Countdown to Race day


By Ross McKinney

The countdown is well and truly on to the start of our transatlantic challenge on 12th December. Two years of intense planning has come before this and we are yet to even start the race. Only 12 months ago, Eliza was fighting for her life in hospital and spent weeks in intensive care on a ventilator, before starting a long, slow recovery. She has come a long way since then, and so have we as a family and as a crew – we are now looking forward to the race and can’t wait to get stuck into the challenge!  

I have said from the start of the campaign that Eliza is my inspiration and my rock to turn to when the going gets tough at sea (as I am sure that it will). This is ever truer now as we make our final preparations for the race. There are so many scenarios that play out in my head whilst planning this challenge… what if we get chronic seasickness? What if somebody is injured? What if the boat gets damaged? What if there is conflict within the team? I keep reminding myself that whatever hardship we face, it is only going to be temporary, whereas Eliza is unable to talk, walk without support, and needs somebody to help her with even the simplest daily tasks that we all take for granted like eating and dressing. She is confined to a wheelchair, she has epilepsy, breathing and swallowing problems, and is unable to enjoy life as any 10-year-old should. Despite this, she endures everything with amazing resilience. I will need her resilience to get through this challenge…

The last few months have seen us complete our final training sessions on our boat before she was shipped off to The Canary Islands. She is laden with all our kit for the crossing and mountains of dehydrated food, high-energy snacks and coffee to sustain us on the journey. We are unsupported in the race and must be self-sufficient, so the preparations have been meticulous to ensure we have everything we need and also all the tools to complete running repairs on the boat if we need to do so at sea.

One of the most exciting things has been seeing our boat’s new design based on DNA structure to reflect the incredible medical research that is being undertaken all over the world, but particularly in Edinburgh, to treat and potentially cure Rett Syndrome. Our sponsor logos are also going on the boat and it is amazing to see just how many people have been involved in our campaign and making it possible for us to take on this challenge – a huge thank you to each and every one.

With our boat away, we are continuing weights sessions and using rowing machines at home to prepare us for 12 hours’ rowing per day. We will be aiming to get into a routine of 2 hours on the oars and 2 hours rest; and keep that going 24/7 until we reach Antigua some 5-6 weeks later.

Ross and the team getting some miles and calories in

At this stage we are also putting a lot more emphasis on mental preparations and making sure that we are in the right mindset to cope with the shock to our systems of living on a cramped boat, in damp conditions and surviving on minimal sleep, away from our families – missing important times like Christmas and birthdays. We are also planning for scenarios which might pan out on the boat and understanding how we want to respond to them to make sure we are ready for what lies ahead of us.

We can’t wait to get out to La Gomera and get ourselves and the boat ready to start the race. Our supporters will be able to follow our progress on the race tracker app (YB Tracking – see Atlantic Campaigns website for details). We will also be sending out updates via instagram @five.row and there is a facebook group called DOT WATCHERS which you can join to follow the progress of all the teams taking part this year.

If you would like to find out more about our challenge or support us in any way, please contact me on Costs for the boat, navigation equipment, training, food and transport cost £115,000 and thanks to generous corporate sponsorship and personal donations, this has now been covered. The team has also contributed personal funds towards the challenge. 

This means that after the race, funds from the sale of the boat and equipment will go directly to Reverse Rett, as will any money raised from fundraising events next spring and on the justgiving page: . We hope to raise as much as possible to ensure that those suffering from Rett Syndrome have the chance of a better future.

Ross McKinney is a father of 4 from North Berwick on the south-east coast of Scotland, near Edinburgh. Eliza is his second oldest child. “My daughter, Eliza, is 10 years old and I barely remember her voice. Although born seemingly perfectly healthy, she lost the ability to talk before she was 3 years old, and we then watched her slowly lose the ability to do almost everything else. She is mostly confined to a wheelchair and unable to participate in almost all of the activities that her three siblings enjoy. Her diagnosis of Rett Syndrome was followed by the complications of epilepsy and at one point she was having more than 10 severe seizures every day. Her life is far from easy and she relies on 1:1 support to do the simplest of tasks. My family and I are dedicated to fundraising for Reverse Rett until a cure is found for Eliza and others like her.”