A team of staff and students from the University of Northampton will spend the next 10 months supporting a local man as he prepares to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
In December 2017, Alan Bustin-Mulkern – a 47 year old businessman from Kingsthorpe – will depart from the Canary Islands in a 10 metre ocean rowing boat, and row for 3,000 miles – arriving at the English Harbour in Antigua some 45-60 days later. Known as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the transatlantic race is billed as the ‘World’s Toughest Row’.
Alan is undertaking the challenge to promote and raise funds for the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – a charity that supports soldiers, veterans and families – for life. It’s a cause close to Alan’s heart. “I am an ex-regular soldier who served for 10 years in the Royal Artillery, and I am currently commissioned as an Officer with the Leicester, Northants and Rutland Army Cadet Force,” he explained.
With his military background, Alan is used to extreme exercise. “I have participated in mountaineering, triathlons, ultra-running and mountain biking,” he explained. But not having a nautical background or any experience in rowing makes Alan’s endeavour a little unusual.
To ensure he’s up for the challenge and in tip-top form – physically and mentally – Alan has partnered with the University of Northampton’s Sport Sciences and Sports Psychology teams for advice. The University is working with Alan on his nutrition, as well as coping strategies for the long hours and days he will spend alone on the ocean. The teams are also supporting him by developing a structured training programme to improve his all-round fitness, which will involve periodical performance analysis tests over the next year.
“Working with the University of Northampton is vital to the success of the project, and it’s great to take advantage of the wealth of work that they’re undertaking in the area of endurance sport,” explained Alan. “We’re working together to develop pre-expedition training, and exploring the various rowing strategies that can be adopted throughout the crossing.”
Anthony Baross, Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies at the University, explained: “The partnership will be of immense benefit to our students, who will be able to study Alan’s progress as part of their Fitness Training Methods modules. Additionally, final year students will be able to use the data that they have helped to collect as part of their dissertation project.”
Anthony continued: “This race is a long and arduous challenge with extreme physical demands for the rower, and we will offer Alan all the support we can to make his crossing as successful as possible.”
During the summer, as part of the requirements on the race, Alan will be taking his boat out to sea for 24 hours to check all the essential equipment he will have on-board is working, such as navigation and water purification. “This will be an ideal time for us to monitor Alan’s physiological responses in an environment more closely matching that which he will encounter during the race. It will also allow us to determine which physical tests we can or can’t realistically ask him to take during the race itself,” explained Anthony.
“Once the race is underway we hope that Alan is able to monitor his heart rate over the duration of the event, as well as completing a log of his physical and mental state. Following the successful completion of the race we will look to get Alan back in the laboratory for one last session to see what the physiological effects this mammoth challenge has had on him.”
Alan hopes his challenge will inspire young people, and he will be visiting local schools during his training. He also intends to undertake a live question and answer session with schools from the middle of the Atlantic during the race. He explained: “When we’re in the center of the Ocean we’ll be further from civilization than Tim Peake was in the International Space Station. I think that’s incredible!”
As training is now underway, Alan is hoping to drum up support from local people and businesses. “We are looking for businesses to be part of our journey. I am sure that with support, we can have a hugely successful race.”
For more information on how you can get involved, email Alan directly. For more information regarding the University of Northampton’s Sports and Exercise Science degree course, click here.
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity provides financial assistance to all soldiers and their families when in genuine need. The scope of the charity’s work is huge. Two thirds of money is given direct to individuals to help in areas such as post-injury assistance, vocational support, mobility assistance, education bursaries, care home fees and respite breaks. The other third is given as grants to other charities who support the Army family.