Leighton Buzzard businessman and pals taking on English Channel in memory of friend who took his own life

Row for Louie. Richard (back row) is fourth from left.
Row for Louie. Richard (back row) is fourth from left.

A Leighton Buzzard businessman and his pals will be rowing across the English Channel in memory of a friend who took his own life.

Richard Stimpson, 38, along with eight of his friends will be setting off at 5am from Dover in a Cornish GIG boat on September 28 in memory of rugby fan, Louie Lewis, 36.

The intrepid adventurers will be getting sore bottoms and tired arms in aid of Mind, as they hope to raise £8,000 for the charity and spread an important message.

Richard, who is the managing director at Waterdene Foodservice Limited, said: “It’s for Mind and I’m also doing it for my friend Stuart, as I saw how Louie’s death affected him personally.

“Louie was around our age and it’s almost a year to the day. It still affects the others now.

“Louie was involved with the rugby club in Milton Keynes - more the social side - I’d met him around five times.

“He was one of the chaps you’d never think had a problem. He was the life and soul of the party, happy and smiley.”

Richard added: “I was also speaking to a relative who said that one of his friends was talking to him at 7pm at night, and then took his own life; when you start talking to people, these things come out. It’s happening more and more and it’s terrible.

“We need to raise awareness and stop being ‘blokey blokes’ - talk about it.”

The nine friends (one of whom will be in a support boat alongside) have been training down at the Royal Albert docks in London, preparing for up to eight hours in the boat.

The team will be covering a distance of 22 miles, rowing out halfway across, and then back, as they are not actually allowed to arrive in France.

“Our first training session was a bit embarrassing,” laughed Richard. “Our oars were hitting each other and we were all out of time.

“The hardest bit is going to be the mental side - you can’t see land and are out in the middle of nowhere. Then there’s the blisters!

“I’m looking forward to completing it, the camaraderie, and it’s an achievement.

“It’s going be an emotional one for the others. They knew Louie well.”

A barbecue and boot camp fundraiser is also being held at Milton Keynes Rugby Club on September 14 from midday until late.

> To find out more about Mind and get support for mental health: https://www.mind.org.uk/ or call Samari-
tans (24 hours): 116 123.