I spent last Christmas battling ocean waves as I rowed solo across the Atlantic – this year I’ll treat myself to a pint

On Christmas Day last year Frank Rothwell was literally going backwards.

The Oldham granddad was alone in the middle of the Atlantic, battling ocean waves, freezing temperatures and a wind that had blown him back the way he had come.

It was not an easy day, but it was all worth it when he eventually reached the Caribbean and found he had raised more than £1million for charity.


This year, Frank will be taking things a bit easier.

“Last Christmas I was mid-Atlantic battling ocean waves and on Christmas Day I had one of my worst days,” he says.

“I was missing family, the wind had changed and it started blowing me backwards.

“I lost eight miles and another eight on Boxing Day.

Frank spent his days switching between two hours of rowing and two hours of sleeping
(Image: Alzheimer’s Research UK)

“Christmas Day is always a bit weepy anyway but I felt like all the previous day’s work had gone down the drain.

“This year will be very different. I’ll be having dinner at the White Hart with family and extended family.

“There will be three generations there. I hope they’ve got a new barrel of bitter in because it’ll be gone.

“There are things you can’t get out of your head when you’re out on the Atlantic and that was one of them.”

Frank Rothwell
(Image: Alzheimer’s Research UK)

During his journey between December and February, Frank rowed 3,000 miles in total isolation.

He set off from the Canary Island of La Gomera on December 12 and crossed the finish line in Antigua in the Caribbean on Saturday February 6, where he was reunited with Judith, his wife of 50 years.

He described crossing the finish line as a ‘completely euphoric moment’.

“For five weeks I didn’t see an aeroplane or another ship,” he says.

“Then one day I was in the cabin and I heard a helicopter. I thought it must be naval to be this far out but when I stuck my head out it was a huge ship about 50 metres away.

“I could see the bridge going past and I waved but they didn’t see me.”

Frank’s transatlantic journey was the toughest challenge of his life – ventured to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The disease killed his brother-in-law Roger and Frank only learned of his death while he was rowing.

Frank has currently raised £1,102,893 and counting.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would raise that much, it’s amazing,” he says.

“I wanted to make sure every single penny goes to the charity.

Frank crossing the finish line in Antigua
(Image: PA)

“We’re an ageing society and more and more people are affected by Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a terrible disease.”

Not content with just the cool million, Frank has revealed to the Manchester Evening New s that he will take on exactly the same rowing challenge to raise money for the same charity again in 2023.

He was 70 and the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic when he first completed the challenge back in February.

His training will start in earnest again next year as a Channel 4 documentary about Frank’s exploits airs.

Frank will set off from the Canary Islands on Valentine’s Day, 2023, and would like to make it to the Caribbean by Easter.

Frank Rothwell has sent a Valentine’s message to wife of 50 years.
(Image: supplied)

“I’ve got a brand new boat for this one,” he says.

“It’s going to be called My Valentine.

“I’ll start at 7am on Valentine’s Day after enjoying breakfast with Judith on the quay at Tenerife before rowing off into the sunrise.

“I am so lucky I have found something I love doing and it’s going to make a difference.”

You can donate to Frank’s JustGiving page here.

Manchester Evening News – Oldham