Brewery owner Rupert Thompson, who lives in Hungerford, raised over £3,500 to boost funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK by rowing 26 miles in the AHOY Cross Channel Challenge. The event took place on 22 September and Rupert and his crew of six friends rowed to the middle point of the English Channel before racing back to the finishing line at Dover beach. Their original plan to row to France was hampered due to recent restrictions on entering French waters. Rupert took on the challenge in memory of his father Richard who died with vascular dementia in 2011, aged 87.
Since his father passed away, Rupert and his family have been determined to raise money and awareness for the UK’s leading dementia research charity. Through a family trust, they have funded a three-year research project at Alzheimer’s Research UK’s network centre at the University of Southampton, investigating inflammation of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease.
Rupert is Chairman and Managing Director of Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery. He talked about the row and his reasons for supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK:
“We had a fantastic day! The weather was perfect and the water was very smooth as we rowed with all our might in a 34 foot boat. We had previously rowed in the Queen’s Jubilee Regatta in 2012 and after a few celebratory beers decided to go one better this year and tackle the Channel! A foolhardy idea as most of us have passed our first flush of youth but we managed it in just over five hours.
“The English Channel is a major shipping route and we had a couple of delays waiting for container ships to pass – they were enormous and our boat was rocked from side to side in their huge wash. The event was organised by The AHOY Centre and we all raised money for their great work giving disadvantaged youngsters and people with disabilities the opportunity to sail and row. It also gave me the chance to raise money for another charity very close to my heart, Alzheimer’s Research UK, the dementia research experts.
“Since my father died with vascular dementia, it’s opened my eyes to the dreadful lack of funding for research to find news treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and the many other forms of dementia. The kind and intelligent man I knew, who served in the Army and taught sciences at a York secondary school for many years, gradually faded away. It was terribly sad to see him become increasingly forgetful and confused as dementia took hold.
“We first knew something was wrong when my father gave up using his computer and his interest in gardening and mathematical puzzles started to wane. In the end he needed help with everything – washing, dressing and eating – and didn’t even recognise close members of the family. With the help of carers coming in three times a day, my mother managed to look after him at home right to the end but it put a huge strain on her. By supporting Alzheimer’s Research UK we want to give hope to people living with dementia today and future generations.
“Thoughts of my hard-working father and his mischievous sense of humour kept me going during the 26-mile row. I was hurting all over by the end of it but it was worth it knowing we were helping The AHOY Centre and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s vital work to defeat dementia.”
Miranda Johnson, Head of Corporate and Community Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This is a brilliant achievement! We can’t thank Rupert and his fellow crew members enough for taking on this exhausting challenge. The tremendous amount raised will pay for another 175 hours of world-class research or vital equipment for our scientists, bringing us closer to finding ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
“We are hugely grateful to Rupert and his family for their continued support through their family trust. The dementia research project they are funding at our network centre at the University of Southampton will allow us to gain a much deeper understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. It is hoped the research could open the door to new treatments.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people across the UK living with dementia today, including nearly 7,000 people in Berkshire. Dementia poses one of the greatest threats to public health now and in the future but funding for research still lags far behind other serious diseases. We rely on public donations to fund our crucial research and it’s thanks to the commitment and support of people like Rupert that we are able to continue our pioneering work.”
To add to Rupert’s fundraising efforts for world-class dementia research donate online at mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rupertschannelrow. Further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK is available online at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org or by calling 0300 111 5555.