First published in the Saddleworth Independent
ADVENTURER Frank Rothwell is having a ‘whale of a time’ in his bid to become the oldest man to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Frank, 70, from Greenfield was coming up to the halfway point of his 3,000 miles journey as the Independent went to press.
But even with around 1,500 miles remaining and an estimated six weeks on the high seas until the finishing line in Antigua, the intrepid oarsman is in “high spirits” according to wife Judith.
His mood is continually lifted by updates to his fundraising efforts for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Frank rowing over the festive period
The total has passed £543,000 with half a million pounds of that amount match funded by the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation.
Frank, who owns Manchester Cabins, and Judith speak two to three times a day as he tackles the waves as part of the epic Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.
“He is in very high spirits and the fundraising is going really well,” said Judith.
“He gets the odd day when he perhaps thinks ’what am I doing this for’. But he has never been down.
“He has seen a lot of dolphins and the other day saw a whale about 100 yards off the boat.”
Frank and the other crews largely missed the ravages of Storm Bella over Christmas by plotting a more southerly route to escape the menacing weather system.
But perils at sea remain, occasionally in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Several boats reported their hulls pierced by the spike of a Marlin, one crew member having a lucky escape as the spear-like snout penetrated the cabin.
“I’ve seen hundreds of dolphins surround me in a pod of 2-300,” confirmed Frank. “And I’m dodging lots of flying fish!
“They keep flying up and hitting or landing on the boat. I wasn’t sure what the noises were during the night at first but I’ll often hear a big bang that echoes around the cabin.”
There have been other times when the winds have been against the rowers.
“I rowed eight miles the other day, but the wind direction took me right back to where I started from during the night,” added Frank, who recently has been faced with winds of up to 25 mph and waves of about five metres.
“You can’t row against the wind in a solo boat because you’ve got to stop to sleep sometime, and when you stop it blows you back. It’s been quite difficult!”
Frank, who dined on dried pasta on Christmas Day, hasn’t lost as much weight as he expected.
“I can’t manage the recommended 6,000 calories per day; I can only manage to stomach about 4,000 calories per day.
“But I feel generally OK and I’m getting a full eight hours of sleep a night.”
The veteran sailor has though been in the ‘drink’ a few times.
“He goes into the water quite a lot to get the barnacles off the bottom of the boat,” explained Judith.
“There was another time when a rope got caught round his rudder.”
Frank set off from the Canary Islands on December 12 and had hoped to make land in the West Indies in time for a Valentine’s Day reunion with his wife.
Instead, his projected finish time is late February or early March.
“I am still hoping to go out and meet him but we are not totally sure at the moment because of the new lockdown restrictions,” added Judith.
To chart Frank’s progress go to https://yb.tl/yjdnsl599 or visit www.facebook.com/Frank-Rothwells-Atlantic-Challenge-2020-105163031220616
To donate visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/frankrothwell