FORMER York City Knights star Craig Forsyth will begin his epic 3,000-mile solo rowing challenge across the Atlantic Ocean this weekend.

Forsyth, who played for York 133 times across the spells and represented Heworth ARLFC as a junior, is raising money for two charities - the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Sporting Chance.

Competing in the annual Talisker Atlantic Challenge, the 50-year-old is hoping to complete the monumental effort in around 60 days.

The challenge is the latest of Forsyth’s since his retirement from rugby league, having competed in numerous running, cycling, kayaking, rowing and yacht ventures.

“Every adventurer wants to do this at some point,” he said.

“I got asked to be a test pilot on a similar type of event that they wanted to set up in the Mediterranean in 2015. Those people involved in that had done the 2013 row across the Atlantic.

“From speaking to those guys, I just thought ‘That sounds so good and so adventurous and one day I’m going to do that.’

“Now here we are and now I think it’s my time.”

Incredibly, two years of preparation have gone into making this possible, from countless hours of training and then further time fundraising to make it financially viable.

“I started training two years ago for this,” Forsyth explained, “and I started training to help my mental health more than anything. Exercise has always kept me healthy in that way.

“I’ve been on the rowing machine near enough every day for the last two years and working in the gym to strengthen everything that is going to get abuse on the ocean, like my lower back and shoulders.

“It’s quite a basic training plan, but it’s quite monotonous as well, because the race is monotonous.”

“Someone I know who owns a boat has sponsored me a boat, which is absolutely amazing of him. Without his generosity, I wouldn’t have been in this year’s race.

“Trying to get sponsors to do this with what is going on in the world at the moment has been a major challenge in itself, especially when you’re not the type of person that likes to take handouts and things like that.

“But trying to fund the £40,000 entry fee yourself is hard work, certainly for solo rowers.

“It’s been difficult to just go out and row your boat too, I’ve had to cram those hours in, particularly with my work too.

“But if it was easy, everyone would do it!”

The prospect of spending 60 days on your own rowing 3,000 miles in the middle of the ocean may sound like a daunting one. But not to Forsyth.

He continued: “The majority of my training out on the water has been out on my own. But you know that you’re not far away from land – I can always see land when I’m training.

“I’m not too bad with my own company and I’m probably better than some other people are, to be fair. And I know that it’s going to be like that, so it’s not a shock in anyway.”

Forsyth was inspired to raise money for the MNDA having, like many in rugby league, been inspired by the story of Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed last year.

“It’s incredible how close knit a community rugby league is,” he said. “And they have massively got behind Rob Burrow and then the awareness he’s raised for MND.

“And once you start talking to people about it, you find out that they may have lost a parent to it, or another relative or friend. Sometimes it’s quite harrowing some of the stories you hear about it."

The other charity Forsyth is supporting is Sporting Chance, an organisation he holds a personal affinity with. The mental health organisation helped him to reconcile following the passing of his father.

“My association with Sporting Chance stemmed from the death of my father and my challenge of coming to terms with him not being around anymore,” he said.

“I didn’t realise that it be such a big loss and then months afterwards it all came flooding back to me and I was struggling with it.

“A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Sporting Chance and they were excellent. They helped me out and they didn’t leave it there, they left the door open to me, which was very good of them.

“They helped me come to terms with it and I’m a whole lot better now as a result of their work. With Sporting Chance, it’s more about raising awareness that they’re there for sportspeople. They don’t turn their back on you, regardless of the sport that you come from.

“They’re growing rapidly and I think that’s important for sportspeople to know because many players work at the same time and that can bring a tremendous amount of pressure and you and your family.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with that pressure and it’s important to know that there is someone out there, like Sporting Chance, that will always be there to help you.”