PRISON officer Ben Steadman is rowing 3,100 miles across the Indian Ocean in the first race of its kind.

He is taking on the Indian Ocean Rowing Race from Australia to Mauritius in April 2009.

Mr Steadman, who is a PE officer, will be taking on the challenge with his colleague Mark Davis.

The pair will be rowing as prison service representatives in the race and their chosen charity is Macmillan Cancer Research.

Mr Steadman recently moved from Tophill on Portland to Rugby to work at HMP Onley.

Mr Steadman said: "I am a born and bred Weymouth boy.

"I worked at the HMS Weare on Portland for six-and-a-half years and all my family still live in Upwey.

"We are taking part in the first Indian Ocean race ever. It is 3,100 miles of untamed ocean in a seven-metre rowing boat, and it is looking to be quite a large event.

"Our priority, in addition to survival, is to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research."

The duo will be doing all their training in and around the Weymouth coastal area for the next two summers and are hoping that the local sailing clubs will be able to help by providing places to launch.

Mr Steadman and Mr Davis are also hoping to get involved with Weymouth Carnival by adding their boat to the procession.

The race is being run by Woodvale Challenge, organisers of all the previous Atlantic rowing races.

Thirty teams are taking part, including 15 British crews. Mr Steadman said: "Judging by conversations I have had with previous Atlantic Race competitors, the boat itself attracts a great deal of interest as it is quite small for two men to row an ocean unaided.

"We need to raise a minimum of £60,000 to cover the costs of the race and have so far accumulated £30,000 from corporates in the Midlands region.

"I would very much appreciate it if people in the Weymouth area could help us with our challenge. We are both fully committed and passionate about this event."

Once the pair have funded their race they intend to raise another £200,000 for Macmillan Cancer Care.

To sponsor Ben call 07809 612844 or email benjamin.james.