The Boat Arrives and Training Continues…


by Ross McKinney

Less than 8 months from now, I’ll be rowing 3000 miles across the Atlantic in ‘the world’s toughest row’ from The Canary Islands to Antigua with our team from Scotland. Our reasons for taking part are varied – love of the sea, rowing and adventure – and the desire to do something out of the ordinary and raise money for Reverse Rett. More people have climbed Everest than rowed across the Atlantic and we are the only Scottish team taking part in the race, AND the only team of five –Duncan, Clive, Ian and Fraser, and me.

Five in a Row’s boat has now arrived in our hometown of North Berwick. Duncan towed it to Clive’s driveway, where it received some curious glances and questions from passers-by, and was clambered on by various children (mostly belonging to Clive, Duncan and myself!)  Comments from the kids ranged from “it’s very small” and “where are you going to sleep?!” to “there’s no toilet” and “I feel sick already and I’m on dry land!” In a few weeks, we are holding some sessions with the local Scouting groups – telling them about our adventure, showing them the kind of dehydrated food we will be eating and encouraging them to explore the boat.

Before we transport the boat (and ourselves!) to the Canary Islands at the end of November, there is plenty of training and preparation to do. We have been extremely lucky to have the support and expertise of Olympic athletes Rachel and Jon Schofield, who live locally and have devised a training programme for us. Rachel is a double Olympic finalist in sprint canoeing and Jon is a bronze and silver Olympic medallist in the same sport, so we are in good hands.

Rachel and John Schofield

We have also had great support from the local North Berwick Trust. Our first sponsor was Ellis Intellectual Property who got our campaign started.  Other companies such as Thomas McMaster & Son builders, Forth Bridge Stevedoring, local café DRIFT and Kilduff Farm have sponsored an oar, which they will keep and display after the race. We are really grateful to all the sponsors that have become involved so far and we have plenty of opportunities, large and small, still available. You can even become a “stowaway” on the boat and have yours or your child’s name on the boat to accompany us across the Atlantic!

Now we’ve got the real life boat it’s time to get her plastered in your branding. Last year’s race reached 20 million people on Facebook alone and a staggering 900 million through TV and press, so if you want your brand to be seen (combined with the irresistible lure of 5 sun-burnt guys from Scotland) then this is the place.

Due to current Covid restrictions, we are limited to training individually on our rowing machines at home, rather than out on the water. Between us, our team has 10 children, 4 dogs, a few sheep and of course our various full-time jobs! There is only one rest day from training a week, which can be hard to fit in with all of these other responsibilities. We have also completed a full-day RYA Seamanship & Navigation course with a specialist in the field and we will need to do First Aid and Sea Survival too.

As the five of us are going to be living in very close proximity in the boat for 6 weeks, we have also been building a harmonious team with Q5 Management Consultancy. No doubt at some point there will be tears, anger, disagreements and mental challenges – some people describe the race as going to hell and back. We could also encounter a variety of medical problems whilst on the boat – seasickness, sleep-deprivation, dehydration, sunstroke and hallucinations. Blisters on the bum can also be one of the most uncomfortable issues! Kitvendr, our official kit sponsor, has been tasked with developing special rowing shorts to tackle this problem. Watch this space for updates on their effectiveness!

Eliza continues to be my inspiration for this challenge and when I’m rushing out to training or planning the trip, I’m acutely aware of all the simple things that she is unable to do. If I can raise awareness of her condition and money for Reverse Rett through this challenge, and perhaps inspire others to go beyond their comfort zone, then I’ll be happy.

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 will be in the region of £100,000 and any funds above this and from the sale of the boat and equipment after the race will go direct to Reverse Rett. As well as corporate sponsorship, we also have a page for personal donations HERE

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 9 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.”