AS challenges go, it is likely to be slightly harder than completing a leisurely round of golf.
Golfing pals David Knaggs and Richard Larking have set themselves the formidable goal of rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
It hasn’t been dubbed “the World’s Toughest Row” for nothing.
David and Richard, two Leeds-based lawyers who were introduced to each other on the first tee at Alwoodley Golf Course in 2011, are now swapping the fairways for the Atlantic Ocean.
There are certainly easier ways to overcome your midlife crisis, but definitely not as fulfilling – or rewarding for the charities they are supporting.
The pair regularly enjoy playing as partners in competitions at the exclusive Alwoodley golf club in North Leeds, regularly (they tell me) winning and losing silverware.
They both however, shared a desire for a greater challenge than the golf course, and during the early hours of the morning on a friend,s 60th birthday trip, the idea to participate in the Atlantic Rowing Challenge was floated.
After the hangovers disappeared, the desire to take on the challenge remained.
And now it is full steam ahead as they prepare for the 2025 Atlantic Challenge with their creative team
name of GREENS2BLUE www.greens2blue.
I first met David when I was at the Yorkshire Post and he was the managing partner of law firm Irwin Mitchell.
We were both asked to be judges of a debating competition launched by Leeds tailor James Michelsberg.
Richard I met a few years later when a mutual friend, the force of nature Elaine Buckley, introduced us over lunch at La Grillade.
I later learned that we had another mutual connection.
Richard served in the Royal Navy before training as a lawyer and one of his fellow sailors was given his first job as a photographer by my father after leaving the service.
David will have just turned 60 and Richard 59, when the 2025 challenge starts in La Gomera in the Canary islands.
It finishes 3,000 miles and several weeks or even months later in English Harbour, Antigua in the West Indies.
The pair who are both qualified solicitors and fathers of two children, are relishing setting themselves such an extreme challenge, seeking to show that age is just a number and that with the required motivation, anything is possible.
I’ve come to know both these guys well and I have no doubt that they will succeed with their challenge – although when we have a semi-regular lunch with tailor James Michelsberg making up a foursome, I do joke about how crazy their challenge sounds.
The fact that they have launched their campaign now, two-and-a-half years ahead of their row, shows how serious they are in terms of preparation, training and, crucially important to them, fundraising.
They have chosen two charities to support during their challenge.
Maggie’s supports people with cancer and their families through a network of centres near hospitals across the UK.
Maggie’s Yorkshire is located on the grounds of St James’s Hospital in Leeds, The award winning centre is a place where people can deal with the challenges that cancer brings.
It is a place where people can feel at home, inspired and valued. The workshops, courses, one-to-one, and group support help people to change the way they live with cancer.
The Friends of Alfie Martin was born out of personal tragedy. when, in 2002 Fiona and Rodger Martin lost their son Alfie.
He was born full term but due to medical negligence needed specialist transportation to Leeds Teaching Hospitals for critical care. No transportation was available and after a tortuous wait Alfie was transferred but sadly died.
Fiona wanted to honour her son by improving the transport of critically ill children throughout Yorkshire.
From this desire a committee of volunteers rallied to support Fiona and the charity was formed.
Twenty years later the charity has raised over half a million pounds funding life-saving equipment for Yorkshire’s sickest babies and has become the biggest single contributor to neonatal care at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals.
I know both David and Richard were determined that their challenge should benefit local charities that meant a lot to them.
Team GREENS2BLUE is based on the idea of swapping the fairways of the golf course for the Atlantic Ocean, so with that in mind, the pair have a golf theme as part of their fundraising.
As well as looking for a major headline sponsor they have designed their own “Atlantic Ocean Course“ which will be split into 18 separate holes measuring 3,000 miles in total and they are looking to sign up 18 hole sponsors who will partner with them on the Atlantic Ocean Course.
Their boat will be named in partnership with their headline sponsor and will bear the logo of every sponsor.
They have just signed up their first Par 5 sponsor, the Yorkshire-based world-renowned sports and racing car maker Ginetta.
Amy Tomlinson, CEO of Ginetta, said: “On behalf of Ginetta we are pleased to support Richard and David as they embark on their challenge to row the Atlantic for charity. We wish them the all the very best in their considerable endeavours.”
And neither are kidding themselves that their challenge isn’t going to push them to their limits.
David told me: “I have been extremely fortunate to have spent many Februarys in Antigua and have watched in awe as rowing crews have come into Nelson’s Dockyard wondering whether I had within me the strength of character to cross the finish line.
“Only time will tell but my rowing partner fills me with complete confidence in our ability to meet this challenge!
“I am hopeful that his eight years in the Royal Navy will hold us in good stead! At times over the years when listening to his stories of the high seas it has felt that he must have served for considerably longer! I hope our days at sea will give me as many stories to dine out on in the years to come.”
Reflecting on their challenge, Richard said: “Who knows what drives us to do the things we do? For some, the most difficult thing is simply to get out of bed in the morning, to face the day when you think you can’t.
“Some challenges look easier than others but we are all driven and tested by different things, to do it or not to do it…..for family and friends, or fear of failure perhaps – we have all had those moments in life.
“Surround yourself with good honest people and when the time comes to step up – you can look around you and then stare into the eye of the storm and say “not today and not on my watch” .
The Spartans would say:“…the more you sweat in training, the less you’ll bleed in battle…”
“All well and good until a hidden sniper takes you down! So more important for us is: ‘the harder you prep….the luckier you’ll get!’.
Quiet lyrical stuff for a lawyer, I’d say.
But when you see the kind of poetic outfits he appears in on the golf course it perhaps isn’t surprising.
He’s the one on the left in the photo above with David on the right and Richard Weeks, club secretary at Alwoodley Golf Club, in the centre after they had agreed to hold a fundraising golf day at the club in 2025.
I know that the pair have already spent time with several Yorkshire-based rowers who have conquered the Atlantic Ocean themselves.
They include Helen Butters, who was part of the Yorkshire Rows quartet of mums who completed the challenge, Mike Bates, the former Royal Marine and Brazilian jujitsu black belt AKA ‘The Atlantic Grappler’ who was the first solo rower to complete the 2022 challenge earlier this year in just 46 days six hours and 10 minutes.
Mike, whose son’s life was saved in hospital in Leeds after being born 11 weeks premature, raised £175,000 for Leeds Hospitals Charity.
And I know they have also spent time with the vastly experienced ocean rowing coach Duncan Roy, a World Record holder who has rowed across the mid-Pacific, across the Atlantic Ocean twice and circumnavigated Great Britain.
So nobody can say they aren’t doing the prep work for their challenge.
What is almost certain is that as the challenge nears they will be spending less time on the golf course and more time training for their epic journey.
Who knows how long it will take them? It comes down to many things, most importantly the weather conditions they will come up against.
Perhaps I better not book Sous le Nez for a celebration lunch in early 2026 just yet.
For more information, sponsorship details and to follow them on social media see www.greens2blue.co.uk
I WENT for a haircut yesterday.
As I settled back into the chair I noticed the barber looking in the mirror in front of me admiring and running his fingers through his own bouffant head of hair.
But not enough volume on the top for my liking.
Have a great weekend.