The NOMAN crew is actually quite a lot of man – four big guys, all aged 24, about to cram themselves into a tiny two-man boat. At 116kg (or 256 pounds, or 18 stone 4 pounds) Mark Gleeson is the heaviest man in the Great Pacific Race. The average weight of the crew is 104kg (or 230 pounds, or 16 stone 6 pounds).
Yet their boat, the Isabel, is just 23 feet long and was originally designed as a pairs boat. Fours have successfully used pairs boats before, it just makes for very cosy living quarters and quite a packing challenge, as it will take a huge quantity of food to fuel their man-sized appetites.
Nick Kempster, ironically the only member of the crew that has never rowed before, was the prime mover. He is also the youngest rower in the race, having turned 24 just a couple of days ago. The trainee surveyor was doing his Masters degree in Bath and facing the prospect of starting work, but decided to defer that a little while to go row an ocean instead. He first recruited his old friend Jack, then Chris Blacketer, an estate agent, and rowing coach Mark completed the lineup.
They were keen to row for a good cause, and when they met Tristan Almada from NOMAN, the choice was made. NOMAN is about raising awareness and resources to end HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and the related cancers that currently exist in both men and women. HPV causes 5% of cancers globally, and although it can be vaccinated against, the vaccine, commonly known as the cervical cancer jab, is only given to girls. NOMAN wants to see the vaccine extended to boys, so to have four fine young men promoting the cause was an ideal fit.
You might wonder how they will avoid the stresses associated with living in such close proximity for however long it takes them to row 2,400 miles, but the lads seem confident that they can cope. They have known each other over five years, so they already know each other’s quirks and foibles – and sense of humour. They concede that there may be arguments, but have agreed that no argument is allowed to last for more than 5 minutes. And if someone is getting wound up by a crewmate’s behaviour, they will use a safe word, like “peanut butter”, which conveys the message that “you may want to rethink how you are behaving just now because it’s annoying me” without involving any curse words or epithets.
The crew evidently enjoy a good banter, and are united in their friendly rivalry with Battleborn. As the designated onboard jester, Chris says, “We are a bit like Battleborn, but better in every single way”.
They are looking forward to getting out on the water, and don’t mind how long it takes them to get to Hawaii – so long as it’s two days faster than Battleborn.