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President’s Dinner

The York Rotary President’s dinner was hosted by President Paul Harvey, the 100th President of the club.  The dinner was attended by 85 people comprising invited guests including the full Civic Party and many Rotarians and their partners.

Paul opened the dinner by thanking Max of the Novotel who has been involved with over 500 York Rotary meetings and events since we started meeting at the Novotel.  Max is moving to the Novotel in Geneva and as thanks for his service on our behalf he was presented with a token of our appreciation.

After an excellent dinner, President Paul proposed the toast to “The City of York and York Rotary Club working together for our community.  Paul talked about the long relationship with the city since the first meeting of the club at the Mansion House in 1921 and how much we value that relationship.  Paul also mentioned that at least 17 Lord Mayors have been members of York Rotary along with 18 Sheriffs. He finished by thanking the Lord Mayor and Civic Party for their support in the last year and he offered them membership applications forms, only time will tell if they take Paul up on the offer, but we hope that they will.

The Lord Mayor Councillor Chris Cullwick responded and thanked York Rotary for the work that we do and he mentioned the highlight of the Dragon Boat Challenge.  Chris concluded by presenting the Club with a “Significant Service Award” signed by Gordon McInally, Rotary International President 2023-4 and David Phillips, District 1040 Governor 2023-24 in recognition of the work done by the Club in raising £1.5m over the past 21 years through the Dragon Boat Challenge.

We then had an inspiring talk from Tyneside Rotarian Garreth Murrell about his Atlantic Rowing Challenge.

After a decade-long military career which included tours in Northern Ireland and Bosnia, Garreth lived with the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) long after his service ended.

Having overcome his own mental health challenges, Garreth set up the charity “Veterans at Ease” and it has helped over 400 veterans, serving personnel and their families deal with PTSD and find the peace of mind they rightly deserve.

Garreth had one big expedition in his sights immediately after retirement. In December 2022, he assembled a team of “Veterans at Ease” members to complete the Talisker Atlantic Rowing Challenge - a gruelling row across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera in the Canaries to Antigua of over 3000 miles.

We heard that the fundraising and training that went into planning and arranging the event started in 2017 and Gareth was delighted that the Atlantic row started in 2022 and that they were boat number 22 because 22 was the number of his regiment.

We were fascinated by the many challenges on the way, including the trials of rowing up 40-foot-high waves, and then free-running down the back of these waves for some considerable distance.  One night when the boat’s batteries were flat due to 11 days of storms and hence their positioning and collision avoidance equipment was not working, they saw the green and red lights of a boat rapidly approaching them.  Fortunately, using torches and a hand-held radio, they made the other boat aware of their location and what transpired to be a racing yacht travelling at 35 knots, narrowly missed slicing them in two by 100 yards.

Following this inspirational talk, we saw a video of the event that can be watched via the link below.  Gareth closed by responding to a number of very relevant questions. His team’s participation in the challenge raised over £40,000 for their charity,.

A copy of the book "Welcome to Antigua - one Ocean Rower's thoughts on crossing the Atlantic” which Garreth wrote about this amazing expedition can be purchased from Amazon at

The event was a formal occasion, but was held we the correct level of informality and fun, resulting in a very enjoyable evening.

David Fotheringham

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