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Rock start for rowing marine in Atlantic solo record bid

British man Lee Spencer will attempt to break the world record for the fastest solo row across the Atlantic Ocean, departing from Gibraltar early next year.

Mr Spencer, who is physically disabled, aims to beat the current 96 day able bodied record for a single row from Europe to continental America for a new Guinness World Record.

He will row 3,500 miles and aims to start his journey from Gibraltar on January 18. If successful he will end his row in Venezuela.

The former Royal Marine served for 24 years without suffering any life changing injuries, but when he pulled over to help a motorist back at home in the UK he was hit by flying debris.

His right leg was severed in the impact. The serviceman was put under a medically induced coma and regained his strength during a long stay in rehabilitation.

He has decided to start his solo row in the winter to avoid hurricane season, as during his last row across the Atlantic in an all amputee crew of four the team was hit by Hurricane Alex.

“The row was the hardest physically, most amazing, most terrifying and most tiring challenge I’d ever undertaken,” Mr Spencer said.

Now he has decided to row by himself and has aims to raise £100,000 for the Royal Marines charity and the Endeavour Fund, a charity that supports injured and sick service personnel and veterans.

“As I was coming towards the end of my last row I started to have the idea of perhaps doing it solo,” Mr Spencer said.

“It was two days after we landed in Antigua that I said that I might want to do this solo. I started thinking about it more and more seriously, and thinking of how feasible it would be.”

He will be undertaking the challenge completely alone, without a support boat. The solo ocean rowing boat that will take him across the Atlantic has a compartment at the front with a water maker, navigation systems and a radio.

“The current able bodied record is 96 days, 12 hours and 45 minutes,” he said.

“I’m only taking 90 days of food. So if I don’t beat the record something has gone wrong. I am aiming to take between 60 to 70 days, and I think that is realistic.”

“I need a strange combination of being fit, fat and strong. I need to put on another stone and I need to start doing some heavy weights to build up muscle and power especially in my back and shoulders.”

The weight gain is because he estimates he will lose at least three stone during the challenge.

“You are burning 8,000 calories a day rowing across the Atlantic and the most I will be able to eat is probably around 5,000 to 6,000 calories so I’ll be on a 2,000 calorie diet a day the long way across,” Mr Spencer said.

He aims to row over 90 nautical miles a day, but with currents this could be reduced to as little as 20 nautical miles in a day.

“I won’t be going in a straight line,” he said.

“I’ll be heading out of the Mediterranean into the canary current and I’ll be following the coast of Africa down south, then past the Cape Verde Islands and head west with the trade winds.
I’ll be using the current and the winds to help me across.”

Mr Spencer has chosen to depart from Gibraltar even though it would have been easier to start his journey in Portugal using the canary current from the outset.

However, he decided on the Rock because of the charitable nature of the community and the association between the Royal Marines and Gibraltar.

“The whole point of doing this is not just to raise money for charity but it is to keep wounded and injured soldiers in the nation’s conscience,” he said.

“Since Afghanistan people’s interest in wounded soldiers has waned. There are guys and girls that will need our support for the rest of their lives. If I can do something as an injured soldier then that promotes awareness.”

“We as a society should not judge people who are disabled for what they can’t do. We are not defined by disability. I went from a Royal Marine commando to the next day a disabled man, and it redefined who I was. I am the same person. I haven’t changed.”

Funds can be donated to Mr Spencer’s charitable endeavour online here.

Photo: Ben Duffy

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