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"Fear will drive me" - Ex-Royal Marine to row solo 3k miles west-east across North Atlantic

Dave 'Dinger' Bell with his boat, Billy No Mates, which he will row across the North Atlantic next year.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: December 4, 2020 | Updated: 5th December 2020

“I’m quite scared of what I’m attempting to do but I’m using that fear to drive me on.”

The words of ex-Royal Marine Dave ‘Dinger’ Bell.

He’ll need every ounce of courage next year as he attempts to row solo 3,118 miles the wrong way – west to east – across the North Atlantic for charity.

Dinger will start in New York and finish in Falmouth, Cornwall, and be completely unsupported.

That means he must leave the Big Apple with everything he needs to complete the entire crossing.

Rowing solo from New York to continental Europe unsupported has never been done before.

And fewer than 60 people have ever rowed across the North Atlantic while more than 100 people rowed the Mid Atlantic last year alone.

There’s a good reason.

The largest wave ever recorded was in the North Atlantic, reaching 29 meters/95 feet high.

Dinger, pictured left training for the challenge, risks being hit by storms, run over by ships, hitting icebergs or the boat capsizing.

The challenge is self-funded.

Every penny raised will go directly to his designated UK charities and organisations.

85 per cent to the Special Boat Service Association (SBSA) – of which 15 per cent will be passed to Rock2Recovery – and the remaining 15 per cent to The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

But apart from raising money for three good causes, one question.

Why?

Dinger, 48, who lives in Bere Regis, said: “Everyone asks me that.

“The simple answer is to see if I can.

“I’m no way an athlete.

“I have the classic Marine’s knees, hips and back.

“I’ve done some tough things and, to be honest, I don’t know if my body will hold out.

“But I’m curious to see if I can do this and I have a quiet determination to succeed.

“After all, if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

Dinger served 20 years in the Royal Marines, leaving in 2010 with the rank of Colour Sergeant.

He first developed an interest in rowing the Atlantic in 1997.

But the idea only crystalised after working in Jamaica, one of the jobs undertaken after leaving the armed forces.

Dinger, who was given the nickname (based on his surname Bell) on his first day with the Royal Marines – it’s been with him ever since – said: “I seriously considered rowing home.”

Five years ago he decided to press ahead with the challenge but only started telling people in 2018.

Dinger said: “95 per cent of people look blank and just say ’why?’.

“The other five per cent are fascinated and ask me loads of questions.”

The actual departure date from New York will be determined by the weather but is likely to be May next year.

Dinger bought his boat from Avon Marina, formerly Rossiters, in Christchurch.

It was used in the annual Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, where up to 30 teams row the Mid Atlantic.

The 3,000 mile route goes west from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain, to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda.

The boat was abandoned by its crew and picked up by a fishing vessel before being returned to the UK.

The boat’s rear cabin which will be Dinger’s bedroom.

Dinger has now christened it ‘Billy No Mates’.

Total costs of the challenge are expected to be in the region of £55,000 to £60,000.

While Dinger is self-funding the venture, several sponsors are also coming on board.

Among the businesses he’s promoting is Bravery, the Poole-based extreme clothing brand founded by Tobias Gutteridge.

The former Royal Marine was paralysed from the neck down after a bullet severed his spinal cord while serving in Afghanistan 11 years ago.

“He’s an amazing guy,” said Dinger.

He added: “This is something you only do once.

“I don’t intend to make a career out of it.

“But if I’m successful no-one will be able to take that achievement away from me.”

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