‘Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide wide sea…’  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

More people have made it into outer space. More people have reached the summit of Mount Everest. Just two of the reasons it’s considered to be the most brutal physical and mental challenge known to mankind. And, what’s more, this year only one person attempting this particular challenge, one person on the entire planet will be able to say they spent their Christmas Day birthday closer to the orbiting International Space Station than to any human being on dry land.

That person is Gareth Reynolds, a trustee of PLANED, and on the 25th December 2020, when he could have been blowing out the candles on his 32nd birthday cake, the boy from Dale in Pembrokeshire will, instead, be found bobbing up and down out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Alone. Alone with his thoughts. Alone with his blisters. Alone under the stars in his rowing boat.

Incredibly, 13 days earlier Gareth will have set out from La Gomera in the Canary Islands hoping that 60 days, 3000 miles and 1.5 million oar strokes later he’ll be clambering out of his boat in Antigua with a tan and a sense of achievement most of us could only dream of, having completed a solo row of the Atlantic as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

In the latest PLANED podcast….  PLANED CEO Iwan Thomas asks Gareth the one question that, given the chance, we’d surely all like to ask him: “You’re rowing 3000 miles unaided across the Atlantic…why?”

“I came across an expression recently,’ Gareth laughs, ‘happy people don’t climb mountains.’ A couple of winters ago I was feeling a bit bored, a bit down perhaps, looking for something in life and felt I needed a focus, a goal. I happened to see these guys on YouTube in the Caribbean somewhere, lighting their flares up in the air, cheering, spraying beer everywhere having just rowed the Atlantic, and the mad idea of trying it myself stuck in my head.”

Of course most people would be happy with the challenge of a marathon or a sponsored walk, but not Gareth.

“I have always wanted to do something to really push myself, to test both my physical and mental limits, and find out what I am truly capable of. As someone who’s life and passions are centred around the ocean and the outdoors, a solo ocean row seems the ultimate way to achieve that.”

It was a few months before he signed up for the row but he has now spent the last two years in intensive training for it, preparation that has included a 24 hour rowing event in Henley.

Yet, apart from the lack of regular quality sleep, he is fully aware that hardest aspect of the whole adventure is the isolation.

“Physically I am ready, but the physical side of it is only 20% to be honest, and I don’t know if there is any way to properly prepare for the mental side of it, the 45-60 days of total isolation. But I also do genuinely believe that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

“The world does seem full of negativity at the moment so it’s nice to be able to focus on such a positive thing, a big adventure shared with family and friends while raising money for a good cause at the same time.”

That cause is one close to his heart: the Multiple Sclerosis Society. “MS is the most common cause of disability in adults,” Gareth explains, “and a couple of family members have been diagnosed with it along with other people I know.”

He is aiming to raise £100,000 for the charity and specifically their ‘Stop MS’ appeal which is itself aiming for a £100 million plus over a 5 year period.

“The guys at the appeal think they are very close to finding a cure which, of course, is very exciting, but the whole coronavirus thing has chucked a few spanners in the works when it’s come to raising money and, unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel the fundraising events I had planned this year. But the GoFundMe page is up and running so I’m on track, and the plan is now to hold events when I’m back.”
Finally the most important question about the most essential part of his preparation: “What about the playlist?’

“So far it ranges from Metallica to a bit of classical and when it’s complete it’ll have a nice mix …probably some Top Gun, Eye of the Tiger motivational stuff. But what I will say is when you see the final list on FB…don’t judge me!”

PLANED, along with many others, will be avidly following Gareth’s progress through both his live tracker and his social media updates at sea. But we are also looking forward to hearing all the stories once we know the Dale Sailing MD and PLANED trustee is finally back safe and sound in Pembrokeshire.

“It’s a solo row,” he adds, “but definitely not a solo effort as there are a lot of others behind the scenes who are fully invested, and it really feels like they’re doing it with me.’

“A few people have said, ‘what if you don’t make it across,’ but,” Gareth laughs again, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever considered that as an option.” There is a myriad of ways you can fund or lend Gareth support in his adventure details of which can be found on his website: or his Atlantic Dragon Facebook page.

You can also donate to his fundraising for the MS Society: