Niall Iain attempts first solo Atlantic row next month

Niall Iain in the Alliance Trust, the ocean rowing boat he'll use for the NY2SY Challenge.  Photo: Leila Angus
Niall Iain in the Alliance Trust, the ocean rowing boat he'll use for the NY2SY Challenge. Photo: Leila Angus

Scot, Niall Iain Macdonald will set off at the end of May in an attempt to row an incredible 3,400 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean – on his own.

Taking the oars of a purpose-built ocean rowing boat the 39-year-old will tackle an unprecedented route from New York to Stornoway (NY2SY) which will take at least 90 days.

The challenge is a gruelling test of endurance and Niall Iain is hoping to raise £100,000 worth of vital support for Scotland’s leading mental health charity, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), which supports over 2,500 people with mental health problems every day.

Only 10 people have successfully rowed from the West to East across the North Atlantic – more people have actually walked on the moon – and no one has ever tried this route reaching Scotland’s Isle of Lewis from the Big Apple.

The solo North Atlantic row is an intense test of body and mind, with twelve hours of rowing a day, across one of the most challenging and dangerous bodies of water in the world.

Inverness-born adventurer, Niall Iain, is taking on the mammoth challenge to support a charity very close to his heart.

SAMH campaign and fund crucial work providing help, information and support for people with mental health problems.

Having experienced depression, Niall Iain said: “With the help and support of family, friends and various health services, I overcame my problems.

“Since then I have tried to use my own experience to get people to talk more openly about mental health and show them that there is help and they are not alone.

“I am both excited and nervous to undertake the biggest challenge of my life to help raise funds for SAMH to continue their crucial work.”

No stranger to demanding challenges, Niall Iain has travelled far and wide by boat and bike. He has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean for two months and has spent several months on a bicycle exploring remote parts of South America.

In 2008 he successfully rowed 46 miles across a treacherous stretch of sea between the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland called the Minch.

The row from New York to Stornoway is the equivalent of making this journey 70 times.

A huge amount of physical and mental endurance is required to take on a challenge of this kind.

SAMH will be on hand to support Niall Iain throughout his challenge, providing support and encouragement as he pushes himself to the limit.

Judith MacKinnon, director of SAMH’s ‘Get Active’ programme said: “SAMH is delighted to be the beneficiaries of Niall Iain’s unique adventure. His determination to complete this record-breaking voyage is truly inspirational.

“The NY2SY challenge will help to raise awareness of mental health as well as providing vital funds, and we wish Niall Iain every success throughout his journey.”

The specially crafted 23 ft long boat – which will also serve as Niall Iain’s living quarters for the entire journey – has been named the Alliance Trust after NY2SY’s headline sponsor; one of the sponsors that have made this challenge possible. 

Katherine Garrett-Cox, CBE, chief executive, Alliance Trust said: “We were incredibly impressed by the determination and tenacity of Niall Iain when we met him.

“It was a very easy decision to support such an inspiring person on this significant challenge.

“We sincerely hope this partnership is a huge success for everyone concerned, Niall Iain Macdonald, SAMH and for the fair ship, Alliance Trust – may she bring Niall Iain across the North Atlantic safely and speedily.”

Niall Iain will set off from Liberty Landing Marina in New York in May – once he has been given the green light to begin crossing by his weather router who will be guiding him throughout his journey – aiming to be back in Stornoway by the end of August.