Crossing an ocean for our rivers: Jake’s Atlantic row

At the end of next year, data scientist and rower Jake Still plans to embark on an almighty rowing challenge while fundraising to support the restoration of his beloved rivers back home.

Emma Brisdion


At the end of next year, data scientist and rower Jake Still plans to embark on an almighty rowing challenge while fundraising to support the restoration of his beloved rivers back home. Spending up to 50 or so days at sea alone, he's aiming row across the Atlantic solo. This is the first in his series of guest blog posts, in which he'll keep us updated with his training and eventual race progress.

Meet Jake

My name is Jake Still, I am 25 and from Leeds. I work as a data scientist at Zest ECO LTD and provide the analysis to support the team in building up the EV charge point infrastructure for the UK to help our country and beyond to transition into a more green and sustainable future. But for the rest of my time, I can usually be found rowing on the River Aire at Bradford Amateur rowing club or platform diving at John Charles.

Jake (right) during a survival training course for his Atlantic row in Teignmouth

In December 2025, I am going to be rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean solo, from La Gomera to Antigua in the World’s Toughest Row. This is both an extremely physical and mental challenge, where competitors are up against fierce storms, huge waves reaching 8 metres in height, sleep deprivation, sores and bruises, and the occasional flying fish leaping into your boat. I plan to row a competitive time for the race, and this may consist of up to 20 hours plus rowing, eating 5000+ calories, drinking 10L of water daily for about 30 to 50 days.

To be able to do this safely, I will need lots of preparation. This challenge is more than just a physical one, it is also a very technical one. It is about knowing your boat very well, and how to simultaneously handle the boat and to fix problems when you are tired whilst getting smashed by waves at night in 10+ knot winds. The boat I will be using is an R25, which is essentially a canoe body with two rowing positions and two cabins; the bow cabin is for sleeping, and the stern cabin contains all the navigation and electronics. The boat will come with a water maker (to convert salt water to fresh water), two lithium batteries charged by solar panels as well as a chart plotter to plot routes, an autohelm (to keep the boat on course on a bearing) and VHF radio. The one of the major points for success on an ocean rowing is power management. If the batteries drop below 20%, they will shut off to preserve the battery. When this happens, you will not be able to use the water maker or contact anyone on radio for two days. Hence, learning exactly how much power individual pieces of equipment draw is critical for a safe ocean crossing! In general, getting comfortable with all the pieces of equipment is vital for a safe and fast crossing - something I will need to do during my 1,000 hours of practise in UK coastal waters.

Jake with a similar boat to the one he is purchasing for his own race

I want to support The Rivers Trust with this challenge because as a rower, I am very closely connected to the River Aire and spend a lot of time rowing on it. Rowing for me is very therapeutic and is something I have come to enjoy doing. However, this experience is ruined when sewage is spilled directly into the Aire and it is not uncommon for plastic bottles to be floating down it as well. The pollution levels have gotten so bad that we as a rowing club cannot do capsize drills in our river anymore. Furthermore, it is not just water companies polluting our river, some farmers in the catchment are also having an impact. They cause excess nutrients to be added to the river and combine this with the hotter summers, we see toxic algae blooms. Not only does this affect the ecosystem of the river, but it can also make it impossible to row on. This cancelled the 2023 Boston rowing marathon (49.2km), an event I was looking forward to participating in. These events are vital in supporting the local clubs and communities where these races are held and help the clubs get more young people into rowing. However, the biggest cause of race cancellations is due to dangerously high river levels brought upon by excess flooding and rain. This is a consequence of climate change bringing about wetter winters and results in the number of water sessions becoming even fewer each year. This is felt especially by those of us that can only get down during the weekends in winter, and by novice rowers who are not be able to go out in the more challenging conditions.

My next step is getting a boat and sorting the logistics out to prepare for a maiden voyage in Hartlepool, where I will be training and getting used to boat launching and very basic ocean rowing. I will also be creating a banner to help with my campaign to get the essential equipment over the next year needed for the crossing.

Find out more about Jake and his progress on his website, and stay tuned for future updates on our blog.

Find out more about the work that The Rivers Trust are doing with the rowing community in our article about the Rowing Clean Water Partnership with British Rowing.

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