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Overcoming Challenges and Displaying Determination: Norstar’s Teams Race for Seafarers in ARJ 2023

26 June 2023

By Shwe Yamin Aye, Communications and Media Specialist  

In a remarkable display of determination and teamwork, two teams from Norstar, Norstar Black Dragon, and Norstar Green Dragon, embarked on a memorable adventure as participants in The Mission to Seafarers Adventure Race Japan (ARJ) 2023. The 2-day challenge took place on the Izu Peninsula on the 19th and 20th of May 2023. This event brought together key decision-makers in the maritime industry, providing an opportunity for team building, enhanced communication, and networking. The main objective of the race was to acknowledge the critical role of the mission’s work in supporting seafarers in need.

Let’s dive into the personal recounts of the participants and discover the inspiring moments they experienced throughout the race.


The Overall Experience

Tom Bonehill, a founding committee member of ARJ and participant in the race with Norstar Black Dragon, fondly recollects the journey from day one at the Mission HQ in London to its grand finale in Japan. “I was incredibly proud to have been involved from the 1st day.”, Tom said. Three years of countless meetings and meticulous planning led up to the race, and as participants gathered in Izu for team registration, Tom felt a mix of relief and anxiety. Tom cherished the sense of togetherness that filled the air as participants joyously celebrated their accomplishments at the after-party.

Dr. Lars Gruenitz, one-third of the Norstar Green Dragon, describes the race as “tough and challenging”, with steep and slippery mountains to conquer. Despite the harsh weather conditions, he found comfort in the outstanding teamwork and unwavering support each team member offered. Motivation became the driving force that pushed them forward, even in the face of pain and exhaustion.

Ken Hasui, a member of the Black Dragon team and another committee member, shares his perspective on the overall experience. He expresses his pleasure in being involved in the planning stage from 2020 and reflects on the memorable moments over the course of three years. Ken acknowledges that there were times when discussions among committee members became frustrating and seemingly fruitless, which left him feeling anxious. However, as time progressed, he witnessed gradual progress and felt immense pride in the collective effort of the team. Beaming with pride, Ken said, “I like to emphasize that one person cannot complete this type of large event, but a team can do.”, highlighting the true value of teamwork, emphasizing the support and cooperation of the many individuals working tirelessly behind the scenes.

Rajat Bhatia, also a member of Black Dragon, vividly remembers the race, from the kick-off orientation meeting to the emotional farewells. Every moment was filled with significance and left a memorable mark on him. The camaraderie among participants, the joy of reconnecting with industry friends, and the joy of forging new connections all contributed to the creation of special memories. Rajat also highlights the satisfaction derived from knowing that each step taken during the race contributed to the worthy cause that ARJ stands for. And amidst the stunning landscapes and the warm embrace of Japanese hospitality, the entire experience became even more special.


Memorable Moments and Challenges During the Race:

Tom recalls the end of Day 1 when heavy rain poured down, making the terrain exceptionally slippery. Amidst these challenging conditions, Tom found delight in meeting old friends and forging new connections along the route. On Day 2, he vividly remembers using chains to ascend the seemingly endless slopes. Overcoming these obstacles became possible through open conversations with teammates and staying motivated by comradeship among other participating teams.

Lars reveals a critical challenge encountered by the Green Dragon team—a teammate suffering from severe knee pain on Day 2 of the race. Stranded in the middle of the mountains with no easy way out, leaving his teammate behind was not an option. United by their unwavering support for each other, they stayed together and triumphantly crossed the finish line as a team.

Ken reflects on the physical and mental challenges encountered throughout the race. While the journey was challenging, Ken’s motivation to keep moving forward stemmed from his determination not to give up. As he firmly puts it, “I knew we will reach the finish line at the end as long as we keep moving forward step by step.”

Like his teammates, Rajat encountered challenges along the trails. He remarked, “The steep and challenging terrain resulted in a treacherous and slippery path.” especially on the rain-soaked second day, which posed difficulties for the team. However, they stayed vigilant and adjusted their pace to match the conditions. The significance of unity and teamwork became more apparent than ever in overcoming these challenges. By supporting and helping each other, they navigated the demanding path with resilience and determination.


Finding Inspiration Amid Challenges:

For Tom, the thought of not completing the race was never an option. He recognized that everyone faced the same adversity, and his curiosity to discover what lay ahead on the trails pushed him to dig deep and persevere, especially during grueling uphill climbs.

Lars drew inspiration from the race’s purpose—to raise awareness and support seafarers enduring hardships. The event served as a powerful reminder of the significance of teamwork and collaboration, values vital not only in the race but also in the shipping industry. The remarkable achievement of raising USD 1.3 million further strengthened his determination.

Ken’s motivation to persevere through the physical and mental challenges stemmed from his unyielding determination. Though he occasionally took breaks, his teammates’ encouraging shouts and playful jabs served as reminders of their shared commitment. Ken fondly recalled the words echoing from his teammates, “Hey lazy Ken, what are you doing? If you have time to think of a pint of beer, stop dreaming and let’s go!” With their unwavering support, he found the strength to press on. 

Motivated by their commitment to the cause, Rajat and his team refused to entertain the idea of giving up. “Not completing the challenge was not an option that we give ourselves.” Rajat firmly said. They drew inspiration from the purpose behind their participation, propelling them forward through physical and mental challenges.

In conclusion, the ARJ 2023 race is dedicated to supporting the well-being of seafarers who have faced immense challenges and deserve more recognition. We take great pride in the remarkable achievements of both teams, who fearlessly tackled the demanding race with unwavering determination and perseverance. Their efforts, along with other participants, have brought us closer to making a positive impact on the lives of seafarers worldwide.

While the race may be over, our fundraising efforts continue. We invite you to join us in this mission by contributing to the cause. Your support can make a significant difference in improving the lives of seafarers. To donate and become part of this crucial mission, kindly visit or send an email to with the subject line ‘Inquiry regarding ARJ Fundraising’. 





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