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The Team

Cameron Bellamy
Nationality: RSA

Cameron is a 29 year old South African – Australian with a long and successful sporting background. He has represented South Africa in rowing and developed a passion for endurance events. He currently competes in Iron Man distance triathlons across Europe.

He studied at Rhodes University in South Africa and the University of Queensland in Australia and holds a Masters Degree in Finance.

He successfully swam the English Channel solo and cycled from Lands Ends to John O’Groats in 2012. Some of his other challenges include cycling across China, Central Asia and India (7000km) and numerous other long distance cycling trips.

The challenges that Cameron has set himself to complete as part of the Ubunye Challenge are his personal life aspirations that he has been preparing and planning for a long time. Cameron’s aim is to, through the Ubunye Challenge, make an impact in his homeland of South Africa by promoting and helping to fund sustainable development in some of its poorest areas

Thato Mabelane
Nationality: RSA

Thato grew up in Tembisa, a township just outside Johannesburg, and attended the Holy Rosary School. The catholic school, well established as a rowing institution, is where Thato was first introduced to the sport.

Following her academic and sporting success at school she moved down to Grahamstown, enrolling at Rhodes University. She studied Human Kinetics and Ergonomics whilst being an integral part of the womans 1st 8 rowing crew. In 2003 she was invited to attend an international rowing training camp in Seville, Spain after which she represented South Africa at the FISA Team Cup international regatta.

Thato saw many more successes in the following years, both locally and abroad. She notably competed at World University Championships in Brive La Galiarde, France in the coxless 4 event – finishing a commendable 7th overall. She moved up to Johannesburg to continue her rowing career as well attend the University of Johannesburg focusing on Human Resources Management. She eventually hung up her oar in 2006.

Thato currently works as an HR Executive for Barone Budge and Dominick. She regularly competes in cycling and running events. Her athletic ability and disciplined yet laid back attitude makes her an incredible asset for the Atlantic Ocean crossing.

Gordon Simpson
Nationality: Zimbabwe

Gordon lives and works in the UK, but grew up on a tobacco farm in northern Zimbabwe. He attended Peterhouse School and later went on to Rhodes University in South Africa attaining a BSc (Hons). Joining the Ubunye team will help achieve a personal goal of rowing across the Atlantic, whilst significantly benefiting local communities in the Eastern Cape through the Africa and Angus Gillis Foundations. He has contributed to the Eastern Cape community in the past whilst at university, where he was part of a technology upgrade program for a Grahamstown based NGO delivering skills training to the local community.

His school days were notable for cricket, in which he played at a provincial level across several age groups and toured once with Zimbabwe schools, as well as athletics, where he became senior cross country champion. He started rowing at Rhodes University, and then for Old Edwardians in Johannesburg, achieving several successes during this time, and most recently did a brief stint with Vesta rowing club in London. Other activities include racing up and down Mt Snowdon in Wales, several running events up to Marathon distance, competing in Olympic distance triathlons, and a variety of UK based adventure races. Amongst his plans for 2012 Gordon will also be competing in his first half iron-man triathlon.

Micheen Thornycroft
Nationality: Zimbabwe

Born in Harare, Micheen was educated at Springville Primary School and Peterhouse Girls in Marondera. Originally also excelling at tennis she started rowing at Peterhouse; she has never looked back.

She attended Rhodes University where her presence was felt immediately upon arrival as she led the club to the top of South African woman’s rowing. During her first year at Rhodes she teamed up with her sister, Rose, and was selected to row at the World Rowing Championships. She has represented Zimbabwe many more times since. In November 2011 she competed at Africa’s Continental Qualification Regatta in Alexandria, Egypt where she finished first, earning herself her debut at the London Olympic Games which run from July 27 to August 12 this year.

Micheen has an amazing, lighthearted personality; coupled with her obvious athletic ability and discipline she will be an incredible asset in getting us across the Atlantic at the end of the year.

Ryan Palmer
Nationality: RSA

Ryan is a 29 year old South African farm kid who grew up near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He started rowing at school in 1996 and rowed for Rhodes University for a number of years while completing an MSc in Ichthyology and Fisheries Science. Ryan now works as a marine field technician for the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme and is involved in many research projects in the South Western Indian Ocean.

He has recently become involved in ultra-distance indoor rowing completing numerous marathons and ultra-marathons and most notably completed a 100km row in September 2011 raising money for the Angus Gillis Foundation. Ryan is always up for a challenge, and the Trans Atlantic Row suits him to a tee.

Having grown up on a farm near Grahamstown he has seen the great work that the Angus Gillis Foundation are doing in the area and looking forward to contributing to them through the Ubunye Challenge.

Quote: “If you can’t fix it with a hammer, use a bigger hammer.”

Phil Davies
Nationality: UK

Upon graduating from Birmingham University Phil went straight to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served in the Army for 8 years. Amongst other tours, he spent over a year in Iraq, served with the United Nations and underwent Jungle Training in Belize.

Phil then elected top leave the Army and has been working in London for the past 4 years.  Over this time he has found a passion for endurance events and has competed in a number of Ultra Marathons including the Marathon Des Sables (6 self-supported marathons in 7 days across the Sahara) and the UK (and shortly Swiss) Iron Man.

Phil has wanted to row the Atlantic since his early 20s and is incredibly excited about being a part of the Ubunye challenge in support of VIMBA.

Hauley Arthur
Nationality:RSA

Hayley is 28 years old, born and schooled in Kwazulu-Natal’s Durban, after which she moved to Grahamstown to attend Rhodes University. She has been obsessed with sport and the outdoors from a very young age. Rowing became Hayley’s focus and passion at Rhodes and has continued to be so for the last 10 years.

Hayley completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Rhodes. After which she moved to Pretoria enrolling at the University of Pretoria where she completed two honours degrees: Sports Science honours, followed by Biokinetics honours, and thereafter qualifying as a Biokineticist.

Through the years of rowing Hayley has competed for South Africa at various levels, most recently at the 2010 and 2011 World Cup events and the 2011 World Championships. She has performed with distinction in the most competitive woman’s rowing boat class, the single scull.

Hayley is unable to sit still at the best of times so when not rowing she is up for any challenge and has thus competed in ocean swimming races, triathlons, half-ironman, 9 hour spinathons and adventure racing.

Hayley is privileged to be a part of the Ubunye Challenge team, and grateful for the opportunity to put her passion for sport towards development and education for communities in the Eastern Cape, a part of South Africa very close to her heart.

Stuart Bellamy
Nationality: RSA

Stuart is 31 years old, born and bred in Cape Town. The older brother of Cameron, Stuart attended the University of Cape Town. It was here where he excelled at his chosen sport of rowing. Stuart shone throughout his rowing career representing South Africa on numerous occasions. His pinnacle occurred at the World University Championships in Scotland in 2002 where he won a silver medal in the heavyweight coxless pairs event. On two occasions Stuart was awarded the coveted ‘Sports Performance of the Year’ award at his university.

On attaining his second university degree and moving on from his rowing successes, Stuart has embraced an extremely successful modeling career, living between New York, Paris, London and Cape Town. He has graced the covers of Men’s Health (8 times), Men’s Fitness, GQ, amongst many others. Stuart keeps fit and active by participating in myriad sporting disciplines including cycling, swimming, triathlon, to name a few.

Every week whilst in Cape Town, Stuart donates his time at a local charity at The Cape Peninsula Reformed Church. In his spare time he spends many days out in the field as a Fine Arts Landscape Photographer.

Greg Pienaar
Nationality: RSA

Greg is a 31 year old South African living in the UK for the past 6 years. Whilst growing up in the idyllic town of Benoni, Greg represented his province in swimming and water polo. Greg attended Rhodes University where he completed his B.Sc (hons) and a PDEM. Whilst at Rhodes he represented Eastern Province for triathlon. Greg additionally represented South Africa at the World University Rowing Championships where he finished 10th overall in the blue ribbon Eights event.

After leaving University, Greg has become very involved in numerous endurance sporting events. He currently competes in Ironman triathlons and Marathons, amongst others. In addition to representing the Ubunye Team in the cycling leg, Greg has set his sights on qualifying for the Half Ironman World Championships.

Greg feels that by supporting the Africa Foundation and Angus Gillis foundation he is giving something back to Africa an most importantly to the Eastern Cape a place where he lived for a number of years and holds close to his heart.

Ian Milne
Nationality: ENG

Ian is extremely happy to be representing the UK contingent in the swimming leg of the Ubunye Challenge. Ian grew up on UK soil, and after finishing school joined the army before attending the University of Edinburgh where he completed a degree in International Business.

Ian is a very keen sportsman across all sports, whether on land or in the water. However rugby injuries over the past few years and the Ubunye swim challenge that lies on the horizon has meant he now spends most of his time in the pool and a few lakes around Shanghai, China, where he currently resides.

Previously, Ian has put his body on the line in support of charitable causes, notably cycling Land’s End to John o’Groats and running the London Marathon. He recently swam in the 15km ‘Clean Half’ open water race in Hong Kong as a warm up to the Ubunye Challenge.

Sam Wells
Nationality: RSA

In his earlier days Sam used to be known as the ‘Fat Kid’. He took to swimming very early on when his brother pushed him in the pool at age 3. By 8 years old he’d already competed in his first Midmar Mile open water swim race.

While attending University, Sam decided to give rowing a try, which he did with distinction. He has since started coaching rowing and has led numerous junior athletes at a national and international level.

Currently living in Cape Town, Sam tries his hand at adventure racing and big wave surfing outside of his time coaching rowing and swimming training. He is looking forward to swimming the channel mainly because it allows him the opportunity to put on some much needed weight, and become the ‘fat kid’ once again.

Hugh Elkington
Nationality: RSA

Hugh is a 29 year old South African hailing from the Eastern Cape. He is looking to make a big impact on his homeland through creating awareness and raising money by his participation in the Ubunye Challenge. Hugh is the kind of guy that will accept almost any challenge, added to this he has dreamed of swimming the English Channel since an early age.

Hugh comes from multi talented sporting family with numerous national and provincial representations. Swimming and Water Polo have been his main sports having represented his school and university at the highest level. Hugh competed in the Brown Sea Island open water swim (5 miles) a few years back on a whim; he performed exceedingly well ‘without any training’ – sparking his enthusiasm for long distance open-water swimming. Hugh has recently started competing in triathlons where he is always leading the pack in swim sections, falling back a bit in the cycle and run.

Richard English
Nationality: RSA

Richard English (29) grew up in Grahamstown where he attended St Andrews College and Rhodes University. He currently resides in Cape Town and is a long-time friend of Cameron Bellamy and Ryan Palmer, having rowed with them in various crews since 1996.

Now enjoying a quiet and stable life as an in-house Attorney at a busy legal outsourcing company, Richard found himself drawn to the Ubunye Challenge and in particular the cycle tour through the UK. The fact that Richard is unashamedly obsessed with bicycles may have played a small part in this attraction. Over a quiet discussion recently, he found himself being talked into joining Cameron, Greg Pienaar and Stuart Bellamy on what he has every expectation of being the ride of a lifetime.

Brett Pringle
Nationality: Zimbabwe

Brett is a 30 year old Zimbabwean residing in London for the last 7 years. Brett is multi talented and has grown up completing in myriad sporting disciplines with rugby being his main focus. He has branched out recently and participated in the 2010 London Marathon. He has since progressed to the multi-disciplined sport of triathlon; completing in the 2011 London Olympic Distance Triathlon.

Brett’s recent triathlon activities were the catalyst for joining Cameron on an epic bike ride from Pisa, Italy to Zurich, Switzerland through the Alps – 850km of varied, challenging terrain.

Brett is currently preparing for his final accountancy qualification exams. He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Systems from the University of Cape Town

Michael Sutton
Nationality: Zimbabwe

Born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1981, Mike feels very privileged to have been able to attend prestigious school, St Johns College. It was here where Mike learnt the importance of growth and personal development. He loves doing crazy things and believes in the power of focus, driven by the desire to succeed, he hates being told that can’t achieve something.

Mike has always been sporty, always wanting to push himself further. In particular, he was a top butterfly swimmer in his junior school years, Zimbabwe schools rugby player, and a Western Province Power Lifting Champion. Additionally, he has also completed a number of running challenges. Completing the channel swim would be Mike’s great achievement and assisting in Ubunye charity would make it even more memorable. Mike hopes that his contribution, however meager it may be, will help the less privileged realize the right to education.

Mike works as a Service Manager for the Department of Medicine at St Helier NHS Trust. In the near future, Mike hopes to attain his Master of Business Administration.