Galashiels man Calum Macrae takes on Atlantic rowing event

A FORMER Royal Marines Commando from Galashiels is preparing to row across the Atlantic.

Calum Macrae, 39, will participate in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December, alongside three team-mates representing ‘Commando Spirit’.

The father-of-two told the Border Telegraph that he wants to use the international platform given by the challenge to break down mental health stigma for service people.

The annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which bills itself as the “world’s toughest row”, tasks participants with travelling 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua and Barbuda.

Mr Macrae said: “Our strapline for the challenge is, ‘It’s OK not to feel OK – because as a Marine or as ex-military, in the alpha-male environment that we worked in, there is that stigma, which is definitely getting a lot better.

“But, equally, people associate post-traumatic stress or serious mental health illnesses with traumatic incidents that you ‘should’ have experienced, and if you haven’t experienced it then why should they be allowed to say, ‘I’ve got mental health’?

“So people keep it within themselves but it can be everyday life that’s causing your mental health.

“So it’s just letting people put their head above the parapet and say, ‘I’m struggling a little bit’, and fix it as soon as they can, rather than let it fester and get a lot worse.

READ MORE: The Borders woman rowing across the Atlantic in a boat made of plastic bottles

“It’s getting rid of this stigma of you can’t say anything because you work in ‘such and such’ industry or ‘such and such’ branch.

“It’s just about getting the awareness out and saying, ‘Everyone worries, there’s potential for everybody to have that’ – regardless of your career, your upbringing, life events – just get out and speak to people about it.”

Team captain Simon ‘Jan’ Hicklin pitched the idea of Commando Spirit to his three colleagues – Mr Macrae, Tristan ‘Larky’ Lark and Gareth ‘Gaz’ Evans – in September 2019.

Mr Macrae revealed that after much pestering from Jan, he agreed to take part in the challenge.

When asked whether lockdown has affected the team’s ability to prepare for the challenge in three months’ time, Mr Macrae said: “We’re looking fairly good, I think.

“It’s been a tricky one to manage with the pandemic but we’re well on track to get to the start line.”

Before they can set sail, Commando Spirit have to raise around £100,000 to fund their boat, equipment and transport – alongside the team’s fundraising for their chosen charities, Rock2Recovery and The Royal Marines’ Charity.

At the time of publication, Commando Spirit had raised £1,704.04 of their target.

To support team Commando Spirit, visit their Virgin Money Giving page.

Border Telegraph | News