Father-of four to row across the Atlantic to raise money for the charity working to find a cure for his daughter's disabling genetic disorder

Ross McKinney, a father-of-four from North Berwick is planning to row across the Atlantic next December in a team of five to raise money for the charity Reverse Rett after his daughter was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome six years ago.

By Beth Murray
Thursday, 24th December 2020, 7:00 am
From left: Fraser Potter, Ross McKinney, Clive Rooney, Ian Baird and Duncan Hughes.
From left: Fraser Potter, Ross McKinney, Clive Rooney, Ian Baird and Duncan Hughes.

Mr McKinney, 43, is a keen coastal rower and a member of the North Berwick rowing club. Together with four other crew members, he hopes to raise awareness of Reverse Rett, the charity dedicated to funding research to treat and cure Rett Syndrome.

The crew are fundraising for the charity and hope to gain corporate sponsorship as well as individual donations through a go fund me page.

They will spend almost two-months racing in Talisker Whisky’s Atlantic Challenge starting in December 2021, only taking breaks to eat and sleep on the boat.

Ross McKinney's daughter Eliza with his son, Angus.

Mr McKinney said: “I'm definitely excited about the challenge of taking it on but there are also moments of 'oh my god what am I doing'. But the excitement is overpowering the nerves at the moment."

Agreeing to take part in the row wasn't an easy decision, he continued: “The impact it will have on my family was a big factor in the decision, four kids at home and Catherine, my wife, having to really pick up the pieces and do everything, probably for the best part of two months, is a lot.

"But I’m doing this for Eliza.”

His wife, Catherine McKinney, said: “I know it will be hard for me to cope but I can’t stand in his way.

The crew. From the left: Ian Baird, Clive Rooney, Ross McKinney, Duncan Hughes and Fraser Potter.

“The team are raising money so that our daughter might one day have a better quality of life and for that I will always be grateful and they all have my full support.”

Their daughter, Eliza, now aged nine, was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome when she was just three-years-old. It’s rare genetic disorder that strikes previously healthy children, mainly girls, between the ages of one and three-years-old and takes away their ability to walk, talk, use their hands and even breathe normally.

Ms McKinney said: “As a toddler, Eliza was able to say a few words, hold objects, sit up without support and was developing like any other baby. Around the age of two, her development stalled and she started to regress, losing all the abilities that she previously had.”

Mr McKinney continued to say that with Eliza’s condition, he thought hard about leaving for so long in case anything happened, but ultimately decided that doing it for her drives him forward to “take it on and do it well”

Training is well and truly underway in the form of rowing machines and building general fitness but the crew are hoping to get out to train in open-water again soon as coronavirus restrictions ease.

Mr McKinney added that the mental preparation is just as important as the physical, saying: “It’s about gelling together as a crew and understanding each other. We're obviously going to be together on that boat for a long time so it's about making sure that we all get on well and we don't let anything niggle away at each other.”

He added: “It’s going to be hard, but it’s worth it if we can do something amazing for Reverse Rett and raise awareness of Eliza’s condition.”

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