Grandfather becomes oldest person to row 3,000 miles solo unassisted across Atlantic

March 2, 2021
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A grandfather has become the oldest person to row 3,000 miles solo and unassisted across the Atlantic Ocean, raising more than £640,000 for dementia research.

Frank Rothwell, 70, from Oldham, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December and crossed the finish line in Antigua in the Caribbean on Saturday – reuniting with Judith, his wife of 50 years, in good time for Valentine’s Day.

He said crossing the finish line was a “completely euphoric moment” as he raised more than £648,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK in tribute to his brother-in-law Roger, who died with Alzheimer’s aged 62 during his journey.

Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation has pledged to double the first £500,000 of donations.

Rothwell went on: “I felt quite emotional approaching the finish. It took six long weeks to row the Atlantic, but the challenge itself has taken over 18 months of training and preparation, so I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and the unbelievable journey I’ve been on.

“While rowing, I received heartbreaking messages from people who have had similar experiences to my own, with my brother-in-law, Roger, so I hope I’ve helped other families in some way too.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has reached into their pockets and donated. Having the support from so many means the world to me. Thank you.”

The adventurer has previously spent five weeks on a deserted island for a Bear Grylls TV programme, and rowed in a boat nicknamed Never Too Old.

Iceland Foods founder Sir Malcolm Walker added: “I’ve known Frank for many years, so I knew his determination to complete a challenge would get him this far. But seeing the heartwarming and generous support he’s receiving from the public is astounding.”

Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re incredibly moved by Frank’s determination to raise £1m for dementia research. By taking on such a monumental challenge at 70 years old, he has helped to spread awareness and inspired people of all ages to take on their own challenges.

“To bring about life-changing treatments for dementia, fundraising efforts from ordinary people like Frank and his supporters provide a crucial lifeline to the progression of our research.”

In April 2020, 72-year-old Graham Walters completed a solo journey across the Atlantic and achieved the record for the oldest person to row any ocean solo. However, he was towed the very last section after being blown off course.

• This article was amended on 9 February 2021 to clarify that Frank Rothwell set a record for the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic entirely unassisted, and to add relevant details about Graham Walters’ row in 2020.

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