Mental health campaigner Bernie Hollywood nearing the end of gruelling Atlantic rowing challenge

Bernie Hollywood set off from La Gormera in December 2022 on his small rowing boat City of Liverpool, en-route to Antigua Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

A 63-year-old, who decided to take on the world's toughest rowing race, is nearing the end of his epic challenge, but has admitted at times he thought he would not make it.

Bernie Hollywood OBE from Liverpool, has been at sea for more than three months, taking part in the Talisker Atlantic Rowing Race.

The gruelling challenge has seen him row solo and completely unsupported, facing extremely bad weather along the way.

At one point he injured his leg, which he says he needs medical attention for an infection.

Bernie says the most frightening part of the journey was when the boat capsized.

"The boat went fully underneath the water and on two separate occasions it did re-right," he said.

"But on one occasion it took about three or four minutes to come back up and I did think at that stage that's it, so I rang my friend to say goodbye to everybody."

The adventurer and charity fundraiser is rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua to raise awareness of mental health, suicide and depression.

The race began in La Gomera in the Canary Islands and finishes in Antigua, covering 3,000 miles and is known as the toughest rowing race Credit: Boat of Hope

Bernie has been rowing solo across the Atlantic in his tiny boat called 'City of Liverpool'

He set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December 2022 en-route to Antigua, due to arrive at the beginning of April.

Bernie says he feels: "apprehensive because it's not over til it's over and the ocean doesn't give up very easily.

"You are fighting ocean currents, waves, the boat gets battered by 30 foot waves so I'm looking forward to getting home"

Bernie is doing it to encourage more young people to speak up about mental health worries, and in his bid to raise tens of thousands of pounds for his chosen charities.

Credit: Bernie Hollywood

He says: "I am living in a cabin the size of a telephone box so it was very claustrophobic to start with but then becomes a haven of safety, but it is always very wet and damp so even inside there is moisture everywhere."

Dad of two Bernie was born and grew up in the Speke area of Liverpool and now lives in North Wales.

Over the past 40 years he has raised £42 million for UK and overseas charities.

He is a world record-holder running the longest distance in seven days and has received countless awards for his philanthropy over the last two decades.

Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Speaking to ITV Granada Reports before he set sail, he said rowing solo across the Atlantic would be a huge physical and mental challenge but he's heartened that the city so close to his heart will be with him all the way.

"I hope that this campaign inspires more open conversations about youth mental health so that those young people who are struggling know that they too are not alone, and that there are people who can help them find a way forward."

The boat's exterior artwork was designed by renowned artist and close friend, Justin Eagleton, who has created a mural that draws together multiple images to depict a journey of mental health.

The mural also includes artwork from the winners of a nationwide secondary school art competition run by principal campaign partner ParentPay, and which includes two winning entries from Gateacre School in Belle Vale. 

Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Bernie's inspiring #BoatofHope campaign jointly supports mental health charity Samaritans and British rowing charitable foundation LOVE Rowing, and aims to raise a total of £100,000 pounds for these initiatives.

The funds raised by Bernie for Samaritans will help in the development and delivery of a targeted package of support for young people's mental health and wellbeing within the UK.

Bernie's fundraising efforts for LOVE Rowing will support the charity's inclusive rowing programmes for underrepresented communities, with a particular focus on young people in education.

The tiny rowing boat is called City of Liverpool, after the city where Bernie was born Credit: Bernie Hollywood

In the latest episode of From the North we ask should suicide prevention be taught in schools?