Two Scottish businessmen have successfully rowed across the Atlantic Ocean to raise funds for a charity that supports the hospitality sector. Robbie Laidlaw and Chris Mitchell, who work for a contract catering company, completed the 3,000-mile journey in 38 days, 15 hours and three minutes.
The Spirit of Hospitality
Laidlaw, 34, from Gullane, East Lothian, and Mitchell, 41, from London, named their row The Spirit of Hospitality, to reflect their passion for the hospitality industry and their desire to help those who have been affected by the pandemic. They set off from La Gomera, an island off Tenerife, on December 13, 2023, and arrived at Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua, on Sunday, January 21, 2024.
They were among the participants of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, known as the World’s Toughest Row, which attracts teams from all over the world. Laidlaw and Mitchell came in fifth overall, and first in pairs, beating other boats that had four or five crew members. They also set a new record for the fastest pair to row the Atlantic from east to west.
A gruelling adventure
The rowing challenge was not without difficulties and dangers. On the sixth day of their voyage, Laidlaw and Mitchell faced a monster wave that capsized their boat, Maria, and knocked out their power supply. They lost their emergency positioning system and their auto-helm, which meant they had to manually steer the boat and row at the same time.
They also endured blistering heat, salt sores, sleep deprivation, and hallucinations. They had to convert seawater into drinking water, use buckets as toilets, and eat vegan food to avoid stomach problems. They rowed in two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, making about one million strokes in total.
A worthy cause
Laidlaw and Mitchell decided to row for Hospitality Action, a charity that provides financial and mental health support to people who work in the hospitality sector. They said they wanted to give back to the industry that has given them so much, and to help those who have suffered from the impact of the pandemic.
They have raised over £150,000 for the charity so far, and hope to raise more with the help of donations. They said they were overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of their supporters, and thanked them for their encouragement and messages.
A dream come true
Laidlaw and Mitchell said they were thrilled to have completed their rowing challenge, and to have achieved their personal and professional goals. They said it was a dream come true, and an experience they will never forget.
They also said they were looking forward to seeing their families and friends, and to enjoying a burger and a beer. They said they were proud to have represented Scotland and the hospitality industry, and to have contributed to a good cause.