Transatlantic rower hopes bid is third time lucky

A TELEVISION presenter is hoping to fulfil his dream of rowing across the Atlantic in 2014, despite having to abandon the journey twice in recent years.

Mr Macdonald hopes this time his epic journey will be a success. Picture: Greg Macvean

Niall Iain Macdonald aims to become the first person to row from New York to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

Only ten people have successfully rowed solo across the North Atlantic, with most following a more southerly route east-west between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean.

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Mr Macdonald also hopes to raise £100,000 for the Scottish Association of Mental Health from his row, named NY2SY – symbolising New York to Stornoway.

The charity choice is in recognition of a breakdown that he suffered in 2007 when he went missing for several days.

Mr Macdonald, a Scottish Gaelic language radio and television producer, was the 2005 winner of the Radio Personality of the Year at the Celtic Film and Television Festival.

He was due to ship his boat out to New York at the end of last April to begin the attempt in May but funding and other problems meant it was the second year in a row that the adventurer called off the bid.

The trials and disappointment were captured recently on a BBC Alba documentary.

“Please don’t forget that NY2SY isn’t just a personal challenge, it’s also about raising awareness about mental health issues and I really hope that anyone who might be struggling themselves will have seen the programme and taken something from it,” wrote Mr Macdonald on his website blog.

“I have to admit to being slightly shocked when I saw just how much I had let myself go, both physically and mentally, towards the end of the programme.

“This was filmed around the time when I realised that NY2SY was going to have to be postponed again.”

Mr Macdonald has been training hard in the gym and said he will be ready to take on the Atlantic in just a few months. The challenge will involve rowing for 12 hours, each day, for three months as well as coping with the various hazards the Atlantic can present.

He will need to take in about 6,000 calories every day to replace lost weight, with meals mostly consisting of freeze-dried foods boiled with water, along with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate.

“2014 is just a few days away and the turn of the year will be an important milestone for NY2SY. Given that I intend to begin my row in May, that leaves just four months to find the £10,000 that I still need to fund the project,” he said.

“There are still sponsorship opportunities available for any other companies who wish to be a part of NY2SY and have their logo displayed on the boat.”

Top ocean rower Leven Brown was among those who have helped Mr Macdonald, 39, plan to undertake the 3,400-mile challenge. He also has the backing of Olympic multi-gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy.

Challenge has claimed many lives

SEVEN rowers have lost their lives in previous attempts to row the Atlantic single-handed in a small boat.

They include Kenneth Kerr, an Irish-born adventurer from Port Seton in East Lothian, who vanished in 1980 while attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 13-foot glass-fibre dinghy called the Bass Conqueror.

He had been rescued the previous year when his first attempt to cross the Atlantic ended in failure when he was 58 days out of Newfoundland. His barnacle- covered vessel was found on the Irish coast five months later.

Kerr, below, a former expert in communications and electronic warfare with the Royal Navy, had his boat refitted at a yard in Sussex, then shipped the boat out to Canada. He then left his home in Port Seton to fly to Newfoundland to begin his second crossing attempt in May, 1980.

He was last seen alive on 13 August by the crew of the cargo ship Dorsetshire, 550 miles from the Irish coast.