FEATURE1 January 2009

Double Lives – Chris Martin

Researchers reveal how their out-of-hours pursuits impact on the 9 to 5. This month we meet Chris Martin, programme manager at Him! and long-distance rower

Tell us about your day job
I work as the programme manager at Him!, a research-based consultancy. I write the questionnaires, manage the fieldwork agencies and organise the data processors so everything happens at the right time.

Tell us about your other life as a rower
I’ve been rowing for 15 years. I started at school, became part of the British team and competed at six World Championships, coming back from each with a medal. After that I decided to row solo across the Atlantic. Sixty-eight days after setting out I arrived in Antigua at midnight on Bob Marley’s birthday. I’m now putting the final touches to a two-man boat which I’m rowing with a mate of mine from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco in April. If we succeed we’ll be the first people to row unsupported across the north Pacific Ocean.

Which came first?
Rowing was in my life before research, and I imagine it will still be part of my life for years to come.

How do you fit the two around each other?
With difficulty. I train in my lunch break and after work but also spend most of my weekends preparing the boat or looking into logistics, equipment, food, etc. I’m living on a thin sliver of sleep at the moment but it’s just about enough.

Why don’t you row full-time?
The holy grail. I guess it all comes down to funding, and while Him! and New Fieldwork Company are sponsors of the current project, I can only use the money to fund equipment for the boat. When I was part of the GB team I was a full-time athlete but funding is difficult.

What does rowing boats across the oceans offer you that research doesn’t?
Complete and utter freedom. There’s a simple beauty in being away from all the hustle and bustle of a normal working life. On the Atlantic I just loved rowing along as the sun came up and thinking that at that time I would normally be sat in a traffic jam on my way to work. You’re in complete control of everything you do. Everything you do has a direct influence on your chance of survival and success. Normally there are a million other factors affecting your life and you don’t have control over most of them.

What does research offer you that rowing doesn’t?
A stability that just isn’t available on a rowing trip. It’s great to put my organisational skills to use. There’s also comfort in knowing that you’re not going to capsize.

What does research teach you as a seaman?
Organisation and planning affect the outcome of a project far more than you might expect – that goes for a survey project or a rowing project.

What does rowing teach you as a researcher?
There’s no substitute for perspiration. It’s drive and determination that sees research projects completed on time and on budget.

What do your colleagues at Him! say when you tell them about your other life?
Everyone’s thrilled by it. Of course there are a few who think I’m nuts but I couldn’t have wished for a more supportive and enthusiastic family of people around me in my working life.

What does your crewmate think about your day job?
Mick is a former marine and currently a yacht skipper so the thought of sitting in any office fills him with dread. But he’s been really impressed with the support that Him! has given us.

If you had to give up one of these two lives, which would it be?
Unfortunately I think it might have to be research. I’m off next April for up to six months at sea so I guess I’m effectively taking a sabbatical from research anyway. At least until I get back.

Follow Chris’ adventures at www.goldengateendeavour.com