It seems that Derek has lost none of his dogged determination. At 62, the is still turning out for Aylesbury RFC’s third team but that’s just for starters.
The club’s secretary since 2000, he has played rugby every year since the age of five, is a qualified and active referee and when not on a rugby pitch can be found taking on immense challenges in his other passion, endurance sport.
He has completed the Marathon des Sables not once but three times, has smashed several Ironman, 70.3 events and a number of other marathons to raise money for good causes, in particular Help for Heroes.
His latest and most challenging fundraising endeavour will see him rowing the Atlantic in December this year as a competitor in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – the world’s toughest rowing race.
There are four in the crew, rowing for the Scots Guards Charity, a military charity providing funding to a variety of veterans’ causes including Help for Heroes. The other three are serving soldiers, the youngest a 24-year-old army fitness instructor, Dean Charnley.
Their boat, Atlantic Guardsman, has been built by Rannoch in Essex and is fully funded, so all sponsorship will go directly to the charity.
The race starts in La Gomera in The Canaries, and finishes in Antigua – approximately 5,000 km away. They expect to be rowing for around 40 days, rowing in pairs, with two hours on, two hours off.
Derek concedes that this is probably his toughest challenge yet. His wife Sally , son Haden and daughter Chloe “have got used to me doing crazy things. They are fully supportive, but they’d rather I wasn’t doing it, particularly my daughter, a doctor with Thames Valley Air Ambulance. She has seen people doing stupid things and some of the results.”
The last time Derek ran the Marathon des Sables was when he and John Ford, a soldier running it for the second time, hatched the plan to row the Atlantic. They quickly recruited John Adams and Dean to make up the foursome.
“We are hoping Dean, the fitness instructor, does all the work,” he jokes. “I guess what I bring is experience. I’m still pretty fit and you have to be fit to do it, but it’s as much a mental challenge as anything else and I’ve done enough to think I can get through most stuff.”
Though a working life in IT might have been sedentary, “I always played rugby, and as I got older and my rugby got worse, I kept up my running, and was always looking for challenges. The biggest challenge of this row will be spending 40 days in a confined space with three other guys.”
With no rowing experience between them and Derek saying his previous experience of the ocean would be on a ferry, the team are training on rowing machines and will go out and practise on the boat in the summer.
So he’s heading for his biggest challenge of all? “Well, probably,” says Derek. “Certainly this one is well outside my comfort zone. I’ll be looking forward to getting back onto the rugby pitch after this, I’m sure!”
You can discover more on www.RowforHeroes.co.uk. And Derek is hoping the rugby family might support him via uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TheAtlanticGuardsman