Sight loss no barrier to rowing from California to Hawaii

Seahaven safety training. Photograph by Antelope
Seahaven safety training. Photograph by Antelope

A Newhaven-based maritime training academy has trained two former Royal Marines - one a registered blind veteran - as they prepare for an epic row across the Pacific Ocean.

Steve Sparkes is a Falklands veteran who lost his sight after a driving accident on exercise during his service in the Corps. His partner in the row is Mick Dawson, also a veteran but now a professional sailor and one of the most experienced rowers in the world. This row is part of Mick’s project, the Cockleshell Endeavour.

Now, the pair are preparing to row from California to Hawaii in The Great Pacific Race. They aim to raise awareness and money for two charities, Blind Veterans UK and The Royal Marine Charity.

Seahaven Maritime Academy’s purpose-built training facility has provided the duo with the necessary training to ensure they both stay safe during the row.

Both men have completed the Basic Sea Survival course, and Steve has also qualified in First Aid and a Marine Radio Short Range/VHS course.

Steve Brand, managing director of Seahaven Marine Academy (SMA), said: “Our team has thoroughly enjoyed training both Steve and Mick over the last month.

“Our ethos here at SMA is to offer excellent training at an affordable price with the emphasis on dealing with people not numbers. We’re extremely proud to have been able to help prepare this pair for their adventure. The charities they are support are fantastic and we look forward to seeing Steve and Mick cross the finish line!”

Anyone who would like to donate towards the charities and support the pair can visit Steve and Mick’s Just Giving page.

Seahaven Maritime Academy is a purpose-built, full training centre in Newhaven, run entirely by professional mariners for professional mariners. It aims to also provide the same high standard training for leisure sailors who do not have aspirations of working commercially.