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Student par-oar-medics plan to row 3,000 miles across Atlantic


L to R: Ethan, Ken and Tom in a simulation room at the university.

Three University of Bradford student paramedics are planning to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to raise money for charity.

The team - known as Par-oar-medics - consists of third-year students Ken Bordt, Tom Dowdy and Ethan Chapman.

They decided to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - officially known as the world’s toughest row - to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, Stroke Association UK, and the Ambulance Staff Charity.

They are currently looking for sponsors through their website:

Former chef Ken, 40, originally from Zimbabwe, has previously taught scuba diving in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia but has almost no experience of rowing.

He said: “I have always had a great affinity for the ocean, I lived by the sea for a long time and I have long harboured an ambition to take on a challenge that involves the ocean. I originally began researching sailing around the world but stumbled on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and I was hooked.

“I then had to find two other people mad enough to do the challenge with me - luckily, Tom and Ethan took about two minutes to come on board with the idea.”

L to R: Final year paramedic students Tom Dowdy, Ken Bordt, and Ethan Champan

Above (L to R): Final year paramedic students Tom Dowdy, Ken Bordt, and Ethan Champan

Tom, 24, said: “I’ve taken part in a number of strange events in my life, including completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks while carrying a double bass, I’ve done some ice climbing and I once cycled from London to Santander, but this will be by far the most bonkers thing I have ever done. The fact fewer people have completed this challenge than have climbed Everest just makes it more appealing, not to mention scary.”

Ethan, 21, from Lancaster, said: “It was the middle of lockdown and suddenly Ken said he had this great idea… to row the Atlantic. When we got back to the house, he showed us a video and we all said yes. In a way it doesn’t seem real yet, and we’re aware it will be difficult to train at the same time as entering our final year, but we are all up for the challenge.”

The trio, all of whom have just completed their sandwich year as part of a four-year paramedic degree, will begin their challenge in December 2024 from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and end in Antigua. Between now and then, they have to canvas support, find sponsors, and raise enough money to buy a boat in which to compete.

Ken added: “We will be rowing two-hours on, two-hours off for about 30 days, and we have to carry all our own food and water. The boat we will use will be self-righting, so if we do capsize, it will right itself. It’s a crazy challenge but we are all looking forward to it.”

L to R: Ethan, Ken and Tom in the gym

The three previously took part in a challenge during lockdown in which they repeatedly climbed flights of steps while carrying paramedic equipment on their backs. During the Atlantic challenge, they can (according to the website) expect sleep deprivation, hallucinations and hunger.

Commenting on the University of Bradford’s paramedic course, Ken said: “It’s the only programme in the country that offers a sandwich year in year three, which means we go out on the road and work with actual clinicians on the front line, which is such a valuable learning process, and I think it means Bradford’s course is head and shoulders above the rest.”

Since 2012, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has been organised by Atlantic Campaigns and is now the world’s safest and most successful ocean rowing race.