

“He died when I was 13 so he would have been 57 – far too young.”

Jack helped to raise £6,000 for Brainstrust this summer by running a marathon while carrying a 26kg rowing machine.

And he says the memory of his grandfather will once again help him endure on the row to the US.

Jack says: “When times get tough, if you’ve got a weak reason for doing it, you’re probably more likely to quit.

Rogue orcas have also caused havoc by attacking boats off the Spanish coast


Karen Munro / SWNS.COM)

“I will always think about my grandad – he battled a brain tumour for three years before he passed away.

“If he can do that, rowing across the Atlantic seems quite easy if you ask me.”

Jack is currently in Portugal making his final preparations for the herculean crossing.

Despite captaining the 24 Commando Rowing Team to victory in the 2019 Army Championships, he knows his Atlantic adventure will be unlike anything he’s ever done before.

Jack says: “People are always like: ‘What prep have you done?’

Jack aims to arrive in Miami 90 days after setting off – but it could take 140 days in the worst case scenario



“It’s not like you can do half the Atlantic! You do the full thing or you don’t. If you do half, you die.

“If you quit at work it’s called ‘wrapping’.

“So when people say to me: ‘What if you want to wrap?’ And I say: ‘If I wrap, I die’. If you quit, you die.

“So when those are the two options, you’re going to keep going aren’t you?

“By hook or by crook, I’ll be seeing you in Miami.”

You can find out more about Jack’s challenge and donate here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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