Bolton Atlantic Challenge - Race Day Approaches
3rd December 2013
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As you read this, Mark Brocklehurst and the team of Atlantic rowers should be setting off for their epic journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Shortly before it all began, Mark sent this email to their supporters to bring them up to speed on excatly what the challenge involved and why they are doing it. 

I am sending this on the eve before we fly out to the Canary Islands to take on the greatest & scariest challenge any of us are ever likely to undertake.

Before we set off I wanted to give you a brief summary of our journey to get to the start line, what lays ahead and why we all stepped up to the plate to support local young children who desperately needed our help. It’s a bit of a lengthy email but please do read on.

The crew; Nick Griffiths, Finn Christo, Matt Nuttall and myself had no previous rowing experience before we decided to enter the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and coming from Bolton had limited resources close to hand in which to practice.

We had no boat, no money and no plan but what we did have was an army of people that would answer the call and help us deliver what has been described as the best prepared campaign in the history of the race.

In fact the Bolton team have found themselves as the unofficial race favourites which may seem bizarre considering six weeks ago we found ourselves on the end of a midnight tow from the Holyhead lifeboat crew – perhaps “if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger” should be our motto.

It all started on the 1st September 2011 when Nick Griffiths sent me an email congratulating me on a recent John O’Groats to Lands End bike ride which had raised a remarkable £30k from seven riders, his lingering question was what are you going to do next?

I showboated a little & off the cuff declared I was going  to cycle across America on a Raleigh Chopper, he came back at me with “lets row an ocean” ..... and I knew in an instant that between us we would make this happen.

Twenty four hours later I attended the monthly board meeting at Bolton Lads & Girls Club (BLGC) and gingerly announced our cunning plan, quick as a flash Nick Hopkinson or Hoppy called my bluff and said “great, I will buy you the boat” with the caveat that I raised a king’s ransom.

I left the meeting with that sinking feeling knowing that the smart cookie would have perhaps cleared this with their wife and business partner before outing such an audacious adventure, having an amazing wife who likes a challenge herself and a rock solid business partner has its advantages and after some gentle persuasion their blessing was granted.

I now needed some sponsors and a pile of dosh and in my next move I literally struck gold, I had acquired the number of John Roberts from DRL or as anyone who needs a kitchen appliance would recognise them as.

John is a long standing supporter of BLGC but also a very busy man so it needed another cunning plan to convince him that DRL should put “their man” in the boat, the logos on her hull and the ultimate recognition of the boat naming rights, I had played my hand and John came back with his, he would do all

I asked and more with an incredible package of £70k upfront and the support of the DRL machine to keep fundraising during our journey.

It was exactly the start we needed and gave us the platform to approach sponsors safe in the knowledge that any money we raised would go straight to the kids who needed it rather than funding a campaign of a pair of wannabe adventurers.

Forgive the cliché but the last two years have been a real roller coaster ride with some real low moments that at times made us question what we were doing, the sacrifices we made impacted heavily on our families, friends & workmates which put a real strain on relationships.

Weekdays consisted of early morning starts, late nights finishes while we juggled our jobs, family life and the rowing campaign. Weekends were even worse with sea trails in the Irish Sea or taking the boat to local shows trying to drum up interest & funds, sometimes coming away with only a few quid for a whole days effort.

On the flip side though we experienced amazing highs as the crew started to come together and bond as a formidable team and we encountered amazing acts of random kindness. Our list of sponsors grew & we had to reduce the size of the stickers to fit them all on but most people weren’t even bothered about the recognition and were just happy to help, I wish I could mention you all in person, you know who you are and I will always be in your debt – thank you.

Rowing a two hour on/off continuous shift pattern for 45 days is pretty much the pinnacle of ultra endurance training so we were delighted when Dr Colin Robertson from the University of Bolton took us under his wing.

Colin, who normally deals with professional athletes & Olympians made it clear from the outset that we follow the programme or we get binned, he set us a gruelling programme that saw us training 6 times a week, radical changes to our diet and regular tests to map our progress.

The pounds dropped off and we continued to notch up PB’s in all areas, I knocked nearly 2 hours off my previous Iron Man triathlon and ran a 40 minute 10K so at the ripe old age of 52 I was proper chuft. The University helped out in many other areas including some hi-tech fabric for our cabin mattress and a sizeable donation to BLGC.

Everything we have done is by choice, we made a conscious decision to undertake this challenge to help some young children who don’t have a choice, these are 8-12 year old vulnerable kids who need our help. The award winning mentoring project at BLGC matches up a child with a suitable volunteer adult, by gaining their trust the mentor can help steer these vulnerable youngsters through their problems at this crucial period in their lives.

There is currently a waiting list of 149 young people who are looking for a mentor, our campaign was put together to help reduce this horrible statistic and make a real difference. The club desperately needs volunteer mentors who are able to give up a couple of hours a week, it’s not an easy ask but probably one of the most rewarding things you may ever experience.

So what’s next, we spend two weeks in La Gomera a small island just off Tenerife where we prepare the boat and ourselves for the race. The race starts around noon on Monday 2nd December when all eighteen boats set off on the sound of the hooter in a direct dash across the Atlantic to the  island of Antigua. It’s very difficult to predict how long it will take but we have used 45 days as rough estimate meaning a mid January arrival in the Caribbean.

You will be able to track our progress against all the other boats on and read our blogs to see what the mood onboard is like at various points. If there are any problems on our site you can go to the main race site and if you wish to send us messages direct them to and we will pick them up periodically.

We also have a Facebook account – Bolton Atlantic challenge & Twitter @boltonatlanticc

Finally I would like to thank you all for your support, interest and generous donations, if you haven’t had chance yet to donate then the easiest way is online at

About the Author

Faz P

Member since: 10th July 2012

Hi I am Faz and am passionate about all things Bolton. I hope you enjoy reading my blogs and find them to be interesting and thought provoking. I would love you to add your personal comments to them. Dont...

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