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Manchester graduate will make waves with oar-some challenge

28 Nov 2012

A Manchester graduate is taking on the challenge of a lifetime – by rowing across the Atlantic with his best friend to raise funds for breast cancer research.

Nick Rees (left) and Ed Curtis
Nick Rees (left) and Ed Curtis


Geography graduate Nick Rees and Ed Curtis will row from the Canary Islands to Antigua, a journey of almost 3,000 miles, in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge which starts on 2 December 2013. Considered to be the world’s toughest rowing race, the duo will row unsupported and self-sufficiently. 

Their inspiration is Nick’s wife Ellen, also a Manchester graduate, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 aged just 33. 

Nick said: “Ellen has showed incredible strength to get through it. She is our inspiration for wanting to take on such a big challenge for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. 

“Knowing the money raised will help fund new treatments and help save lives is our motivation for this unbelievably tough race.”

More people have been into space than rowed the Atlantic, and it’s not for the faint-hearted, with unpredictable, extreme weather conditions and 40 foot waves. 

Physically, rowers have to deal with blisters, salt rashes, sleep deprivation and rowing in two-hour shifts around the clock for weeks. They will typically burn 8,000 calories a day and lose 20 per cent of their body weight during the race.  

Ed said: “I love a challenge and there are few bigger challenges than this.

"We have to be a bit mad to take this on, but we should get through it because we are both very determined and, more important, close friends.

"Following Ellen’s breast cancer treatment we had to do something to fight this disease which affects so many.”

They have bought the winning boat from last year’s race and have received handy tips from others who have completed the epic challenge. 

With just under a year to go, thoughts are already turning to the stark contrast between the comforts of this Christmas versus Christmas 2013 when Nick and Ed will be alone, mid Atlantic, in a 24 foot rowing boat.

The pair are now juggling rigorous training with their work commitments and family life. Nick adds: “There is still a lot of work to do over the next 12 months but we’ve already achieved so much.”

Nick and Ed are hoping to raise £250,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. To find out more about their challenge, visit their website:

To donate, visit their Just Giving page: or to donate £10 by phone, text ‘ROWA88 £10’ to 70070. 

Notes for editors


Nick Rees, 36, is from Rowledge in Surrey. Following five years at Goldman Sachs, he now works as an investment manager for Absolute Return Partners.

Ed Curtis, 37, is from Penmaenmawr, north Wales. He is a watersports professional, working at the Plas Menai National Watersports Centre in North Wales.

About Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK – nearly 48,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed every year. 

Breakthrough Breast Cancer funds ground‐breaking research, campaigns for better services and treatments and raises awareness of breast cancer. More information available at

For media enquiries, please contact:

Suzanne Ross
Media Relations Office
The University of Manchester

Tel: +44 (0161) 275 8258