Parents of charity rower say his fundraising feats will save lives

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The parents of a former Harrow schoolboy whose transatlantic heroics have helped raise £500,000 in memory of his tragic brother say the crucial charity funds will prevent families suffering similar anguish.

Harry Wentworth-Stanley is due to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - dubbed the world's toughest rowing race - when he and his three crewmates dock in Antigua on Sunday, setting the 26-year-old up for an emotional reunion with family and friends.

The athletic quartet - completed by schoolfriends Sam Greenly and Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, and Leeds University pal Rory Buchanan - set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 14, rowing the 3,000 miles to the Caribbean on board their 30ft fibre-glass vessel.

The challenge was inspired by the death of Mr Wentworth-Stanley's brother James, who took his own life aged 21 after becoming depressed following surgery.

The suicide prompted his parents to set up the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund, designed to provide non-clinical crisis shelters for those suffering with depression.

And the six-figure sum raised by the Row For James team - helped by some high-profile celebrity endorsements, including from Harry's godmother, Sarah Ferguson - has meant the charity can open its first James' Place centre, in Liverpool, later this year.

His mother, Clare Mountbatten, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, said the thought of saving lives in her son's memory has offered a glimmer of positivity during the darkest moments since his death a decade earlier.

Speaking to the Press Association from the finish line in Antigua, she said: "I wish we weren't sitting here today because we would rather this never happened, but it has and you have a choice - we made the choice to move forward.

"What's been done in James' name is extraordinary and I hope we have something tangible now.

"We have raised that awareness and all of us have stood up to say: 'We don't want this happening to other families.'

"We've had emails from people referring to the fact that what they're doing is breaking down the stigma - you've got four guys in that catchment age group (most at risk from suicide), good-looking, athletic, fun, doing something to give guys hope.

"They're not talking about doom and gloom. It's about changing perceptions.

"I think these small charities like ourselves are a real force.

"Together we have a very loud voice and make an enormous difference in raising awareness."

She said her son and his friends had to take her out for dinner and spent months convincing her of their plan to row the ocean, having initially baulked at the thought of the quartet putting their lives in danger at sea.

"When Harry said he wanted to do this I was like: 'Don't do this to me, Harry.'

"It scared the living daylights out of me. I just couldn't contemplate anything else happening in our family.

"I wasn't overjoyed when Harry told me this was his plan, and I wasn't for a few months.

"But we've embraced it and we're so proud."

Harry's father, Nick Wentworth-Stanley, said he hopes the Row For James team's feat and dedication to frankly documenting their arduous journey over social media will help encourage people to open up about suicide.

He said: "I think it's the fact the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is fun - it's a great adventure and captures people's imaginations more than a coffee morning.

"To lose your child by any means is ghastly, but to have him take his own life just totally throws everybody into confusion.

"You look to ways to try to make something good come out of it, so the experience of setting up the charity is very cathartic.

"If James has managed to save one life it means his death has not been in vain.

"I suspect he's saved many many lives and that does make one feel better."

The family said they hope the first crisis centre - described as offering crucial support in a "cosy" environment - will serve as a blueprint for future services to be rolled out across the country.

:: For more information on the charity, visit rowforjames.com and track the race at TaliskerWhiskyAtlanticChallenge.com