Two Irishmen have completed a unique 200 mile non-stop rowing race from Barcelona to Ibiza in order to raise awareness of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Limerick native Conor Murphy, 23, and 26-year-old Dubliner Tim Glynn were part Team Isabel, one of two nine-man boats that took 74 hours to complete the journey. A third Irish athlete, 27-year-old Stephanie Jones from Cork, will make the return journey from Ibiza to Barcelona with her own team, who set off on Saturday. The passengers rotated duties, with two-hour shifts on and two-hours off, without stopping over the duration of the gruelling race, which was won by Team Danielle.
The other participants hail from London, New York and San Francisco, and the race was in aid of the NOMAN Campaign, which aims to increase awareness of HPV and its connection to five per cent of all cancer, as well as raising funds for the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. With no sails and no motors, the rowers endured searing heat, saddle sores, seasickness and blisters along the way, with Murphy admitting it was ‘a huge physical challenge’. He said: “What an amazing feeling to be in Ibiza. The race was incredible but it was such a contrast in emotions – you experience incredible highs and elation and then you swing the other end of the spectrum and face quite bleak moments – but you have to band together as a team and push on. “It's a huge physical challenge, but maintaining your emotional state is as much a big a part of a race than anything else. “The experience and ultimately the cause are what have driven me and knowing we can prevent HPV through vaccination in the next generation and end five per cent of cancers.”
And it wasn’t just the physical strain of maintaining momentum, with Tim citing navigation as one of the complications along the way. He said: “The obstacles in the water, like tide, current, navigation and wind were tough going. Our second night the winds came up and it was tough mentally, but what an unbelievable feeling to be on dry land though. “It’s just not as straightforward as pure willpower with ocean rowing – it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, but an incredible achievement for everyone. “It’s definitely a cause worth supporting. I had only sat in a rowing boat on water for the first time a month ago! “But despite the significant commitment required to learn the necessary technique and build the required endurance I know that we were rowing for the many people affected by HPV-related cancers and that raising awareness of HPV.” The identical 24ft (7.3m long) ocean rowing boats were fitted with two rowing seats, two small cabins and precious little room for manoeuvre. It is estimated that each team member burnt around 25,000 calories during the crossing, taking in between 6L-8L of water to sustain them in the 32-degree heat. To date, this race has raised over £89,695 for The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation, a charitable body which aims to extend the current HPV vaccination programme to boys, to de-stigmatise HPV-related disease and improve prevention protocols alongside funding therapeutic research for anal cancer sufferers.
Meanwhile, Stephanie, who is expected to finish her reverse trip on Tuesday or Wednesday, is not thinking of the draining task ahead of her, but of the ever-exhausting fight against cancer. She said: "Like most people in this world I have known people who have fought and won but also fought and lost the battle with cancer. Having worked as a cancer research scientist I know all too well the complications and complexities we face in finding a cure. “Cancer is not just one disease – it is hundreds of thousands of diseases with different causes and routes, requiring numerous different treatments. “Therefore, if we truly want to win the war against cancer, we need to attack from all sides ensuring that no form of cancer is forgotten. Cancer doesn't care if you are male or female, and while I may be the first woman-NOMAN, I think it is vitally important that women are aware and informed about disease which can attack not just ourselves but the men in our lives too whether a father, brother, son or partner. “Early detection can save lives. If we can break the taboo of diseases such as anal cancer we will be half way to winning the battle to curing 5 per cent of cancers." For more information and interviews about NOMAN & HPVACF please contact: Sarah Street [email protected] 020 3701 7510 or 07973 316 818; Gabby Brunton on [email protected], 020 3701 7510 or 07538 87 76 85