Atlantic Challenge: Five East Lothian men complete epic rowing journey in third place

After nearly five weeks at sea, a team of rowers from North Berwick have finished third place in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in what has been described as an ‘amazing achievement’.

The team, named Five in a Row, set off on December 12, 2021, from La Gomera in Spain and after 36 days, three hours and 33 minutes, arrived in Antigua in the Caribbean, winning third place in the 36 boat race.

Ian Baird, Duncan Hughes, Ross McKinney, Fraser Potter and Clive Rooney completed the 3,000-mile (4830 km) journey after over a year of training and said they are extremely proud of what they achieved.

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Mr McKinney, 44, described the feeling of finally seeing Antigua on the horizon and coming ashore on Monday morning as incredible after more than a month at sea.

The team of North Berwick/Reverse Rett rowers - named Five in a Row - achieved third place in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (Photo: Atlantic Campaigns).

He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: "It was tough at times, really tough, seeing nothing but rolling sea day after day.

"I remember one particular Friday night when the waves were just so big and coming from all different directions, crashing over the boat, throwing you off your seat leaving you sort of pinned against the side of the boat, so there were some terrifying times, but also some great times, and great memories really.”

Mr McKinney’s wife, Catherine, flew out to Antigua with their four children to greet the team as they crossed the finish line and said it is really amazing what they have achieved.

The 46-year-old said: “They have had to take all their wet clothes off to sleep before putting damp clothes back on again every two hours for five weeks.

A team of rowers from North Berwick have finished third place in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic challenge (Picture Credit: Atlantic Campaigns).

"It's been relentless and really tough.

"They are bruised and battered from being thrown off their seats by huge waves and they have done amazingly well to keep up the stamina."

The rotation schedule planned meant none of the rowers had more than two hours rest at a time, and in those two hours they had to eat, sleep and do general boat maintenance.

Training for the event spanned over a year and involved gruelling hours of both mental and physical preparation, including team building exercises to ensure the men could support each other through the rough days.

Rower Ross set up a fundraiser for the charity aimed at curing Rett Syndrome, a devastating disabling condition from which his 10-year-old daughter, Eliza, suffers.

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Speaking to the Scotsman from La Gomera, two days before the race began, Mr McKinney estimated they would complete the challenge around mid-January, adding that they “knew it was going to be tough but they were ready”.

The row means a great deal to the McKinney family as the team were fundraising for the charity Reverse Rett, an organisation which has changed their lives after their daughter Eliza was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when she was just three-years-old.

It’s a rare genetic disorder that strikes previously healthy children between the ages of one and three and takes away their ability to walk, talk, use their hands and even breathe normally.

While leaving his family for such a long time was a hard decision, Mr McKinney said he was doing the challenge for Eliza, and the rest of his family.

The team have smashed their target of raising £20,000 with the current total sitting at over £42,000.

If you would like to support Five in a Row and Reverse Rett you can donate via this link.

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