A mental health campaigner who decided to take on the world's toughest rowing race, says he is relieved and overwhelmed after completing the challenge.
Bernie Hollywood OBE from Liverpool, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December 2022 and arrived in Antigua on Saturday as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing race, following a gruelling 3,000 mile solo row across the Atlantic.
Bernie crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the World’s Toughest Row in 109 days, 14 hours and 16 minutes, to be precise!
He says he felt "a huge wave of relief and a feeling of numbness. I have rowed the Atlantic through 17 storms, two capsizes, a busted leg, an infection in my nether regions, reflux, constipation and a huge amount of other ailments that I've had to contend with like blistered lips."
"When you put all that together and then step onto dry land for the first time in 108 days it's just a huge wave of relief and thankfulness that you got through it in one piece"
The journey has been a relentless one, notwithstanding the very final leg of his journey where for a moment the conditions made it look as though he may not make his route to Antigua as he was swept further and further South.
A Herculean effort of resilience, grit and determination saw him finally reaching the end of his journey.
Speaking on his journey, Bernie said “It’s been a very emotional journey across the Atlantic, lots of ups and downs.
"We must get people talking about what’s in their heads and in their hearts.
"I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the campaign so far, it’s been a two-year campaign. I’d like to thank everyone for their support.”
The 63-year-old father, adventurer and charity fundraiser, who was racing in a boat named after his beloved home "City of Liverpool", was raising awareness of mental health, suicide and depression.
The gruelling challenge has seen him row solo and completely unsupported, facing extremely bad weather along the way.
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."
He says he celebrated completing the challenge with a double cheeseburger, chips and a beer sat by his boat he says "my tastebuds were in heaven, I devoured it in record time"
Bernie says the challenge has helped "reset what his values are and he has learnt a lot from the completing the race"
Bernie embarked on the challenge #Boat of Hope, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Bernie's inspiring #BoatofHope campaign jointly supports mental health charity Samaritans and British rowing charitable foundation LOVE Rowing, and 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.
In the latest episode of From the North we ask should suicide prevention be taught in schools?