Edinburgh CEO joins Olympic gold medalist in ocean race for HPV awareness

Amiqus CEO Callum Murray with Olympic rower Alex Gregory MBE and Senior First Officer British Airways Steve McLean.

Edinburgh entrepreneur Callum Murray will swap his laptop for a pair of oars on Monday, the first day of a non-stop ocean race from Barcelona to Ibiza. His team of five amateur rowers will race 200 miles from Barcelona to Ibiza against other boats, including one captained by Olympic gold medalist Alex Gregory MBE.

The journey is expected to take three days and will pit Murray, founder and chief executive of legaltech startup Amiqus, and his crew against many physical and mental challenges from heat and exhaustion to navigating shipping lanes in a busy stretch of the Mediterranean.

Started in 2011, the NOMAN Is An Island Race Against HPV is an annual bid to raise funds and awareness about the importance of vaccinating boys to help eradicate the 5% of cancers caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). More than £175,000 of this year’s £200,000 target has been raised so far.

Each team of five rowers shares a 24ft (7.3m) long boat equipped with two seats and a small sleeping space, taking it in turns to row for two hours and rest for two hours. To make the race both safe and feasible Murray has trained for up to four hours a day over the last five months, all the while, running his growing startup.

“Almost everyone has a friend, family member or loved one who has been affected by cancer,” said Murray. “My grandad was the inspiration behind me taking part in this race. His life and fight with cancer taught me resilience from a young age and I’m proud to be part of a team taking on this challenge  to raise awareness about HPV-related cancers and how to prevent them through vaccination.”

More than 2,000 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with a HPV-related cancer – of whom almost half will die from the condition within five years. Some HPV-related cancers, notably oral cancers, are now among the fastest rising in the developed world, while being among the hardest to diagnose and treat.

Alex Gregory MBE, said: “As a dad to two boys and a girl this race is incredibly important to me as I want to help raise awareness that boys as well as girls must be given the HPV vaccination if we are to win the race to end 5% of all cancers caused by HPV. Nobody should die or become seriously ill from a cancer that could so easily have been prevented by a simple vaccination.”

The NOMAN ocean race was created by Tristan, Justine and Camille Almada, whose mother died from stage IV HPV-related cancer in 2010. The race represents the struggle and isolation that many cancer patients feel especially those that carry an extremely challenging stigma.

Tristan Almada, co-founder of the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation, said: “HPV is a ubiquitous virus that causes 5% of cancer in men as well as women. These cancers are on the rise yet they are entirely preventable. We’re rowing because we want to raise awareness about the urgent need to vaccinate boys as well as girls so men are equally protected from such devastating and deadly cancers.”

The UK government is expected to announce soon whether the HPV vaccination will be available to boys as well as girls. 11 countries including the USA, Australia and Israel are already vaccinating boys.

Since the race began in 2011 it has raised over £1.5 million worldwide for the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation.