Lyons O'Neill

15 days to go! Lyons O’Neill engineer set to take on the Atlantic

In just 15 days, Lyons O’Neill’s Senior Structural Engineer James Protherough will be embarking on a 3000 mile row across the Atlantic to help combat plastic pollution. The row is part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which will see 30 teams battle the elements in competition for the coveted prize. James will be joined by school friends Ewan, Ed and Jon to form the team Atlantic Ambition, who are hoping to beat a record time of 37 days and 9 hours! In anticipation of the row, we sat down with James to discuss his preparations and motivations for the challenge.

How did you first hear of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge? And what made you want to take part?

I first heard about the challenge after watching a James Cracknell and Ben Foden documentary. It wasn’t called the TWAC at the time, and I never thought I would actually be doing it one day. Our ‘skipper’ Ewan first touted the idea when he was living in Hong Kong with a friend who had entered it. I thought  of it as opportunity that only comes round once in a lifetime, as well as an opportunity for me to challenge myself in a way I never had before. Taking part in such a monumental challenge also allows us to raise money for an important cause, and undertake valuable research along the way.

When did you first begin training for the challenge?

Planning and training started over 2 years ago but the real training really kicked in at the start of the year. The amount of organisation required has been insane, and we’re all now just wanting to get into the boat and stop thinking about how much Vaseline to take!

What is the row in aid of?

The row will aim to raise over £30,000 for charities actively combating plastic pollution, The Marine Conservation Society UK (MCSUK) and The Surfrider Foundation Australia. MCSUK were the driving force behind the UK’s supermarket plastic bag charge and continue to organise beach cleans and provide education on the impact of humans on the environment. Other charities we will be supporting include Alzheimer’s Society, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), Multiple Sclerosis UK.

Can you tell us more about the research you will be conducting throughout the row?

We’ll be carrying out vital research into the current state of the Atlantic Ocean and its health. To do this, we’ve partnered with Smartfin technology to measure critical ocean properties throughout the crossing. This unique data set will be used to help researchers and scientific communities understand trends in the Atlantic Ocean’s health, and go on to inform ways to better protect the world’s oceans and shorelines.

How has your engineering background helped you prepare?

Well I am the designated engineer on board! And although the equipment is fairly unknown to me, I’d like to think my problem solving skills will help us out of any potential sticky situations!

What unique challenges could you expect to face during the challenge?

The row will see us rowing in continuous 2 hour shifts for days on end, so the main challenge to fight is exhaustion. Further consequences of this could also mean sleep deprivation and hallucination!

What aspects are you most looking forward to?

2 months off work, and pulling into Antigua!

How can people show their support for Atlantic Ambition?

There are a number of ways groups, individuals, companies and organisations could show their support. Groups and individuals are very welcome to make a personal donation through our fundraising page, where they have the opportunity to join the 250 Club. A £250 donation will provide the unique experience of getting their name and a message of support on our boat as we cross. Alternatively, any donations of relevant equipment would also be very useful to us.

There is also the opportunity to engage in a corporate sponsorship. Our sponsors currently include Fetch, The Trade Desk, Simpson Associates, Family Law in Partnership, Playground XYZ and Fews Marquees.

Costs for the first ocean rowing research expedition are over £100,000 and we are incredibly thankful for the existing donations that have been raised through these methods. For further information about Atlantic Ambition, and to follow our journey across please visit