Mark had a very happy childhood, growing up in Tolworth on the outskirts of London. Summer holidays were generally spent camping either in the UK or in Italy with his Mum, Dad and Sister however the holidays he most enjoyed were the half term breaks when he and his Dad, John, would go off on their own so that he could learn all about hiking, orienteering and survival skills from his Dad which he himself had learned whilst completing the Duke of Edinburgh’s award as a teen.
Mark loved his time outdoors and took to it like a duck to water, particularly the feeling of achieving goals through physical effort and in doing so, developing his own determination and resilience. More importantly, he learnt from his father two very important traits, those being- a ‘give it a bash, what have you got to lose’ attitude and a willingness to follow the path less travelled (much to his mothers dismay at times!)
Mark was lucky to pass his entrants exam to a local grammar school and, having shown absolutely zero aptitude to anything involving a ball (which he still possesses), Mark gravitated towards the river where he found that sheer endurance and determination mixed with minimal amounts of co-ordination could get you a long way in a rowing boat.
During this time, his Dad developed a passion for sailing through the London Fire Brigade Sailing Association and introduced Mark to it.
Subsequent family holidays were spent sailing on the South Coast where Mark was able to learn valuable skills in navigation and emergency procedures when that didn’t quite go according to plan.
Mark showed only a marginally greater aptitude to his studies than he did with a ball and so, upon leaving school at the age of 18, he decided to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and join the London Fire Brigade and so, in 1993, he started his career as a firefighter.
7 years later and a little disenchanted with the job, he had a chance conversation with one of his colleagues who told him that he could earn money crewing sailing boats and subsequently decided to resign and pursue a career at sea working on yachts.
The years passed and Mark spent most of his time off studying and gaining qualifications until chance once again intervened when the boat he was working on suffered a bent prop shaft meaning that he had a bit of time off whilst it was shipped back from the Caribbean to France for repairs. Upon asking one of his very well travelled crew members what he thought he should do with his time off, it was suggested that Mark went to South America to do some adventure sports. One of the activities suggested that he did whilst away was to climb Huana Potosi, a 2 day climb to reach the 6,088m peak above La Paz in Bolivia.
Upon reaching the summit just before sunrise and looking down at La Paz, Mark got to thinking, what next. The simple answer (according to his Dad’s first tenet) was to train to conquer Everest.
Over the intervening years, every period of shore leave was spent training and climbing progressively higher mountains until he achieved his goal in 2010.
As is often the case with people who have a taste for adventure, some of the time spent away is often taken up with contemplating ‘what next’. It was whilst down at base camp on Everest whilst waiting for a weather window for the summit push that the idea of rowing the Atlantic solo came in to Mark’s head.
Upon returning the UK and finding that he no longer had a job, Mark started planning his Atlantic crossing from the Canaries to the Caribbean however, whilst scrolling through a rowing website, he stumbled across an article relating to a ‘Row to the Pole’ expedition. Recognising the expedition leader from his days at Kingston Rowing Club, Mark got in contact and was subsequently accepted on to the team in order to oversee the build of the boat as well as kitting it out for the expedition and training the crew.
The boat set out from Resolute Bay on the 28th July 2011 and reached the 1996 certified position of the Magnetic North pole 4 weeks later, 3 days after the birth of his first son, Louis.
Upon returning from the Arctic and having achieved a ‘world first’ Mark got to thinking, how about going for another goal that nobody has ever achieved?
Still with an itch to scratch with regard to a solo ocean row, the idea for the New York to London attempt was born.
Mark promised his very supportive and understanding wife another child before he would disappear off again on another adventure. Harry was subsequently born in March 2014 however time and career progression did not allow for another expedition until now.
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