Scout Radio

Reunion 2015 : Ashley And James Indian Ocean Rowing Challenge

Ashley Wilson is a Scout Leader, a volunteer in Hampshire; and he set off with Scout Ambassador and adventurer James Ketchell on a 3,600 mile adventurous rowing challenge across the Indian Ocean in July this year. They appeared at Gilwell Reunion 2015 on the Saturday afternoon as guest speakers, to tell their story to all those who attended the event.

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“We were rolled over… It was like being in a giant washing machine, and I remember saying to Ash ‘Gosh, we’ve just rolled’, and Ash was like ‘Yeah, I realised that…'”¬†

Their previous feats include climbing to the Summit of Mount Everest, completing an 18,000 mile cycle ride through 20 countries unsupported, and battling cancer at the age of 19 whilst dealing with epilepsy every day. These challenges were nothing however, when Ashley was moved by an inspiration talk from James Ketchell, and the two decided to join forces on the Nothing’s Impossible Challenge, where the duo would row a journey that only 16 people have previously braved and completed in the history of mankind.

“The one thing that kept us both going was our involvement in Scouting”

After a perilous, danger-strewn first attempt in May, which only lasted 24 hours alongside dangerous weather and broken tow ropes, the adventurous team set off for Round 2.

Three days into the journey, with a ‘two hours on, two hours off’ rowing schedule; the adventurous couple had finally reached their stride, however all was not to work out for them as the seas grew and the wind howled harder. The boat rolled over and a blow to Ashley’s head resulted in concussion, they activated their emergency beacon and after 3 hours the second record attempt was aborted.

“The ability to succeed is within everyone, not only are they overcoming personal adversity, they’re helping others in the process by raising money for the Scout Association, Young Epilepsy and the Elifar Foundation” – Wayne Bulpitt.

Credit: Dave Bird Photo

Whilst the duo set out to complete the challenge of rowing the Indian Ocean, they instead overcame an even greater one of attempting their dreams and having to deal with picking up the pieces when things don’t always go to plan. Ashley’s enthusiasm for adventure still pulses through his veins; and whilst acknowledging that not every challenge in life may be a success, the experience has become a learning one that he will now take into the future, in order to share his amazing story with schools and youth groups, both to raise awareness about epilepsy and to inspire young people to follow their dreams.

“Even though we didn’t reach Mauritius, what’s more important is telling this story, and inspiring Young People to go out there and follow their dreams”

Discover more about James and Ashley’s adventure at, and follow them on Twitter: @ashandlouuk