Dean and pals sign up for toughest row across Atlantic

From left standing: Dean Frost, Lee McCarthy, Jason Kerr. Seated: Phil Bigland. 

From left standing: Dean Frost, Lee McCarthy, Jason Kerr. Seated: Phil Bigland - Credit: Submitted

Dean Frost (52), who lives on the river Dart at Stoke Gabriel, has encouraged three friends from his school days, Phil Bigland (53), Jason Kerr (50) and Lee McCarthy (51), to join him on the experience of a lifetime. 

They are competing in the 2021 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest row organised by Atlantic Campaigns, which is a 3,000-mile unsupported rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean west from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands (280N 180W) to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda (170N 610W). 

In December 2021, Team Elijah’s Star will depart La Gomera with their sights firmly set on completing this epic journey in 37 days.

The target they have set represents the brief life of baby Elijah, a premature but much-loved son and brother, who sadly lived for just 37 days. 

The four-man crew will battle sleep deprivation, salt sores, and the physical extremes inflicted by the race.

Exhaustion will test the mental strength of the rowers, in the middle of an Ocean where the nearest land is 2.5 miles below the sea. 

Dean, originally from Lancashire, spent four years in the navy before launching a career in engineering and is currently managing director of Clade Engineering in Leeds.

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Phil, originally from Chester, spent 12 years in the army and is currently a director at Dyson; Jason is also ex-army and is currently in market development at KPMG; and Lee is currently serving in the army stationed at Lyneham with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. 

When questioned about their targets, they all to a man said: “To get across safely in 37 days and to raise £200,000 for Action Medical Research." 

The crew returning to the river Dart from the Eddystone Lighthouse.

The crew returning to the river Dart from the Eddystone Lighthouse. - Credit: Submitted

Their boat, Elijah’s Star, based at Dartside Quay which is tucked away at the head of Galmpton Creek, three miles upriver from Dartmouth is a Rannoch 45 which is 8.6 meters in length (28.35ft).

The boat is named after Elijah who was born prematurely at 25 weeks weighing just 1lb 13oz. He sadly developed necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel disorder that mainly strikes premature babies. Elijah died at just 37 days old.  

Before he died, Elijah was part of a study funded by Action Medical Research trying to find a way to identify NEC in premature babies, so that it may be detected before it becomes life threatening.

Jenny, Elijah’s mum, explained why they took part in the research: “Elijah led a very traumatic little life. He died sleeping on my chest in the small hours – that’s when I joined the fight to stop premature birth.” 

Dean added: “For us this is not just a test of physicality and seamanship but an opportunity to raise as much as we possibly can for our chosen charity; Action Medical Research, the charity fighting to help sick babies and children.

"Action funds critical research which helps find answers that can lead to vaccinations, treatments and cures for childhood diseases and premature birth. These are the answers that save and change lives.

"With teamwork engrained in our DNA we will work tirelessly to get to the start line before aiming to row the entire distance, some 3000 miles, in just 37 days.

"The target we have set ourselves represents the brief life of baby Elijah, a premature but much-loved son and brother, who sadly lived for just 37 days.

"As Team Elijah’s Star we will demonstrate the possible, to raise money for the capable, in order that they in turn can assist those in most need of help. 

“Put simply, without your support we cannot make this dream a reality. Our objective is to involve sponsors and contribute £200,000 to Action Medical Research.” 

Since beginning in 1952, Action Medical Research has been funding medical breakthroughs to help save and change the lives of babies and children. 

Surprisingly, medical research tackling childhood diseases is poorly funded in the UK. Action Medical Research has a critical job to do in helping fill this gap to protect children. 

The prospects for finding new cures and treatments is almost within our grasp. Right now we are funding vital research projects with many more ready to go – but we simply can’t fund them all. 

Watch out for the crew in their ocean rowing boat on the river Dart and beyond.

This weekend they rowed down to the Eddystone Lighthouse and back. To follow and support the crew go to www.elijahsstar.com