Exmouth Marine veteran will be first ever blind person to row the Pacific
PUBLISHED: 10:37 04 June 2018
A Falklands War veteran from Exmouth is to become the first blind person ever to row the Pacific Ocean in a bid to help injured servicemen and women.
Former Royal Marines Steve Sparkes and Mick Dawson set off on the challenge of a lifetime, competing in The Great Pacific Race, on Saturday, June 2.
Steve and Mick’s team of two - named ‘Cockleshell Endeavour’ - are attemting to row manually from Monterey, California, to Honolulu in Hawaii.
They will compete against six other teams from around the world.
A mammoth feat for anyone, the treacherous challenge will be made more so by the fact Steve is blind, apart from some peripheral vision of shapes and colours.
He told the Journal: “It is a 2,400-mile row across the Pacific Ocean, although with weather conditions it will probably be more like 3,000.
“The record for the race is 55 days, so we are aiming to break that.”
The ‘enormity’ of the challenge cannot be underestimated, with some teams having already dropped out, Steve said.
He added: “Naturally there is apprehension, especially the big swells and the difficulty in the first part of the race getting out of the bay.
“But I actually have more fears about the flight home! Of course, I’m looking forward to getting to Hawaii and dry land.”
Steve lost his sight in 1984 after a diving incident while serving in the Royal Marines, resulting in a medical discharge.
The initial ‘devastation’ of losing his sight and his career hit Steve hard and it was not until a decade later that he received proper support from Blind Veterans UK.
The charity, formerly St Dunstans, tracked him down to where he was living in Malta and flew him back to the UK. Steve has since worked consistently with the organisation, helping other veterans come to terms with loss of sight.
He said: “Over time you adapt, look on the positive side and go forward.
“As with most visually-impaired people, I face challenges on a daily basis, but I decided I needed a ‘ginormous’ challenge.
“I wanted to do something special with a fellow Royal Marine; it’s payback time, to help those that have helped and supported me.”
Mick was part of the first team to ever row the Pacific between Japan and San Francisco in 2009 and he has also previously rowed the Atlantic twice and kayaked around the Falkland Islands.
Steve and Mick have raised £5,725 towards a £10,000 fundraising target, to be split between Blind Veterans UK and the Royal Marines Charity.
To support Steve and Mick by making a donation visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Cockleshell-pacific