Their incredible journey is over. At 1:21am UK time on Wednesday, after 51 days at sea, the Atlantic Lions rowed into Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua for an emotional reunion with family and girlfriends.
51 days at sea
The fact that they had spent 51 days at sea was particularly poignant for the team, especially David Middleton. This adventure was inspired by David’s uncle Gary, who sadly passed away aged 51, having battled MS for many years. Their boat, Tiny Dancer, bore the race number 51 in memory of Gary. Whilst the Lions admitted it would have been nicer to spend fewer days combatting wind, waves and sores, somehow it was meant to be.
The power of friendship
The Atlantic Lions are four very special young men. David, Charlie, Matt and Joe met at Birmingham University and became best friends. David’s family have been big supporters of the MS Trust since 2008. In fact, David ran the London Marathon for us in 2011, so you might think he’d already contributed significantly. But knowing David, I wasn’t at all surprised when he rang to say he wanted to do something else to raise funds and awareness for the MS Trust.
I have to admit, I was taken aback when he told me the plan - to row the Atlantic - was that even possible? I think my first words were, “are you crazy?”, but I knew once he’d made his mind up, he was going to do it. What surprised me even more though, was that his three friends were willing to take on the challenge for the benefit of people with MS too. The strength of their friendship is humbling and their commitment to the cause has been magnificent.
The first challenge: raising the money
Over the past eighteen months we’ve got to know the Lions very well and we’ve been amazed by their determination and drive. So far they have raised almost £70,000 for the MS Trust, but before that they had to raise a significant sum to even participate in the challenge. There were race fees, the cost of a specialist boat, 60 days' worth of food for four people, and lots and lots of Sudocrem! All of which needed to be paid for before the race and the four of them worked tirelessly, as well as holding down full time jobs, to raise the funds needed.
There were rowathons, gala dinners, Caribbean events, swimming galas - you name it, they tried it! But they didn’t do it alone. There is a very special group of people who also need to be acknowledged and thanked for making this whole campaign so successful. Ladies and Gentleman, meet The Pride.
The Pride is made up of family and friends who were unfaltering in their efforts to a) raise the funds needed to get the Lions to the starting line, b) plan the logistics of getting the Lions and Tiny Dancer to where they needed to be, and c) promote the Lions’ magnificent efforts to raise funds for the MS Trust.
The Pride has provided phenomenal support and we at the MS Trust can’t thank them enough. I know the Lions will admit they couldn’t have done it without them. Special thanks must go to Geordie Hayward, Steve Middleton, Jackie Middleton, Ollie Hayward, Rose Reynolds and Kitty who have enabled us all to share the Lions’ adventure through social media and regular updates.
Moving and inspiring
At the MS Trust we have received wonderful messages to pass on to the Lions from the MS community, which helped to keep them going through their toughest days at sea. People affected by MS have been amazed that anyone was willing to put themselves through this to support them.
We’ve all laughed and cried at their blogs, we’ve been moved and inspired by the Lions and now we are truly grateful they are safe and well. So from all of us at the MS Trust and on behalf of people with MS across the UK... THANK YOU LIONS!
Thank you to the Lions' sponsors: