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NZ team take on the world in North Atlantic

MEDIA RELEASE 8 December 2003

NZ team take on the world to row across the North Atlantic

Four New Zealanders are on their way to achieving an extraordinary feat–to row for 50 days in the first ever race to cross the North Atlantic.

The Oarblacks—Nick Ashill, Greg Meikle and Paul Williams—are unique as the only team from the Southern Hemisphere to take part in the 15-team Ocean Fours Rowing Challenge, which starts in June 2005.

They will embark on the ultimate endurance test to row an 11-metre boat from Boston to Plymouth across one of the world's wildest stretches of water, notorious for its stray icebergs and fog.

"In June 2005 the Oarblacks will be setting off on the adventure of a lifetime," says Nick Ashill, member of the Oarblacks and Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington.

"Many would see this pursuit as fitting somewhere on the spectrum between unachievable and mad but New Zealand has a fine precedent in setting sporting firsts."

Mr Ashill says the team members come from a variety of backgrounds but are unified in their pursuit of the end goal. They have been supported so far by a number of important public figures from sport and business including Paul Ryan, Glenda Hughes, and Rob Hamill and Jude Ellis - both of whom have rowed across the mid Atlantic.

The three members of the Oarblacks have formed the nucleus of a great team, Mr Ashill says. They are now investigating a number of options to recruit a fourth team member.

Training on land and sea has started for the Oarblacks with gruelling individual and team schedules. The next big milestone for the team is to build their kitset boat which arrives from the United Kingdom in early 2004. All teams competing will do so in a boat provided by the race organiser; Challenge Business. From mid 2004 the Oarblacks will take their training to the Cook Strait, a piece of water that Mr Ashill says will get them well accustomed to the wild North Atlantic.

Mr Ashill says that the budget for the race is $450,000. The team and its supporters will continue to fund raise over the coming 18 months leading up to the June 2005 start. Sponsors to date include Sir Ron Brierley, Icebreaker and Bartercard. Non-financial supporters include STAR boating club, Victoria University and several Rotary Clubs throughout the Wellington region.

The team plans to get to Boston, the race starting point, two to three weeks before the June 2005 starting date. Mr Ashill expects that the team should reach Plymouth, 2800 miles from Boston, between 40 and 50 days later.

Contact: Nick Ashill, School of Marketing and International Business, Victoria University, 04 463 5430 email

Ocean Fours Rowing Challenge 2005
Nick Ashill
Nick was born in Wales, moved to New Zealand in 1990 and gained New Zealand citizenship in 1995. He describes himself as a Welsh Kiwi!!! He has a love of the sea and is a keen scuba diver and surfer. He has a passion for running and has completed the London Marathon three times over the past 5 years.
Nick works as a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Victoria University and has worked on a diverse range of marketing projects throughout New Zealand as a marketing trainer and consultant. He is passionate about teaching and won a National Teaching Award in 2003 for his excellence in teaching. He studied at the University of Leeds, Cardiff and Bradford. Nick is primarily responsible for the sponsorship and fund-raising activities of the ocean race campaign.

"Being courageous requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, and no special combination of time, place and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all." These words belong to John F Kennedy but capture so well my motivations to complete this ocean rowing challenge. There is nothing special about me – I am an ordinary New Zealander wishing to do something ‘extraordinary’ and I have never rowed competitively.

"My motives for spending up to 50 days in an 11-metre boat center around personal growth and self-development. Of course, the event represents an enormous physical and mental challenge and I am sure I will confront many painful barriers along the way. The usual reasons including ‘it has never been done before’, ‘sacrifice for achievement’, ‘doing the unthinkable’ are all relevant, but these are not the major drivers for me. In my sporting and work life, I have always pushed myself to the limits believing that I can perform better and learn something new about myself every time. I have a burning desire to be put into an environment outside my ‘comfort zone’. This ocean-rowing event presents a wonderful opportunity to do just this. I have a number of fears I would like to conquer and I want to do this in an environment, which relies on skill, teamwork and commitment as well as physical and mental strength.

"I am looking forward to the incredible journey that lies ahead."

Greg Meikle
Greg lived in Dunedin until 1982 when he moved onto the M/V Anastasis, a 12,000-ton ship that travels to developing nations for the Youth With A Mission organisation. The vessel provides medical and dental care as well as undertaking construction and agricultural projects to benefit local communities. While living on the ship Greg realised that he is an individual who seeks adventure and took up kayaking and surfing at an early age. As the ship travelled to new countries and presented new opportunities, he became increasingly interested in challenging himself in all aspects of his life, but found helping others the most satisfying. Greg has worked on a variety of boats including charter yachts & launches, deep sea fishing vessels, jet boats and 300-ton supply vessels. He is also a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Greg's extensive knowledge of equipment and navigation will assist the team in the ocean race campaign.

"Why spend 2 years training and struggling to raise money to then spend around 45 days battling it out with whatever Mother Nature throws our way? "Because it is there", just isn't it for me. Apart from being one of the first people to row the North Atlantic in a race, I want to live my life as an exclamation, not an
explanation. This is one way I can do that. I love the ocean and if ever there was a challenge that fits me as a person, this is it. I have spent many years at sea and just love being out there.

Greg Meilke contd.

"I am very interested in learning what my body and mind can do. Some people get out of their 'comfort zone' by going camping or fishing in the mountains. I am getting out of my comfort zone by taking my entire mind, body and spirit across the North Atlantic in a 36-foot ocean rowing boat with three other guys who believe in testing oneself and pushing the boundaries, building each other up in friendship and in confidence. I don't think we test ourselves enough. When I was a kid, we were always told "go outside and play", we built tree huts, raced down steep hills on home made trolleys and even drank out of the garden hose, not from a bottle. I think that in today's world we are becoming complacent and losing our sense of adventure. I want to show people that adventure is part of us and it is good for us, although it doesn't have to be as extreme as this is. Adventure is there for all of us and I want to encourage people to try something new."

Paul Williams
Paul is a 22-year-old primary school teacher/sports co-ordinator at a Korokoro Primary School in Wellington. He is also a qualified fitness instructor. When not teaching he loves to wind down with exercise or a quiet strum of his guitar. Paul is positive and intrigued about the challenges ahead. He also finds the other members of Team Oarblacks a tight and motivated unit. “Team Oarblacks is a positive, focused unit which desires to achieve a goal with tangible aims. Those aims are both personal and professional, but the only way to achieve is by making it happen.”

"The beauty of living in the Hutt Valley is the accessibility to so many varied opportunities- sport, leisure, work and family. It is a good base for what we are setting out to achieve. The Trans Atlantic race offers me a chance to do something nobody else has done before and I have a hunger to succeed. Nobody has rowed the North Atlantic in a race so why not try? Sir Ed Hillary climbed Everest and was the first to do so, gaining a place in history. The members of Team Oarblacks are motivated to make this happen. I am thrilled to be part of this team. Bring it on in 2005!"


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