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WAVES AGAIN: Former Navy man’s ocean charity challenge wins council backing

WAVES AGAIN: Former Navy man’s ocean charity challenge wins council backing

The boat carrying Team Emotive in their charity challenge, Image: Jason Watkin

A former Navy man is to take to the waves again to row the Atlantic Ocean for charity. 

Eaglescliffe’s Jason Watkin will join three fellow ex-servicemen travelling 3,000 miles under their own steam for Veterans at Ease.

The 51-year-old’s cause won the support of Yarm Town Council on Tuesday night after his friend Cllr John Coulson told colleagues of the gruelling challenge the quartet had ahead.

Cllr Coulson said: “At some stage, Jason would like to bring the boat to Yarm Town Hall for members of the public to see so we can raise funds.

“It’s a really interesting boat. We’ve got plenty of time because they don’t propose to do it until a year in December.”

He added: “We want to help Jason raise some funds and, if the gala went ahead next year, wouldn’t it be brilliant to have them on the river.”

Jason will be joined by Chris Harvey, Stephen Lees, and Garreth Murrell – the CEO of Veterans at Ease – on the 40 day challenge from the Canary Islands to Antigua in December 2022.

Team Emotive will be carried in 29ft “Oardrey” – with the team of ex-servicemen rowing two hours on, two hours off for 40 energy-sapping days.

Team Emotive

Team Emotive on 29ft "Oadrey"

Each member is expected to lose more than two stones during the trans-ocean challenge – and they’ll have to carry everything they need for the unsupported trip, including food, equipment and all non-biodegradable waste.

Veterans at Ease offers a free service which helps veterans, reservists, serving military personnel and their families with PTSD and other combat stress illnesses.

Mr Watkin went straight into the Navy after leaving Egglescliffe School in 1986.

His career saw him part of the Hong Kong anti-smuggling task force and he also served on aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious and Invincible.

The dad-of-three has spoken in the past about the help Veterans at Ease provided after he struggled to adjust to life on civvy street.

He told councillors how he was now a nine-and-a-half year dry alcoholic – and how his mental health was “shot to pieces” before he came across Veterans at Ease.

“I know three veterans in the Yarm area who’ve been helped by them through covid who are now living a better life,” added Jason.

“It proves you can go from a really dark mental health place to do something quite incredible to raise money.”

No stranger to charity causes, Jason managed to shed five stone to complete Wainwright’s Coast to Coast in 2014 – walking more than 200 miles in just 11 days from St Bees, in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay, in North Yorkshire.

He also dressed as an Elf every day of December 2016 to raise money for Veterans at Ease.

Teesside artist Mackenzie Thorpe and his wife Susan were among the first supporters of the rowing challenge after Mr Watkin told them of how low he’d been at one point.

Jason added: “I used to mark a point on the A1 where I could come off and kill myself to make it look like an accident so my family would get more money.

“People stopped me from doing it because of my mental health.”

By sharing his story, Jason explained it had helped to raise £100,000 so far.

A duck race will be held at the Tees Barrage on October 26 at 10am in aid of the Team Emotive cause.

And Oadrey will make an appearance at Teesside Park this weekend alongside the team.


Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter

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