Frank Rothwell: our determined fundraiser

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By Frank Rothwell | Friday 15 December 2023

Frank Rothwell, 73-year-old Chair of Oldham Athletic, has just set off to row 3,000-miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Frank is aiming to raise another £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Frank embodies our determination to deliver a cure in so many ways, so our Director of Supporter-Led Fundraising, Lucy Squance, caught up with Frank in the lead up to his Atlantic challenge.

Morning Frank! Your Atlantic challenge is nearly upon us, how are you feeling?

I’m in fine fettle, as we say in Oldham. I’m feeling brilliant.

I’m out training every day. I’ve not trained yet this morning, but as soon we’ve finished talking, I’m going to train. There’s a hill out the back of our house – it’s over a mile and really steep! When you get up there you can see forever – you can almost see Blackpool! So, I’m really looking forward to getting out there this morning. I alternate my training between that, my rowing machine and press ups in my loft.

What has made you want to row the Atlantic for the second time?

Well first of all, I can do it. There aren’t many people who are lucky enough to be able to do something like this at my age, so I think that if you can do something in life, you should. You don’t want to look back later in life and say ‘could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.’ And I can do some good by raising funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s Research UK. I’ve got this elevated prominence as well now because of my involvement with Oldham Athletic A.F.C., and I can do good with that, too.

And why fundraise for Alzheimer’s Research UK again?

There is no cure for dementia (yet). When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. It’s the big condition that we need to address.

I’ve had two people very, very close to me die with Alzheimer’s. One was my brother-in-law, Roger, he died at 62 while I was at sea last time, and the other was my best friend of later life. My mate, Phil. He died this year. I’ll be thinking of them during the race.

 

Frank Rothwell rowing his one-person boat. The boat is white and covered in words and pictures. These include the Iceland Foods Charitable Foundation logo, and Alzheimer's Research UK's logo, featuring the strapline 'For A Cure'.

 

What do you anticipate being the hardest part of the row?

I think the tedium and monotony of the row will be hard, and the fear of the waves. You’re on your own in the middle of the ocean…and it’s a very big ocean.

The hardest part of course will be missing my darling wife, Judith. We’re very lucky, Judith and myself. We were childhood sweethearts and we’ve been married for 53-years, and I am very proud of that.

I’m also going to miss Christmas and New Year. I’m not going to be able to take any presents with me because I need to keep the boat as light as possible to help me get to the finish line faster. But I have asked the grandchildren to make me homemade cards. As a Grandad, it’s a fantastic gift. They’re special. I’m looking at one right now in front of me.

What kind of setbacks could you face at sea, and what will keep you motivated to overcome them?

The wind coming from the wrong direction is the biggest setback. I can’t row against the wind for long, it’s tiring. So, in that case, I put in the sea anchor. It’s like a big parachute which I throw into the sea, with rope attached. That holds the boat in the same position all the time, so I don’t lose any distance.

Another thing, which I’ve never talked about before, is seaweed. When we approach the Caribbean, there’s a seaweed that grows on top of the sea and it forms a mat. The boat floats through it okay, but the weed catches under the boat which slows it down and you end up pulling against it. Sometimes this weed can stretch for miles.

Last time, your motto was ‘Never Too Old.’ Have you got a new motto this time?

It’s For A Cure! We’ve named the boat ‘For A Cure’ and that’s where my focus is: to raise funds to contribute towards finding a cure for dementia. My target is to raise another £1 million. It’s going to be harder this time. “Am I that old bloke who’s on the tele again?” Will it catch people’s imaginations? I don’t know. It may catch football supporters’ imaginations: “That old bloke from Oldham Athletic, who used to be in the Premier League, is going across the Atlantic, SOLO!” I hope it does.

Keep up with Frank’s progress on his social media channels and JustGiving page.

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Frank Rothwell

Frank Rothwell, 73-year-old Chair of Oldham Athletic, is rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for Alzheimer's Research UK.