Atlantic rowing attempt inspired by mother’s love

Elaine Hopley trains for the daunting crossing. Picture: Contributed

Elaine Hopley trains for the daunting crossing. Picture: Contributed

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A determined Scots sportswoman is in the final preparation stages of a mammoth Atlantic charity challenge in memory of her mother who suffered from dementia.

Elaine Hopley, 44, a mother of two from Dunblane, will attempt to become the first Scottish woman to row the Atlantic single-handed by taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – a journey of 3,000 nautical miles.

The event starts on 14 December and Hopley is also aiming to set a record for the fastest women to cross unsupported. The champion mountain biker will take on the challenge to help raise vital funds for Alzheimer Scotland.

Hopley has had to overcome her own battle with ill health to prepare for the challenge. She was diagnosed with ulcerated colitis, a disease of the colon, 13 years ago. She had become very ill, lost two stones in weight, had constant abdominal pains and was unable to walk more than a few metres.

Hopley returned to health once the correct diagnosis was made and treatment commenced and she has followed a rigorous dietary plan, as advised by her consultant, ever since, keeping the illness in remission.

She said: “Adrenaline sports have always floated my boat. I’m dedicating this row to my parents. I know they will be with me all the way.

“From them, I inherited my love for the outdoors from a very early age and they also instilled the drive that will make the crossing possible.”

Hopley’s boat – a Rannoch R20 named The Jan after her Mum, who lived with dementia – is to be shipped out to Spain on 29 October and Hopley herself will be heading over to the Canary Islands on 1 December.

Hopley, who runs a successful home improvements business and has previously worked as an outdoor sports instructor and voluntary fire fighter, won the inaugural Woman’s Scottish Mountain Bike Cross Country series in the early 1990s and defended her title for a number of years.

She also has a number of endurance achievements to her name, including riding from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in seven days.

She said: “To cross an ocean under my own steam has been a goal and dream for years. It has remained unfulfilled as I needed to support my mother Jan. Following her diagnosis of early onset dementia, aged 55, I had to provide everyday support.

“For more than a decade I proudly supported my mother and gave up my career at that time to care 
for her full time, as the dementia slowly crippled her life. I was with my mum at the end.”

Dementia affects over 90,000 people across Scotland and by 2020 it is estimated that there will be over 1 million people living with the illness in the UK. Alzheimer Scotland is the foremost provider of support services and information for people with dementia, their families and carers in Scotland.

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