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Six amateur rowers take on 2,000-mile GB circumnavigation challenge to collect environmental data

The Crown Estate

A world record for the first mixed team to circumnavigate Great Britain unsupported is being attempted by six amateur rowers as part of the GB Row Challenge 2024.   

Setting off from Tower Bridge at 5pm on Sunday 9 June, Team Coastal Odyssey is rowing non-stop to cover 2,000 miles in waters around the UK in what is described as the world’s toughest rowing race.   

In partnership with The Crown Estate, the national landowner which manages the seabed and much of the coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Team Coastal Odyssey will gather samples of microplastics, environmental DNA (eDNA), temperature, noise and salinity data during their test of endurance. 

Various sensors, recorders, samplers and hydrophones will be attached to their boats, with the gathered data invaluable in enhancing our understanding of marine biodiversity and the challenges it faces.  

The data will be analysed by the University of Portsmouth to better understand the UK’s marine conditions and hosted on the Marine Data Exchange (MDE), a world-leading collection of marine industry survey data.  

Developed in 2013 by The Crown Estate as a first-of-its-kind data resource, the MDE supports sustainable development of the seabed whilst protecting the UK’s marine environment for future generations. 

The team includes Skipper Patrick Deacon (an offshore wind Blade Repair Technician), Chief Navigator Adam Ravenscroft (a former British Army Signaller and passionate environmentalist), First Mate Joe Benson (Audit Manager and Data Analyst), and crew members Hannah Davies (a vet based at the University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine),  Lia Evans (a physiotherapist) and Daisy Lucker (a Business Development Manager).  

By taking on the challenge and propelling themselves around the shoreline of Britain, the team is collecting data with a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional diesel powered survey vessels.  

2024 is the third year of GB Row Challenge’s five-year plan in partnership with the University of Portsmouth, researching to preserve marine wildlife. The interannual nature of the data collection provides the benefit of being able to compare samples over time, and biodiversity data collected by rowers in previous years provided one of the most detailed baselines of British coastal biodiversity for fish, mammals and birds using eDNA analysis.   

Patrick Deacon, Team Coastal Odyssey Skipper, said: “Joe Benson was the inspiration behind forming Coastal Odyssey and he did a wonderful job of putting together a team of like-minded individuals from across the UK. Despite none of us knowing each other before this challenge, we have already formed a strong and hopefully lifelong bond.  

“I’m very excited for the challenge ahead of us – it’s certainly going to be quite the adventure. As skipper, I’ll have to be on my A-game as we embrace in an epic tango around Great Britain with the ever constantly changing British weather. I’m most looking forward to witnessing the serene beauty and wildlife along the West Coast of Scotland from an ocean rowing boat, hopefully making all the tougher days melt into oblivion!” 

Chelsea Bradbury, Senior Marine Data & Insights Manager at The Crown Estate, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with such a motivated and passionate team and wish them every success in their journey. Patrick, Hannah, Joe, Adam, Daisy and Lia’s dedication is inspiring and we’re excited to support their attempt to be the first mixed crew to complete this difficult challenge.  

“This challenge aligns with The Crown Estate’s mission to create lasting and shared value for the nation, using data to better understand how we can protect and restore our natural environment.”