Rowing the Atlantic

Olly Hicks, Atlantic rower and record holder, speaks to Martyn Thornton, Atlantic Solo, who is taking part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge 2020 about mentally and physically preparing for such an adventure. Discover more about the Yorkshireman who is taking on the gruelling 3,000 mile journey in conversation with the Arksen Foundation’s Executive Director who has taken on a number of rowing challenges in his time.

Follow his adventure here>>

Discover more about Martyn here>>

Arksen Sponsors Atlantic Solo

1 man. 1 boat. 3,000 miles of ocean. £50,000 for charity. 

Martyn Thornton certainly doesn’t do things by halves.  A 60 something businessman and part-time adventurer, this Yorkshireman is taking on “The Worlds Toughest Row”, in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, to raise money for the charity, HorseHead. 

The drive to test himself has always been in his blood. Whether it’s physical challenges (marathons, cycling, walking), career challenges (setting up several companies), emotional challenges (battling depression, training as a performance coach), or learning the violin at 56, Martyn has the desirable belief that he will always succeed. 

“Ive been asked loads of times why Im doing this and to be honest theres no earth shattering reason or drive to find myself” – quite simply it just resonates with a fundamental part of my character.”

– Martyn Thornton

Adventure isn’t something he’s new to either. In 2017 he hiked solo through the wilderness, from Mexico to Canada, along the Pacific Crest. A brutal 20 miles per day and 5 months later, Martyn completed the 2,667 mile challenge.

Martyn’s a strong believer that age is just a number. His desire to challenge himself through endurance events has led him to defy the conventions of society imposed on his age group. He has great aims of inspiring his generation and proving it’s never too late to have a passion. 

The Race

Under the team name ‘Atlantic Solo’, Martyn will be taking to the ocean this December in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. He’ll be rowing across the Atlantic Ocean from San Sebastian, La Gomera, in the Canary Isles (28oN 18oW), to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua (17oN 61oW). A gruelling 3,000 mile journey, one which has seen more people successfully climb Mount Everest than cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat. 

Out on the ocean, Martyn will be completely self-sufficient. He will single-handedly propel his 24ft ocean rowing boat towards Antigua with no outside assistance, whilst facing a constant battle of fatigue, blisters, salt sores and sleep deprivation, due to two-hour shifts around the clock. 

The electricity for GPS navigation and communications will be powered by solar panels and freshwater supplied via an essential ‘water maker’, that makes seawater suitable and safe to drink and use for rehydrating food supplies. 

The race is sure to be a mental and physical test on Martyn’s endurance, especially whilst facing the raw and unforgiving elements of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Motivation

Despite the adventure and hardship the challenge presents, there is a major motivation behind his drive. Martyn has suffered with severe depression during moments of his life and wants to give back and repay the acts of kindness he received over the years. Often finding support and encouragement through exercise, therapy and coaching, Martyn is passionate about raising awareness and educating others on mental health issues, as well as the importance of looking after our minds. 

HorseHeard is a UK charity helping to improve the emotional health and wellbeing of children, young people, adults and veterans in need, through the powerful connection of horses. They work with groups and families with horses from local riding stables or welfare centres with experienced and qualified facilitators. They also provide a peer support programme that involves a mix of classroom-based work, practical activities and horse interaction. The charity successfully helps to develop individuals’ self-confidence, self-esteem, core life skills, the management of their emotional state as well as many others. 

Having worked with HorseHeard both professionally and personally, Martyn wholeheartedly believes that their work makes a substantial difference. A charity very close to his heart, Martyn aims to raise £50,000 for HorseHeard. 

The world record to cross the Atlantic solo in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is 31 days, with the longest over a 100 days. Martyn’s competitive spirit has him aiming to break the current record of solo male over 60 and inspire fellow baby-boomers that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  

“I see myself as a conventional and ordinary man, who just happens to believe that you can do whatever you really want to – you just have to believe you can.”

– Martyn Thornton

Arksen is very proudly sponsoring Martyn on his race across the Atlantic. His drive to inspire others and sense of adventure are traits close to our heart and we can’t wait to see Martyn in action. 

Follow Martyn on Instagram to keep up to date with his preparations. 

You can also donate to Martyn’s Go Fund Me page here.

Discover another Atlantic rower, Olly Hicks and his past adventures here.

Behind the Scenes of Project Ocean

Last month the first Arksen 85 went into build at Wight Shipyard Co. We are now pleased to share with you a quick look behind the scenes at the team of experts working on bringing the recycled aluminium Explorer Vessel to life. As ‘Project Ocean’ develops, between now and her delivery in Spring 2022, we will be sharing with you an in-depth look into the team, designs, materials and processes involved in creating a capable, long-range, eco-conscious exploration vessel.

To be kept up to date with the latest build and company developments make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and social channels at the bottom of the page.

New Partner Hydro

We have talked before on the use of aluminium and the reasons why we believe it’s the ideal material to build the Arksen range. With the Arksen 85 ‘Project Ocean’ currently in production, at Wight Shipyard Co., we are delighted to share that Hydro, a global supplier of aluminium, will be supplying the aluminium for Arksen vessels. 

Low Carbon Aluminium

Hydro’s purpose is to create a more viable society by innovatively and efficiently developing natural resources into products and services. A value that is aligned with our own, Hydro are passionate about minimalising their footprint and producing more sustainable materials. 

This partnership with Hydro provides us with access to low-carbon aluminium as well as an abundance of aluminium expertise in developing cost-effective, efficient and strong solutions for the marine industry. 

Hydro has provided us access to both rolled and extruded marine-grade aluminium, made from a combination of process scrap and recycled aluminium, combined with primary aluminium which offers a low-carbon alternative, manufactured using renewable energy. In turn, aiding our journey to create a fleet of more-sustainable exploration and research vessels. 

‘Project Ocean’ will be built with Hydro Njørdal, in the form of aluminium extrusions and sheets, that are strong yet light and corrosion-resistant, making them suitable for life at sea. Hydro Njørdal is an alloy stronger and more durable than other aluminium alloys. Allowing for an innovative light-weight design, it will also contribute to greatly reducing energy consumption.

‘Project Ocean’ in production at Wight Shipyard Co. using Hydro aluminium.

Olly Hicks, Executive Director of the Arksen Foundation commented:

“Hydro’s knowledge and experience has enabled us to better understand the material benefits both for the vessel and for the environment. We were impressed with how Hydro are working with their partners to deliver smarter solutions and for highlighting what should be the preferred choice in the industry. This is something that we want to help champion as well.”

Hydro has been involved early on within the Arksen project, providing insights into optimising the aluminium construction as well as designing for recycling. 

David Goddard, UK Sales Manager at Hydro, states that “Only a small percentage of boats in Europe are recycled.” Commenting that “Projects like this from Arksen are a step in the right direction for the potential of recycling materials in the marine sector.” 

Read more on ‘Project Ocean’ going into production earlier this year here

Explorer Vessel “Project Ocean” in Build

Milestone for Arksen as their first eco-conscious Explorer Vessel goes into production.

Built from the ground up to be capable and efficient for true off-grid adventures.

Arksen continue to drive market change, by facilitating more mindful and purposeful explorations.

Less than two years ago, Arksen unveiled their innovative vision for a new wave of sustainable marine adventure. The project has rapidly gained momentum and now their first Explorer Vessel, the Arksen 85 “Project Ocean”, has gone into production in the UK. The 85 model is the ‘flagship’ of the Arksen Explorer Series which also includes the 60 and 75, with larger models in the pipeline. 

“Project Ocean” in production at Isle of Wight shipyard

Arksen design and build boats with the ability to travel to less frequented surroundings. Combining performance and functionality, the vessels are built to be robust, reliable and efficient. Owners are given the capability, comfort, confidence and independence needed to take on an adventure of a lifetime.

Project Ocean will have four cabins accommodating up to 12 explorers including a full beam master suite with multi-purpose library / study / media room / children’s cabin. She has an efficient cruising speed of 9-11 knots, top speed of 14 knots and a maximum range of up to 7,000nm. “Project Ocean” has a full hybrid propulsion package and energy management system supplied by Praxis Automation Technology. Solar capacity onboard offers up to 7kW of zero-carbon electrical power. Onboard heating and ventilation systems use thermal reclaim for improved efficiency. 

The Arksen 85 is designed to offer stability in excess of MCA requirements for unlimited operation, with 180 degrees of positive stability in cruising trim. All Arksen vessels are designed with marine research in mind. Through the Arksen Foundation, owners are invited to pledge 10 percent of their vessels’ sea time to ocean-exploration projects, allowing scientists and researchers access to the oceans to seek a better understanding of the marine ecosystem.

Production begins on the Arksen 85 Explorer Vessel

Partnerships with UK South Coast businesses are helping to bring the project to life. World-renowned naval architecture and yacht design studio, Humphreys Yacht Design have delivered the exterior design and naval architecture whilst working closely with Chartwell Marine, who provided a complete structural engineering service to meet the high levels of additional robustness and efficiency required for a serious long-range explorer vessel. The first 85 started build earlier this month at Isle of Wight based Wight Shipyard Company, who have a wealth of knowledge spanning commercial, defence and superyacht projects. “Wight Shipyard Co has built a reputation for light-weight fuel-efficient vessels to reduce both costs for our customers and lower their carbon footprint.” commented COO, Jo Daly “We have been working alongside Arksen to develop a vessel built to the highest of standards that will become a model for the future.”

Circular economy principles have been adopted throughout; from designing out waste and keeping materials in use to minimising carbon footprint and resource efficiency. It’s an approach Arksen and their partners believe, more than ever, is an essential approach in working towards a sustainable marine future. Tom Humphreys, Co-Director of Humphreys Yacht Design, “Arksen’s dedication to researching and understanding our impact on the environment will be invaluable in helping to re-shape the development of leisure-vessel production in the motor yacht sector.”

“The efficient design, sustainable technologies and long-range capabilities of the Arksen fleet are more important than ever today. We think it’s very exciting, the right product at the right time.”

The Arksen 85 “Project Ocean” in production

The Arksen 85’s hull and superstructure are built in aluminium, supplied by Norway-based company Hydro, which contains recycled material and can again be recycled at the end of the vessel’s life. The hull design is highly efficient, leading to reduced fuel consumption which equates to lower running costs and lower emissions. The interior is created by multi-award winning Design Unlimited and will use a wide range of sustainable materials including many from recycled sources. Even the soft furnishings include fabrics created using recycled plastic bottles. Mark Tucker, Creative Director of Design Unlimited, “The Design Unlimited studio have created an interior that is dynamic, functional, attractive and sustainable in both the materials used and in its on-going functionality and versatility of use.”  

The team are expecting an 18-month build schedule, with sea trials planned for spring 2022. A large portion of the “Project Ocean” sea time will be donated to the Arksen Foundation.

First frames of “Project Ocean”

Arksen was founded by Technology Entrepreneur, Jasper Smith,

“We have been working closely with all our partners to design and build a vessel to be the best in class in efficiency and fuel economy and have gained a comprehensive understanding on the procurement process and supply chain for all the components that we will use throughout.” 

“To have the first Arksen 85 vessel in production is a big milestone in our journey and we look forward to having our first boat on the water in the near future.”

Arksen is built on three key elements; the Explorer Vessels, the Arksen Foundation and the Arksen Explorers’ Club. All owners are given exclusive membership to the Explorers’ Club, which offers tailor-made expeditions and training to make the most of their vessel and explore the remotest corners of the world.

Render of the Arksen 85 Explorer Vessel

The Arksen Foundation is a partner of the Yachts for Science program, alongside Boat International, Nekton Mission and the Ocean Family Foundation. It’s estimated the human race has only discovered 9% of the species living within the ocean and mapped a fraction of the ocean floor. The Yachts for Science program offers a platform designed to help marine scientists reach new depths of the ocean, by connecting the scientists with yachts to conduct research and conservation projects.

Arksen are also sponsors of the new ‘Yacht of the Year’ category at the Ocean Awards 2021 and Jasper Smith will sit on the judging panel. The award will acknowledge vessels, their owners and/or crew that have actively helped enhance the health of the ocean.

Meet the COO

Designer, builder and keen sailor of vessels – Ewan Hind has done it all. We caught up with Arksen’s Chief Operating Officer to discuss how he first got into the marine industry, sustainability and the need for respect towards our oceans, the impact of a pandemic as well as some of his envious past adventures. 

You’re a keen sailor. When did your love for the sea first arise?

Ewan Hind (EW): When I was young, the family moved to the west coast of Scotland and my parents ran a traditional sailing boat as a charter business. We sailed on the boat during the summers around the Hebrides, and we lived by the sea and spent our spare time messing around in dinghies. I was bitten by the bug early on!

The Scottish Hebrides where Ewan spent his childhood summers

With over 25 years of experience within the marine industry, you’ve been involved in the designing, building and sailing of vessels. How did you first get into the industry?

EW: I passed my Yachtmaster at 17 and spent every summer through my late teens sailing professionally, and volunteering with Sail Training organisations, before spending many years involved in sailing and sail training full time after graduation. I had dreams of being a yacht designer from my early teens and studied for a Masters degree in Naval Architecture at Southampton University, which was my route into designing and building boats. I’ve been lucky to be able to combine designing, building and time at sea on all sorts of boats during my career to date.

Marine conservation is at the heart of Arksen. Has the sustainability of the marine industry been something that has become more important to you over the years?

EW: Yes, absolutely. Having spent my formative years going to sea in a naturally sustainable way – on sailing boats, mostly wooden, and in beautiful, unspoilt places – leaving a light footprint was very natural. When my career took me into the large yacht world, I was shocked by some of the prevailing attitudes and lack of respect for the ocean environment. Over the last few years, there has certainly been a general shift in attitudes toward more sustainable operation, but there is certainly a long way to go. I hope that with Arksen, we can be part of leading that change.

Ewan Hind sailing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

How vital do you think it is for yacht companies to respect, understand their impact and protect the oceans. Do you think enough is being done in the industry?

EW: Positive change is certainly happening within the industry, but it is slow and more needs to happen. Much in the yachting sector revolves around wealthy owners – cash-rich, time-poor, with a focus on convenience and with habits ingrained over decades of consumption. Widespread, systemic change has to start where the money is, with a shift in attitudes from the people who pay the bills. There are many thoughtful owners investing in more sustainable yachts and operations, and the industry is responding with numerous innovations to facilitate this. But, at the moment, these innovations are grabbing headlines – a sign that they are not yet the norm. These innovations show what the direction of travel needs to be, and there is some momentum building. But the industry certainly needs to do more to guide owners in the right direction – to be more proactive rather than simply responsive – in order to accelerate change.

What are you most excited for, for the future of Arksen?

EW: I’m looking forward to helping owners plan incredible adventures in their Arksen vessels, facilitating research and conservation work aboard through Yachts for Science, and using our shared ownership programmes to make access to ocean adventures more achievable.

Ewan and his crew sailing in 2006

Many events have been put on hold this year due to COVID-19, including major boat shows such as Cannes Yachting Festival and Southampton International Boat Show. How do you think the yachting industry will fair with the disruption compared to other industries?

EW: It seems to be a mixed outlook for the marine industry. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic is certainly putting some plans on hold in the short term, but access to a boat provides a perfect opportunity for socially distanced fun and adventure and this is being recognised. The small boat sector, where stock is readily available to have and use now, is doing very well. In the longer term, I am hopeful that the changes in outlook and habits brought about by Covid-19, lockdown living, remote working and social distancing will encourage more people to buy and charter as a great way to have family time, undertake adventures in safety and comfort, and do so for longer periods, as remote working opportunities and faster connectivity at sea allow business’ to be conducted from anywhere.

Trends come and go, but where do you see the future of the marine industry heading? Are we all getting more adventurous?

EW: I believe so – being more adventurous and getting to less frequented places seems to be a long term trend in travel generally, not just the marine industry. Air travel is forecast to be depressed for another 2-3 years, making travel and exploration by boat the perfect way for people to get their adventure fix!

You’ve banked over 100,000 miles at sea over the years, which has been your best adventure to date?

EW: There are so many highlights in that time! The Clipper Round the World race was certainly one of these. Crossing the South Pacific from Panama to New Zealand via the Galapagos, Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji was another. But there is great adventure closer to home as well – trips to St Kilda, Norway and the Isles of Scilly also stand out as memorable.

Bryther, Isles of Scilly

Adventure can come at a cost, we find not everything always runs smoothly. What’s been one of your biggest challenges when on an expedition?

EW: When I set off on the Clipper Round the World race, my first priority was to bring everyone home safely. Fortunately, I managed to do this – the worst injury during the voyage was to myself! Crossing the North Pacific with my leg in a brace was a challenge as it very much limited my physical involvement on deck. However, my amazing crew stepped up, sailed brilliantly, and we won that leg.

You’ve ticked off many bucket list adventures including skippering in the gruelling biannual Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, what’s next for Ewan?

EW: I’m now married with two young sons, so over the next few years, I hope that my adventures will mostly be family affairs, as we introduce our boys to sailing, the oceans and adventurous travel.

Help Our Kelp

Photo by Jack Atkinson

Help Our Kelp x Arksen Foundation

In late August this year, the Arksen Foundation teamed up with research fellows, Dr Chris Yesson from the ZSL Institute of Zoology and Stephen Long from UCL, to survey the presence of kelp along the south coast of England. A RIB provided by Arksen was used to launch a small remotely operated tethered camera system (the Trident ROV) to survey the shallow areas of the coastline.

Help Our Kelp Campaign

Back in 2019, a survey by Sussex IFCA and ZSL was conducted with the Sussex IFCA patrol vessel, whilst towing a video sled across the deeper waters and along the flat seabed. The video was analysed and found there to be no kelp in the area (approximately 30km stretching from Pagham to Shoreham), despite it being a previous location of abundant kelp forests. It was clear that over the last 40 years, these important habitats had diminished significantly and the majority of kelp had been lost, due to storm damage, changing fishing practices and the dumping of sediment spoils by dredging boats.

This kicked off a kelp restoration project headed by Sussex IFCA as well as the Help Our Kelp campaign in September 2019, in partnership with Sussex Wildlife Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and Big Wave Productions.

Once stretching along 40 km, from Selsey to Shoreham, the underwater forest extended at least 4 km seaward. The campaign acts to restore the vast underwater kelp forest off the Sussex coast to its previous state.

The Help our Kelp campaign has the full support of broadcaster and natural historian, Sir David Attenborough, who voices the stunning campaign film. The film acts to encapsulate the environmental benefits of kelp and their necessity to ecosystems, as well as the wealth of wildlife to be found in this diverse habitat.

In January 2020, the Help our Kelp campaign had a breakthrough, with the Sussex IFCA, proposing a new bylaw that will see restricted trawling (a fishing method that involves pulling a fishing net through the water behind a boat), in a 304 km2 area along the Sussex coastline to promote kelp restoration.

What is kelp?

Kelp is the name for a group of large brown seaweeds that can form dense aggregations known as kelp forests. They are one of the most biodiverse environments on the planet and much like coral reefs, create an oasis of life wherever it grows. Kelp provides essential nurseries, habitats and feeding grounds for wildlife such as seahorses, cuttlefish, lobster, sea bream and bass.

They also absorb a huge quantity of carbon, meaning these forests are not only vital for sea life, but for climate change. Globally, kelp forests drawdown over 600 million tonnes of carbon, which is twice what the UK admits per year. They are therefore a vital tool that we need to fight the fight against climate change.

Kelp forests can also absorb the power of waves, meaning water quality is improved and coastal erosion reduced. They, therefore, have a huge impact on the world we live in and their restoration is vital to the sustainability of our planet.

Help Our Kelp x Arksen RIB

The aim of August’s 2020 survey was to view places the video sled couldn’t previously reach in 2019, due to its restriction use on the flat seabed. There had been some anecdotal reports of kelp in rockier areas, so the RIB provided by Arksen facilitated, with the use of a small ROV, to help reach these more remote areas.

With the new bylaw for restricted trawling in place, the team also wanted to establish a baseline of kelp coverage so that they could effectively monitor the forest recovery.

If kelp was found to be attached to any fixed underwater structures, such as pipes or old concrete platforms, it would be clear that kelp can still grow naturally in the area. By simply replacing rock beds along the coast, along with the trawler exclusion zone in place, a significant impact on kelp restoration could see the kelp forest start to return to the area.

Photo by Jack Atkinson

The team successfully deployed the camera system from the RIB, despite some challenging weather conditions. There were sightings of a couple of blades of Sugar Kelp, in an area south of Selsey Bill as well as a lot of ‘Dead Man’s Rope’ (brown seaweed formed into long, cord-like fronds) which is much more widespread than the previous year.

Sussex IFCA and ZSL have established from the recent survey that long-term kelp restoration is dependent on both the availability of kelp spores (to seed recovery) as well as a suitable seabed substrate, where kelp can settle and grow into its mature form. To thrive, the kelp forests need strong anchoring points so that they can withstand the ocean waves. The survey helped the team identify if the presence of large rocks was sufficient to allow for kelp growth in the area.

The access to the RIB was a key factor in allowing the team to access the more remote and hard to reach rocky areas of the coastline. The Arksen Foundation will continue to facilitate the research and monitoring of the Sussex kelp forests and are proud to support academic marine research and conservation projects, especially for conservation charities such as ZSL.

If you would like to know how you can get involved to help with the project please visit the Sussex Wildlife Website. Or if you are a vessel looking to offer time onboard to scientists please register your interest at Yachts for Science.

Sugar Kelp captured by the ROV in low visibility
Yacht of the Year 2021

We’re excited to announce that Arksen is sponsoring the brand new ‘Yacht of the Year’ category at the Ocean Awards 2021

The award will acknowledge vessels, their owners and/or crew that have actively helped enhance the health of the ocean. This could be through allowing access for researchers, conservationists and scientists, or through raising awareness of ocean issues, or through hands-on initiatives of their own. The ‘Yacht of the Year’ award is designed to celebrate the people behind the scenes who work to allow vital ocean-saving work to occur. The winner will demonstrate a commitment to ocean conservation throughout their vessel function, and the people who serve on her.

Arksen founder, Jasper Smith, will also be on the judging panel in January next year.

Entry Criteria: 
Nominees for this award must be able to demonstrate how their vessel and those onboard have provided services to enable work to occur that demonstrably enhances ocean health, either by adapting, or by equipping a vessel, which enables valuable conservation work.  

Nominees must also provide evidence of the kind of impact the research conducted has had, or could have, on ocean preservation.

Think you have what it takes? Enter your nomination here

The Ocean Awards recognises individuals, community groups, organisations and businesses that have made significant contributions to the health of the marine environment. 

An initiative very close to the heart of Arksen, we are delighted to be partnering with the sixth annual Ocean Awards and providing the winner of ‘Yacht of the Year’ with a financial donation to help further their ocean conservation efforts.

If you would like to know how you and your yacht can get involved with providing scientists with vital time at sea, why not check out the Yachts for Science project.

A Simple Journey

Photo by Alex Glebov

“The sea represents a profound step change from the chaos and busyness of day-to-day life to understanding who you really are. I’ve learned that I’m probably not as complex as I thought I was. At its most basic, I think life is quite a simple journey.” – Jasper Smith

The Oceanographic Magazine sat down to speak with our founder Jasper Smith about his deep connection with this planet’s wild places, why the marine industry needs shaking up, and what roles sustainability and conservation will play in Arksen’s long-term plans.

Read the full article here>>

Discover more about Jasper’s past adventures here>>

Oceanographic Interview

A passion for minimalistic, human-powered expeditions has taken endurance athlete and ocean rower Olly Hicks to every continent and to every ocean. A world record-breaking adventurer, his brutal ocean crossings have taught him a little bit about solitude and survival. We sit down to find out a little more about the man behind the adventures.

Oceanographic Magazine

Read the full interview with Olly Hicks here>>>

Find out more about Olly Hicks here>>>