Students Luke and Jamie prepare for gruelling trans-Atlantic row


A SCOTS student is planning to shed almost a third of his body weight – by becoming part of the youngest team to row the Atlantic.

Edinburgh University student Luke Birch is teaming up with childhood friend Jamie Sparks for the perilous 3,500-mile journey.

The pair, who are only 21, will set a new record if they manage the crossing from the Canary Islands, off the coast of north west Africa, to Antigua in the Caribbean.

Luke aboard the Maple Leaf
Luke aboard the Maple Leaf


They will attempt the feat in a 24ft-long rowing boat and no support vessel.

Luke and Jamie will burn around 10,000 calories a day and cannot store enough food on board to maintain their weight.

Both are set to shed 25kg during the 50 days of non-stop rowing, which is scheduled to start on Monday.

After training for more than a year, human geography student Luke is confident.

He said: “I’m positive it will work out.

“When we were practising putting food out the waters were so choppy – it’s going to be so hard.

“But I’m probably one of these weird people that relishes the challenge.”

The pair hope to cover 50 miles a day, rowing two hours on and two hours off for 24 hours in the boat, Maple Leaf.

Luke and Jamie
Luke and Jamie

The journey could throw up 40ft waves or even sharks and the friends will have to contend with sunburn and exhaustion.

Luke, a third-year student, said he will be listening to children’s audio books on his iPod while rowing and may even try to learn Spanish.

He said: “I’ve got loads of audio books, lots of easy stuff from when i was younger like Harry Potter and Horrid Henry  as well as more philosophical stuff.

“I’ve even got Rosetta Stone ‘learn Spanish’ so if I come back multi-lingual I’ll be killing two birds with one stone.”

Luke and Jamie hope to raise £100,000 for Breast Cancer Care, after Luke’s mother was diagnosed with the illness.

Luke said: “The idea for the race started as pub talk. I swam the Channel when I was 18  and I needed something more.

“When I heard my mum was dignosed with breast cancer I thought it was a great opportunity to help the charity.”