The crew are some of René's close friends from school, university and rowing.
In January 2017 I lost my only son, René aged 22 to suicide. A tragic loss of a young life with devastating impact on our family and the people that knew and loved René.
The past 2 years has been the most difficult time of my life, bereavement by suicide can take you to lonely and very dark places. It is emotional and mental torment on a scale which I still cannot believe is possible to endure.
The support from family and friends and the incredible charities we're supporting, is what helped and continue to support us through the dark days after René's tragic death. I am now at a stage where I feel ready to do something in René’s memory and try to help others in similar positions. As an ex Naval Officer and keen yacht racer, it seemed fitting to invite some of René’s close friends to take part in an epic ocean race. The response I received was incredible and here we are, Team Race4Rene.
I hope that through the Race4Rene campaign we will encourage people to talk more openly about mental health and the devastating impact of suicide on loved ones and friends. We can only hope that through our efforts of encouraging dialogue around mental health and raising money for our nominated charities that we may help save more young lives. Suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK; this has to end...
I’m Miki, 23, I was born in Warsaw, Poland where my father, an avid tennis player, introduced me to the sport and its competitive thrill. At the age of eleven, I moved with my family to England where I continued my development in sport and played on the green grass courts in the North of England. After completing my A-Levels at Manchester Grammar School, I attended University of Bristol, where I tried my hand at rowing and was infatuated with its need for hard work and perseverance even in the most dire situations. I have now gone back to my roots on the tennis court, while I pursue a PhD in Physics at University College London.
I met René in my first year at Bristol, we were living in the same dorms overlooking the Bristol harbour. As we both had an overly competitive nature, be it in sport or academia, we became best friends quickly, and went on to live together for three years at the university. During that period, we took an active part in each other’s lives, introducing our hobbies and interests to the other, this meant that not one day René and I spent was ever boring. I shockingly have lost two of my ex-flatmates to suicide, and so I hope this challenge will allow me and the rest of the crew to raise awareness of the mental health problem, and make a positive contribution to the cause.
My sailing experience spans 4 weeks in the Adriatic Sea and in the Lake District in Poland, which seems rather timid compared with the prospect of a race winning crossing of the Atlantic. However I hope the mental fortitude which has stayed with me from my rowing days, as well as the memory of René will help me along.
I’m Harry, 23, and I am a final year medical student studying at Imperial (but actually when you read this I might well be an actual full-time proper doctor, which is terrifying- probably more so for you than me). I am originally from Guildford, but moved to Oxford and then London for University, where I took up rowing. I was lucky enough to meet René on day 1 of Imperial College Boat Club pre-season training, under the watchful eye of coach Paddy Hudson (above). I will never forget the amazing time I had rowing with René over the subsequent 6 months, and I hope that with Ian, Jimmy, Paddy, Max, and everyone else by my side, that this fantastic trip will feel a bit like the old days at ICBC with René.
I have always loved challenging myself and going on an adventure, whether that be cycling across the UK, racing on The Tideway, or backpacking around Vietnam, but this will easily be the biggest adventure yet, and I am honoured to have been asked to join the Race4Rene campaign to continue encouraging conversation, increasing awareness, and standing up to mental health illnesses.
I'm Ian, I was born in Philadelphia but moved to London with my family when I was 5 years old. I love the States but am proud to consider myself a Londoner. I am currently studying Design Engineering at Imperial College. I'm competitive by nature, but like to think I can keep it all in perspective, unless I happen to be playing a game of Articulate.
Whilst my experience at sea is severely limited, save for a weekend spent sharing a regurgitated dinner with the sea-life of the British Isles, I have in fact clocked a couple of hours in a boat having rowed for Imperial in my first and second years of university. Both René and I started rowing at the same time (him in Bristol and me at Imperial), so when he came to ICBC we were both trying to break into the senior squad together. It wasn't easy, but he was relentlessly supportive, encouraging and an absolute blessing. I am honoured to be a part of the Race4René crew.
When I met Rene at the age of 3 years old, we instantly became best friends. Running at lightning speed in the playground, talking to girls for the first time and constantly putting ideas on paper were only a few of the earliest memories I recall. The creativity that sparked from those early days has led me to pursue my ambition to start a business. Following short stints working on the marketing team at MINI, helping run a tech startup in Cape Town and most recently working for a Venture Capital firm in New York, I have decided to finish my final year at university before setting out on my business venture.
I am honoured to be a part of the Race4Rene campaign, advocating for solutions surrounding the topic of mental health and supporting the remarkable charities that help those in desperate need.
I’m James, aged 23, and I rowed alongside René in the novice programme while we were at the University of Bristol. Having started the sport at the same time, we spent most of the year together in the same crew through to a 5th place at university nationals. That time was unforgettable for all of us in that crew.
Through all the highs and lows of that year we could always rely on René to bring a smile to our faces and keep us together heading in the right direction. Even if it was through some truly outrageous rowing fashion choices.
Rowing is a sport that bonds people unlike any other, and I think this has been demonstrated by the charitable efforts in René’s memory from the rowing community, from Miles for Minds to the nationwide ‘Rowing Together for Healthy Minds’ movement.
While there have been so many other amazing efforts, there is still much we can do, and I feel lucky to be a part of continuing to raise awareness. I have been a part of team fundraising challenges before, including the first ever two-way Channel Swim crossing, but I think the scale of Race for René is something special and I am excited to be a part of it.
My Name is Luke. I am 24 years old and was born in the UK. I attended The University of Nottingham and now work in London. I spent much of my early childhood in Sydney, Australia, where I developed a love of the outdoors and the ocean.
When I was 11, I moved to London - not knowing anyone, Rene became an instant best friend. Constantly looking out for me in the playground and the classroom, I speedily settled in at St. Anthony’s. Until the end, Rene was always kind, generous and fiercely loyal. As we grew up and moved to different secondary schools and universities, we always stayed extremely close, and I knew I could turn to him in times of need.
The charities we are supporting are making amazing strides to combat suicide and depression as well as support the family and friends of those affected. I, along with a group of Rene friends, raised money for a similarly amazing male suicide prevention charity, CALM, by running the Hackney Half Marathon in 2017. I will be raising money again for CALM, along with a group of 30 from my company, as we compete in this year's Tough Mudder on May 4th. Combating anxiety and depression through mental and physical challenges is certainly something we can all get behind.
Given my complete lack of sailing experience, I am apprehensive and excited in equal measure, knowing it will surely be a life-changing experience. I am grateful to be fortunate enough to take part in this race and with this crew and to honour the memory of our dear friend Rene. Finally, I know that myself and the crew are incredibly proud to be raising money and awareness or the charities selected, which are all providing amazing support to those affected by depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Hi, I’m Dan.
Rene became an extremely close friend after he joined City in year 9. What probably started with my asking to see his homework, became a budding friendship which led to numerous parties, pub sessions, festivals and travels. I always looked up to Rene, as a friend and mentor. I was constantly blown away by what Rene could achieve, always with what seemed like such little effort. Rene perfected skills in everything he touched. You could always rely on Rene to be the heart and soul of any social situation.
I never even thought that I would have to live the rest of my life without someone so special. His loss has been incalcuable and every day I miss him.
To raise money for the charity, I have already run a half marathon, hosted supper clubs with Clara Carbajo, and helped extend Run4Rene into North London. This race will be extremely challenging, especially being someone with such little sailing experience. I hope that raising money via events and challenges such as this, will help prevent other friends and families having to go through the terrible experience of losing Rene. I know Rene would have been extremely proud of us, and what we are hoping to achieve. I also know Rene would have done the race with enviable ease, kept everyone smiling and motivated us all even when the times become tough.
I’m Paddy, 29, originally from Wales although I now live and work in Glasgow as a rowing coach. I studied and learnt to row at Imperial College before going into coaching and eventually landing a job back at Imperial, where I was lucky to coach René. René had also taken up rowing at uni and I found him to be a hardworking, driven athlete who took his role in the team seriously. With those qualities in mind it seems fitting to embark on this challenge as a crew of ten in his memory.
I love a good escapade, whether that’s pedalling through the Alps, motorbiking around India or running up a Munro, but this is on another level. I’m looking forward to the feeling of being offshore with just one objective to focus on, and I’m a little daunted by the graft that’s needed between now and then to make sure this campaign hits its potential.
I admire anyone who has done something proactive to start conversations, raise money and connect with people over issues they care about, so above all I’m excited to have the chance to do just that.
My name is Ivo Almond and I am 23 years old. I have just completed a bachelors of music undergraduate course at the Royal College of Music, where I studied opera singing, and am now applying to join the army as an officer and hoping to go to Sandhurst.
Whilst at university I was a member of the University Officers’ Training Corps where I undertook military skills and leadership training and also a lot of adventurous training. I went on a week long alpine mountaineering expedition in the Italian Alps climbing the Gran Paradiso mountain and also took part in several sailing expeditions; I sailed in the Solent, down the East coast of Britain from Oban to Holyhead and most excitingly from Kiel up the East Danish coast. This gave me a real taste for sailing yachts and it’s something that I would love to continue through my professional life.
René joined the City of London School where I was studying after the 13+ exams and quickly became one of my closest friends. We went to all the same parties, hung out together in and around school time and went on "lads holidays" together. Through all the time I knew him, through school, gap years and even up to our 4th years at university when by fate we ended up studying next door to each other in South Kensington, I was always amazed by just how much René could achieve. Here was a man who could get the highest grades, play all manner of sports to a top class level, who had the best sense of humour and was so socially gifted all the same time. Even as a peer he was a massive inspiration and this is why it's so important for me to take part in this challenge, to push myself mentally and physically for these amazing charities, to do something that I know René could have managed with the same effortless ease and a massive smile that he accomplished everything with. And I know he would have had a good laugh along the way too.
When I first started studying at Imperial College René was one of the first people I met. Through rowing and racing with him, I came to appreciate what a wonderful individual he was. I will always celebrate and remember fondly his humour, humility, and kindness; to this day I still try to live up to the qualities which he embodied. To commemorate René, last year I organised a fundraiser with Imperial and Bristol University Boat Clubs, raising money for the charities CALM, and OTR Bristol.
Although from London, I was born in Abu Dhabi, my go-to fun fact. I am currently in my third year studying physics at Imperial College. Outside of the lecture theatre, which is in fact quite a likely place to find me, I enjoy baking, rowing, and cycling.
I am greatly looking forward to the challenge of this race, and raising awareness for a deserving cause. I am honoured to be part of the Race4Rene campaign, and hope this race will help to raise the dialogue around mental health, and support the two chosen charities, Papyrus, and Child Bereavement UK.