All at sea with hero rower Frank

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 30 December 2020

Lone sailor Frank Rothwell captured the nation’s hearts with an intimate insight into how he spent Christmas on the wild Atlantic Ocean.

The tough 70-year-old Oldhamer is bidding to be the oldest person to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge on a 3,000 mile solo row in a bid raise £1million for Alzheimer's Research UK.

He told BBC Breakfast Time host Louise Minchin that in training he had covered 70 miles in two days, but asserted: “You can't walk 70 miles in two days.

“And when you are rowing a half a tonne boat in the darkest moments of the darkest night, the thing that is going to be motivating me is thinking about my grandchildren.”

To bolster his spirits on Christmas Day, Frank wore a Father Christmas suit, complete with jacket and hat and beard and had a tiny Christmas tree on board and took a shoal of Christmas cards.

However, he actually shared a real Christmas dinner with his wife Judith before leaving the UK and said his lunch at sea on Christmas Day itself was “something freeze-dried. I mix it with boiling water, for seven minutes, and then give it a quick stir, and then, there we are.”

But he confessed the biggest challenge is missing my wife, Judith.

“We have been married 50 years," said Frank.

"We were childhood sweethearts. We got married as teenagers, and she is my best mate.”

Judith was linked to Frank in a Zoom call from the family’s Greenfield home and although the connection was difficult she said: “It is tough, missing Frank, but he is doing it for a worthy cause, Alzheimer's Research UK. 

“It is a challenge that I admire him for, he can do it, and I'm looking forward to meeting him in February in Antigua. 

“Fingers crossed that you can get there, at least. Yes, that will be another challenge, getting there...”

Luke Rothwell, Frank’s son, a director of the family business, Bunkabin in Hollinwood, said his father had overcome some difficulties after a rope caught round the boat’s rudder, dragging him off course. 

“He quickly rectified that and though the wind has been in the wrong direction the old seadog has found a way to make progress," said Luke.

"He is heading further south to search for the ocean current which will help move him in the right direction.”

You can keep track of Frank’s remarkable journey by downloading the free app “yb races” and follow him in realtime by selecting Talisker Challenge. 

And to support Frank you can donate to his JustGiving page here:

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