A double Guinness World Record holder, Royal Engineer Charlie Martell is no stranger to adventure. Active service in Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland led to a post-Army career in the humanitarian sector, where he specialised in post-conflict resolution. Working in mine-affected countries such as Cambodia, Angola and the Republic of Georgia opened his eyes to what specialists like him could do for communities living amongst mines, bombs and other debris of war.
“I met and worked with some incredibly brave people, not just those who work in mine-clearance but also those who work for other aid agencies, who all commit to making the world a better place,” he says.
“Some of those countries have been incredibly difficult places in which to work. While in Angola, I was working close to the front lines between the two warring factions; at night, we were often woken by pounding and shaking as shells landed just yards away.
“Years later, I was back in the same country during peacetime. What people forget, however, is that the mines still remain, preventing those inhabitants from going about their day-to-day lives in a normal manner, without continued risk of terrible injury or death.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, individuals such as Charlie don’t commit to taking ‘normal’, conventional breaks from work. Charlie’s previous expeditions include a 300-mile ski-trek to the Magnetic North Pole, and a four-man row across the North Atlantic Ocean; together these expeditions raised more than £250,000 for charity.
“As soon as I had completed the challenge of the Atlantic, I’d already had thoughts about tackling the Pacific Ocean in due course,” Charlie recalls, “but knew it would require meticulous planning.”
In the meantime, Charlie had continued his work, first with the United Nations in Nepal and latterly with coalition forces in Afghanistan. He also took the opportunity to formalise his practical learning by studying at the University of York for a Master’s degree in post-conflict resolution. At the same time, he started volunteering for Toe in the Water, a charity working to ‘re-inspire, re-engage, re-integrate’ injured servicemen and women, through competitive sailing.
“These are people who have lost limbs and have had their quality of life taken away, yet they always do the job with a smile. Through my job and the charities with which I’m involved, my eyes have been opened very wide to how people suffer.
“Inspiration goes both ways, and suddenly I saw why my attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean was going to be so satisfying and rewarding.”
Charlie sees his 2012 Pacific attempt as nothing less than a ‘practice run’. “OK, I didn’t complete the challenge. But as one of my good friends said to me, ‘It’s only failure if you fail to come back; anything else is simply less successful than planned.’
“We spent time, effort and money in buying the best kit, working with the best people and aiming to be the best. What we can say is that we’ve tested our kit and we know now it’s the best.
“That’s reason enough to make another, more successful attempt.
“And as a team, we’ll take on whatever other challenges come my way.”