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Catering company managers battle sleep exhaustion in 3000-mile rowing race – Shropshire Star

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Two catering company managers have described their battle against sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion as they near the end of a 3,000-mile challenge to row across the Atlantic, to raise money for hospitality workers hit by the Covid crisis.

Chris Mitchell, from Radlett near Watford, Hertfordshire, and Robbie Laidlaw, who lives in London and is originally from Scotland, set off for the Atlantic Challenge, known as the world’s toughest row, on December 13, from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and should be crossing the finishing line in Antigua this weekend.

Chris Mitchell
Chris Mitchell takes a break during the 3,000-mile Transatlantic rowing challenge (Family handout/PA Wire)

During the challenge, Mr Mitchell, 41, and Mr Laidlaw, 34, have been capsized in “incredibly harsh” weather conditions and visited by a pod of dolphins on New Year’s Eve.

They have also had to cope with strong winds, huge waves and ever-changing currents, as well as blisters, sunburn, dehydration and sores.

The men, who run the Genuine Dining Company (GDC), took on the challenge to raise money for Hospitality Action which supports workers in the sector including those whose jobs were hit by the pandemic.

Mr Mitchell, who has three daughters, said: “I knew I needed to do something exciting and interesting to get donations for the charity.

“Hospitality Action is a charity that supports people who work in the hospitality industry who, for whatever reason, need a little help.

“The hardest bit by far has been being away from family. There may well be people out here who don’t get on with their families and are glad to be away, but I’m the opposite. It has made me appreciate what I have so much more.

“Being stripped right back to the basics, not having anything at all, no comforts, no luxuries, really makes you think about what matters.”

Chris Mitchell (l) and Robbie Laidlaw
Chris Mitchell (l) and Robbie Laidlaw (r) during their rowing challenge (Family handout/PA Wire)

Mr Mitchell, chief executive of GDC, which employs 800 people, said tiredness and physical demands have been the greatest challenges.

The men take turns to row, with two hours on and two hours off, when they attempt to get some sleep.

He said that he had been listening to Harry Potter audiobooks and one day Mr Laidlaw found him packing his bag to go to Hogwarts because of sleep deprivation.

Mr Laidlaw, business development manager of GDC, and whose son was born just six weeks before the race, added: “We’re working hard out here, I’m sure you guys are working hard at home as well and we would love for you guys to spare just a couple of minutes to donate to Hospitality Action, the brilliant, brilliant charity that we’re raising some great money for.”

A team of five Royal Navy submariners, HMS Oardacious, won the race when they crossed the finishing line on Wednesday in 35 days four hours and 30 minutes in their boat Captain Jim.

By Friday, the men had raised £161,872 of their £250,000 target.

For more information and to donate visit www.spiritofhospitality.co.uk.

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