Ocean Brothers take on Altantic rowing challenge for skin cancer research

The story so far: Jude Massey, 18, and Greg Bailey, 26, aka the ‘Ocean Brothers’ will set off in January 2018 to cross the Atlantic Ocean, to raise money for the British Skin Foundation. Their late father and stepfather passed away in August 2015 after an arduous 16 year-long battle with basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. One year following his death the brothers made a decision to cross the second largest ocean in the world, in memory of him.

Jude & Greg training

The British Skin Foundation has been chatting to the brothers about their
epic upcoming challenge
, here’s what they said…

Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is quite a daunting task, especially as there’s only two of you to share the hard work! Why did you decide on such a tough challenge? 

J: After Dad passed away, I wanted to set myself a challenge to raise money towards a charity in memory of him. Originally I had chosen to swim across the Solent (a stretch of water between Lymington and Yarmouth), however that fell through. Personally, I feel this challenge is humungous, which will pay respect to Dad’s long life of fighting and suffering with skin cancer.

G: The excitement and adventure that comes with rowing for 11 weeks both day and night across the Atlantic Ocean with my brother is the most incredible opportunity I could ever ask for and I feel drawn to challenges of this nature. A challenge of this magnitude, we hope will show our audience how important it is for us to carry on Peter’s courageous fight for the entire 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Peter Massey

We know that you’re doing the challenge to raise money for skin cancer research in memory of your dad & stepdad, Peter. What do you think he would’ve thought of the challenge? 

J: I think he would have been so proud that we were taking on such an immense challenge in memory of him. Dad wasn't one to cry, but I can imagine tears running down his face if he knew what we were doing.

G: As a passionate windsurfer, fisherman and boat owner most of his life I think he would understand why we are seeking a challenge that will test us in the ocean. He appreciated the subtleties of being on the ocean himself. I imagine he would be a bit scared for us but very proud. 

How does your mum feel about it all? 

J: Understandably mum is concerned about how both her sons are taking on this dangerous challenge. But slowly she’s getting used to the idea and is being very supportive towards our campaign.

G: Terrified! As our mother her main concern is our safety and welfare. Also though, she understands why we are doing it and supports us despite her discomfort with us being away at sea for such a long time without any support.  

Greg, you’re a doctor – has your personal experience changed the way you feel when you see skin cancer patients? 

G: Completely. I think losing a close relative and being on the other end as a patient’s relative, has given me a much clearer insight into the depth of emotions that can be experienced and the struggle the sufferer and the family goes through. I believe that we become more compassionate when we as doctors are deeply affected by all that life has to throw at us. We can relate to the struggles individuals and their family face and what they are going through by having experienced suffering ourselves. 

You’ve both put your lives on hold to train for and complete the crossing of the Atlantic. What do you think you’ll miss the most during the challenge?

J: I think I will miss my family, friends and dog most. I am from a very small town on the South Coast, everyone knows everyone and it’s very homely. I don't know how I am going to feel when I am isolated from civilisation for that long, but I am excited for the new experience. 

G: Throughout the row I will have my close family, friends and partner at the forefront of my mind. They will be my drivers and motivators to keep going when it gets tough.

The boys have always enjoyed the sea

Both of you are avid sportsmen, you both are ski instructors and Jude has competed in sailing challenges since a young age – although neither of you have rowed! How do you think this has prepared you for the challenge ahead? 

J: Well, as I have sailed since a young age, I am very used to being out in stormy seas. In fact I sometimes feel more comfortable sailing in the sea than on land, it’s like walking to me!

G: Ex-ocean rowers say an ocean row is 90% psychological and 10% physical. That means that it’s a battle of the mind. Hanging off small handholds on faces over 1,000 meters in the freezing cold pitch black of night whilst fiddling to get gear into cracks has taught me how to relax with adversity. No doubt this will be a new experience and I welcome all that it brings. 

Jude, as a vegan, what do you think are going to be the biggest challenges for you in terms of training and the crossing itself? 

J: I’m researching a lot about what vegan foods are the best to build muscle. Trying to consume the amount of calories I need when training will take some getting used to, as you need to eat more vegetables to get the same calories as meat, eggs, dairy etc. In addition, knowing what foods I should take on the boat with me is going to be difficult, as I need high calorie foods that take up a small amount of space - such as beef Jerky which - is what ocean rowers would normally eat. But I think the challenge is worth it as I am so passionate about veganism, and ensuring I am 100% vegan throughout this challenge.

Tell us a bit more about the boat that you’ll be calling home for the duration of the trip, how much space is there on-board?

G: It’s 24 foot in length with a cabin at either end. The cabin we sleep in, (as we alternate between rowing/ sleeping) can just fit the two of us in at the same time with our feet pressed up against the watertight hatch door. The boat has solar panels on the roof which will power a watermaker and our communications. We will boil water and add it to our dehydrated packaged meals to eat on board. We have a small rudder which is steered with our feet and we follow a compass heading in the direction of Barbados! 

Jude & Greg will only have each other for company during the 3,000 mile row

There’s bound to be some tough times during this challenge, what do you think will be the biggest hurdles?  

J: For me, I think the psychological impact of isolation from everyone will be tough, very tough. Getting into that routine of row, eat, sleep, row, eat, sleep, will definitely take some getting used to. However Greg and I will bounce off each other and help each other through the pain barriers. 

G: Dealing with equipment failure/ damage to the boat, which we will have limited resources to deal with is the most likely reason we would fail. So we have to know every screw and piece of the electrics so we can fix it if something goes wrong. One thing that scares me is we will have to get in the water now and then and scrape barnacles off the bottom of the boat. In these big oceans it’s not uncommon to have large marine life such as sharks follow you for periods of time. So being quick and checking first is key.

You’re aiming to raise £100,000 for skin cancer research, how can people get involved if they want to donate or sponsor you? 

J: You can easily donate through our website by clicking the ‘donate now’ button. Every donation, large and small is hugely appreciated and we thank you all for your support! Anyone interested in sponsorship can view the ‘Sponsors’ page on our website, which has all the relevant info. 

We know that you have some key experts helping you to train, plan and most importantly stay safe! What have you got to prepare for, just in case? 

J: When we are out in the ocean, there are so many variables that pretty much anything can go wrong. One of the obvious hazards when we are rowing is hurricanes. Although we are rowing in between hurricane seasons, the potential to meet one when we are rowing is very likely. If conditions become un-row-able, with 40ft waves tipping the boat from side-to-side, getting hit by gushes of water from the side of the boat, we will make sure all equipment is away securely, put the para-anchor out and hide away in the small, hot, cramped cabin to make sure we are safe. We may encounter a capsize, but the boat will automatically turn back over, we may just hit our heads a few times… When conditions are safer we will get back to rowing!

G: We have to prepare to be able to navigate with the stars in the event of complete electrical failure. We both have to be able to deal with medical emergencies. We have to be able to initiate an emergency response plan in the event of requiring a rescue. Ocean Safety the leading UK marine safety equipment provider are partnering with us and will make sure we are safe before we leave. Chris Martin ex-international GB rower and the Guinness world record holder was the first to row the Pacific. He will be training us and during the row itself he will be checking in on us on a daily basis.

The crossing should take roughly 80 days – how much sunscreen will you be taking to make sure you stay protected? 

J: A LOT. We will be slathering ourselves with sun cream and re applying all the time. As we are exposed to the UV rays all day, it is so important that we also wear UV protective clothing too.

Greg & Jude aren't worried about cabin fever onboard! 

Finally, do you think you can manage the whole challenge without getting on each other’s nerves?! 

J: I think that is the beauty of us as a pair, we are brothers. We have had 18 years to battle, fight, bond, and have amazing experiences together. I feel both of us know each other’s boundaries, which means we will have that immediate respect for each other that new pairs may not have and would have to face those conflicts while rowing! Greg and I are very similar in some ways and very different in others, I don’t see us arguing being an issue. 

G: The good thing about Jude and I is we don’t hold back with each other. We can say exactly what we think and feel to each other without getting too worried what the other will think. For sure this will be a new challenge and very few people in their entire life will ever spend more than a week with one person solely let alone on a tiny boat, which you can’t get off. I did however chose to do this with my brother for a reason and what binds us more than ever is a deep sense of purpose to this trip. The strength which that gives us will absolutely carry us forwards. We are continuing Pete's courageous battle, taking it across 3,000 miles of ocean from the Canaries to the Caribbean. Please like our page on Facebook , follow us on Twitter.

We can’t wait for all of the updates along the way! Find out more about the challenge here & get involved with sponsorship or donate here. 

Follow their progress on Twitter & Facebook.


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Sixty percent of British people currently suffer from or have suffered with a skin disease at some point during their lifetime. Some skin conditions are manageable, others are severe enough to kill. We are here to help change that.

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