Rowing across the Atlantic Ocean for charity

12 July 2022

Henry Putt recently celebrated his four-year anniversary at Plural. This winter, he is rowing across the Atlantic to raise money for two charities; Mind and the Oli Hilsdon Foundation.

What is the challenge?
In December of this year, three friends and I will row across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. We will leave from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and arrive in Antigua hopefully around mid-January.

Why did you decide to take on this challenge?
I’ve always been attracted to once-in-a-lifetime experiences and have enjoyed physical endurance activities I’ve done in the past, so when I heard about this challenge I jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

Another key motivation is the chance to support two amazing charities. We are rowing the Atlantic to raise money and awareness for the Oli Hilsdon Foundation and Mind, who both do fantastic work in areas which we are inspired to support.

Can you tell us a bit more about the charities you are supporting?
The Oli Hilsdon Foundation was set up in loving memory of Oli Hilsdon who sadly lost his battle with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a malignant Grade IV brain tumour, in January 2019, just 10 days before his 27th birthday. The foundation was established to raise awareness of the condition and fund research projects that advance its goal of extending and ultimately saving the lives of those diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme. Oli was a close friend of the team, his story and the opportunity to support such an important charity, is a real source of inspiration for us.

Mind’s core aim is to ensure that everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect. Whether personally, or through friends and family, we have all seen the suffering that can be experienced through poor mental health. I certainly felt a lot of added pressure on my mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, which really emphasised the importance of mental wellbeing and the need in society for the support that Mind provides.

How are you fitting the challenge around work?

Plural has been really supportive of me and the whole campaign; they have kindly given me the time off I need to complete the challenge as well as helping raise awareness of our campaign and charities.

Plural is also a key sponsor and helped us purchase the boat we will use for the crossing, which will be sold after the race with all proceeds going to our charities.

How are you preparing for the challenge?

Given the scale of the challenge, there is a lot to do across a number of areas: physical & skills training, sourcing sponsorship, as well as charity fundraising.

On the physical side, I am in the gym or on the rowing machine 4-5 times a week to build a good cardiac base and the strength endurance required. On top of that, we are looking to accumulate over 200 hours’ training on our boat down in Weymouth before the race start; developing our on-water skills and generally getting used to spending extended periods of time on the boat.

We are also completing a number of courses covering sea survival, first aid, and technical skills to make sure we are well-prepared for life on the ocean.

Funding this type of challenge is not cheap, so we are also spending time sourcing the sponsorship funding which will allow us to cover all the equipment, logistics, and food costs involved. This involves reaching out to employers, friends, family and beyond raising awareness about our campaign and discussing sponsorship opportunities with like-minded organisations.

It’s been an all-consuming pursuit at times which can be tiring, but it’s great to see how we have been able to pull together as a team and we’ve accomplished a lot already that I am proud of.

How can people support you and your team?
There are lots of ways to support us.

  • Donate: You can donate to our charities via our website or social media pages.
  • Sponsor: For organisations who would like to support our campaign and benefit from the associated marketing and CSR opportunities we have a range of sponsorship packages available.
  • Follow and promote: People can follow our journey on Instagram and tell their friends and family about us. It really helps to build awareness of what we’re doing and bang the drum for our charities.

Do you have any advice for other people looking to do an endurance challenge?

First of all, I would definitely recommend that anyone who is seriously thinking about taking on any kind of challenge, but is unsure about doing it – just go for it! 

Even if you don’t feel like you are ready to take it on yet, signing up is the crucial first step. I didn’t even know how to row before taking on this challenge and we were certainly not prepared to take part when we signed up a year ago; but learning new skills and preparing our minds & bodies for this challenge has been a massive part of the journey and enjoyment of it!