CHRISTMAS Day will be spent in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for a new dad.

Robbie Laidlaw will be in the midst of an incredible charity fundraiser which will see him row from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean to raise thousands of pounds for Hospitality Action.

The 34-year-old will set off from San Sebastián de La Gomera, where Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, on December 14.

Alongside his boss Chris Mitchell – managing director of The Genuine Dining Co, a contract catering business – he will row 3,000 miles to Antigua.

Robbie, who was brought up in East Lothian but now lives in London, said: “Christmas on the ocean with just myself and Chris out there is pretty grim, pretty bleak.

“I have a pregnant fiancée, Kiri, who is due to give birth on Wednesday, so I will miss my firstborn’s Christmas.

“Chris, one of his daughters turns eight on Boxing Day, and another turns 10 when we are out there as well.

“There are lots of life events we are missing, unfortunately, which is a real shame and going to be tough.

“We asked [celebrity chef] Tom Kerridge if he will put together a Christmas dinner for us, which he said he would do.

“He is going to prepare something for us on land and we are going to freeze dry it, vacuum pack it, and take it with us.

“When on the ocean, we will rehydrate his Christmas dinner.

“I don’t know how good it will be but it will be quite an interesting thing!”

Robbie and Chris hope to complete the epic journey in their boat Maria within 50 days.

They will each row in two-hour stints, and sleep, eat and clean for two hours, every day.

In total, they will each have to make some one million strokes to complete the arduous journey.

So far, the duo have raised £150,000 for Hospitality Action, a charity for the hospitality sector.

The charity was particularly busy during the pandemic, with many people requiring financial and mental health support. But, with the cost-of-living crisis, the charity needs help more than ever.

Together, Chris and Robbie, who attended Gullane Primary School and North Berwick High School, hope to raise another £100,000 to reach their target of £250,000.

“The hospitality industry is built upon a strong community spirit, and this spirit was damaged during the fallout of the pandemic, with waves of redundancies sweeping the sector across 2019 and 2020,” said Chris.

“Hospitality Action supports people facing mental health challenges, which we understand the importance of. It’s why we want to support them on our Atlantic campaign.”

The pair will have to endure real hardships on their journey, from bad weather, waves up to 20 feet high and high winds to medical problems including hallucinations and salt sores.

They will also have to deal with the mental challenges of the harsh environment and long-term isolation.

Their 7.5-metre boat can only carry basic medical, navigation, communications and survival equipment alongside enough food to sustain them for up to two months.

They will convert seawater into drinking water, and use buckets as toilets.

Together, they have been training for two years in preparation for the challenge.

Robbie, business development director for the company, said: “The training regime has been gruelling – 5am rowing sessions have become normal.

“We knew it was going to be tough, but the time it has taken up has had a big effect on our families, and we are so grateful for their support.

“The mental preparations have been the toughest, but we have been working with mindset coaches who normally train fighter pilots, so when things get tough or scary, we will be able to think clearly to ensure we are staying safe.”

The race across the Atlantic is organised by the World’s Toughest Row and comprises boats of one rower, or teams of two, three, four and five, from around the world.

First held in 1997, and an annual event since 2015, the fastest crossing was in 2017 by a four-man British crew in just over 29 days.

This year, some 40 teams are taking part.

The Genuine Dining Co has itself felt the importance of Hospitality Action’s work.

In addition to the problems the pandemic caused, in 2017 its sushi restaurant Feng Sushi was hit during the London terror attacks, with some employees suffering PTSD and needing support.

Within hours of contacting Hospitality Action, staff started receiving the help they needed.

To support Robbie and Chris, go to ality