I am doing this for two reasons, for the personal challenge of rowing an ocean and to raise awareness of, and funding for mental health. To my mind the two go together perfectly. I view rowing the Atlantic as a mental challenge even more so than a physical challenge. There is of course the constant battle with exhausted muscles, salt sores in all the wrong places, and coping with the physical extremes that the row will inflict. But the sleep deprivation, leaving loved ones behind, the fear of what lies ahead and more to the point what lies beneath, all add up to what I know will be the hardest mental challenge I’ve ever faced.
I have rowed Thames Waterman’s cutters fanatically since 2003, for many of those years as a proud member of the Trinity House rowing team. Amateur rowing career highlights include two 100 mile rows for charity, two fastest in class wins in the Great River Race – the annual Thames river marathon, and in 2014 I stepped in at short notice to row from Nieuwpoort in Belgium to Ramsgate in Kent, helping the Salt Row crew to raise over £50,000 for good causes. It might seem like a big leap from rowing 100 miles inland or crossing the Channel to taking on 3,000 miles of the Atlantic, but for me it seemed like the logical next step!
I often call into question my mental health and have of late come to recognise this as a good and positive thing. I’ve had a few struggles of my own over the years but I’ve seen other people, including those close to me, face far more severe illnesses. I have hidden my concerns from others and I’ve seen how damaging it can be for people to be afraid to discuss their mental illness with family, friends or colleagues. I hope that through this challenge and our fundraising for Mind and Combat Stress, we can help people to talk more positively about mental health without the fear of prejudice or judgement and provide vital help for people suffering from mental illness.
I am the very proud father of Theo (aged 3 and a quarter). Leaving him behind for all that time at sea scares the hell out of me and he’s going to be first on my list of people to call when we have enough power for the sat phone and it’s my turn. I’ve spent much of my adult life working in the field of civil resilience and contingencies and am privileged to be Deputy Head of London Resilience. To relax I like to row. A lot!
I’ve always loved being on or near the water and hope I’ll be saying the same after weeks on end of seeing nothing but the deep blue!
I was used to being cold, wet, tired and hungry when in the Army, but I’m expecting this challenge to be on a new scale.
I’m excited, and a little scared, but the thought of not doing it is much, much worse.