Former Marine to tackle solo Atlantic row in thanks to Leeds Children's Hospital after son's meningitis battle

A former Marine is preparing for a 3,000-mile solo row across the Atlantic Ocean after setting out to find a challenge that will test him to the limits.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 11:45 am

Mike Bates hopes his endeavours will not only raise a huge £70,000 for Leeds Hospitals Charity to benefit the unit that helped to save his son's life but also inspire others to "dream big".

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After 20 years of service in the military, the Leeds dad-of-two went on to earn his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and placed first out of 2,000 in a three-day hike through Denmark.

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Mike Bates gets in some training for his solo Atlantic row, with son Gabe cheering him on. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

And while he's clearly no stranger to testing his body to the limits, his lack of confidence around open water and his lack of rowing experience is exactly why he chose this test.

"It's going to push me to do something I'm not that comfortable with," the dad-of-two said. "I'm not really built for rowing, I'm only 5ft 8in and a bit.

"This was the biggest thing I could find. If I'm going to do something, it's got to be hard. It's how I'm hardwired."

Mike, who lives in Roundhay, has dubbed his fundraising challenge The Atlantic Grappler and is training hard daily in preparation for the gruelling journey scheduled for December 2022.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has teamed up with Leeds Hospital Charity to highlight the efforts of its supporters and encourage others to become regular donors.

He said: "I'll battle with sleep deprivation, salt sores and physical extremes inflicted by the race. Left alone with my own thoughts, the expanse of an ocean and the job of getting the boat safely to the other side."

Those thoughts could well include memories of the difficult first few months of the life of his youngest son Gabriel, now 10.

Affectionately known as Gabe, he was born prematurely and contracted meningitis, spending his first few months on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital.

"Without the amazing staff and facilities at Leeds Children’s Hospital our lives would be very different today," said Mike, 42. "We're the lucky ones, but we met many families along the way that weren't so fortunate.

Mike Bates with son Gabe when he was being cared for on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Leeds Children’s Hospital.

"When you've gone through this experience, it's kind of traumatic. You lock it away in the back of your mind.

"When it's his birthday, it kind of brings things back to you. There's a lot of stuff I've not unpacked. Maybe that will come out of the row."

In the meantime, Mike is encouraging people to donate to help him to help others, with supporters becoming part of his team for what is set to be quite an adventure.

He added: "It's bigger than the charity this. It's about inspiring people to dream big."

Former Marine Mike Bates spent 20 years in the Army.

How to support the challenge

To help cover the operational costs of his journey, Mike is looking for Yorkshire businesses to support him through sponsorship. He has already secured support from Castore Sportswear, Goals Soccer Centres, Causeway Cottage Filey, OTE Sports and the REORG charity.

He is offering several bespoke sponsorship packages, including the opportunity to have a logo on his boat and online exposure. Get in touch at [email protected] to find out more about becoming a sponsor.

You can also follow Mike’s training progress and journey on his Instagram page @theatlanticgrappler or visit for more details.

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Mike Bates with son Gabe, now 10. Picture: Bruce Rollinson