Issue 96 - March 1997
Atlantic Challenge, October12th 1997
Jan Meek, 52, a former mayor of Chipping Norton, accepts the fact that she will be one of the 'novices' in the Atlantic race. Her son, Daniel, 22, a cadet at Sandhurst, achieved his mother's backing in 1995 when he and a fellow army cadet, Jason Mahan, announced that they wanted to enter for the challenge. Jason was the rower, Daniel was more into mountaineering, but, in early 1996, Jason, due to his study commitments, backed out and Jan received a phone call from her son saying,
'How do you fancy Christmas in Barbados in 1997?'It went from there and the mother and son decided to do it together after Jan's doctor said he could see no reason why she should not go ahead with the idea.
Jan's experience of trips to Barbados was limited at that time to cooking and crewing on yachts. I met her first, bronzed from such a trip, when she walked into the Regent gym in Chipping Norton last March and informed the manager, Jason Biles, that she wanted him to get her fit to row the Atlantic. Her rowing experience was limited to the Serpentine. I was called over, and, perhaps a little dismissively, made some comments about soft hands and hard work.
A year later, and in spite of an 8am to 6pm job with Technifor in Chipping Norton, Jan is still at it. She is in the gym four days per week and has been seen undertaking three hour Wednesday sessions in a tub pair with Jim Messum, of National Provincial Bank rowing fame, at Wargrave. She spends about three hours per week on the gymnasium's one ergo, which does not always endear her to the other customers.
'I was hoping to get one for myself'she says, but, in the absence of serious sponsorship and the costs involved in buying the boat kit and having it assembled at Bossoms in Oxford, the venture is emptying the coffers.
'I am putting everything I possess into it. I believe I will get sponsorship', she says. 'If not, I will have five minutes fame for a lot of debt.'The year's training has made a difference.
'I have lost over one stone (she is now 9 stone 4 pounds) and an inch all over', she says, 'I have my thirty year old body back'.Her experience of crew rowing remains minimal. However, her one outing in a prototype boat in December with her son led to her comment,
'I really rather enjoy rowing.'
'Just as well, Mum'was Daniel's retort.
Money might still be short, but she is receiving a lot of advice. Nigel Gifford, a diet expert, who supplied the provisions for Richard Branson's aborted balloon flight, is advising on food. Serious sailors have given advice on the likely sea conditions. A water survival expert from the SAS is giving views on liquid requirements. Richard Scaldwell, who was involved with the company which built the blades for Chay Blyth's original crossing, is making some special sculls for the diminutive competitor.
If sufficient money does come in, any surplus will go to the Oxford based National Cancer Alliance. Jan lost her husband to cancer in 1992 and also five other close friends.
Jan intends to enjoy the row.
'It will be a dramatic way of getting to really know my son for three months before he goes off into the wide world.'
Sponsorship enquiries:Jan Meek. Tel. 01608 644700. Fax 01608 644747.
© Copyright M. Rosewell, 1997.
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