Row2Rio team ecstatic completing 3,400-mile Atlantic crossing


A team of "ecstatic but tired" rowers have set a world record after powering their their way across the Atlantic.

The four-strong Row2Rio team have rowed 3,400 miles, 24 hours a day for 56 days from Portugal to reach the next Olympic host nation of Brazil.

Perhaps fittingly, the crew arrived in Brazil late on St George's Day as the adventure was both a personal campaign to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and an effort to keep the spirit of the London 2012 Games alive.

Celebrations were muted as the crew "waddled" off the boat after landing 35 miles north of Recife, Brazil, according to rower Jake Heath, 29, a podiatrist of Twickenham, south west London.

He said: "We had some really tough seas. It is strange to be back on land. I cannot actually believe we rowed the Atlantic. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but I am ecstatic."

Charity fundraiser Mel Parker, 27, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Australian crossfit coach Luke Richmond, 31, and ecologist Susannah Cass, 27, of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, made up the rest of the team. They rowed in pairs in two-hour shifts for most of the trip.

They are now claiming the record for completing a new ocean rowing route, for mixed crew and a team of four.

The trip was part of an extreme adventure linking the past Olympic host city of London with Rio where this year's Games will be staged.

They set off on January 9 to cycle 1,495 miles from London's Olympic Park to Lagos, Portugal, and started crossing the Atlantic on February 29.

They are to get back in the saddle for the last part of their journey - a four-week cycle down Brazil's eastern coast to Rio De Janeiro.

Ms Parker said: "For me, the best day on the boat was finding out that a very close relative of mine had been given the 12-month all clear from cancer.

"There were definitely tears on the boat. It has been a tough year, not made any easier by me rowing the Atlantic.

"The support we have received from Macmillan has been incredible. We all realized in our own ways that we need to give something back - it's time to payback the kindness we received, with this challenge of a lifetime."

The energy-sapping and money-draining extreme adventure was also inspired by the "fantastic feelings and sense of pride" which was triggered by London hosting the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Mr Heath said: "The Atlantic was in the way but we thought that crossing it might be a way of linking the two host cities (of London 2012 and Rio 2016)."

Mr Heath, who has four nephews under the age of four, added: "I wanted to do something that would inspire my nephews. I would quite like to be the cool uncle Jake.

"I think it is better to have youngsters who are interested in exploring and seeing the world, rather than just looking at it on the internet."

The hardest part of the trip was "just getting to the startline" as it took more than three years of  planning and £75,000 largely made up of personal money, loans along with sponsorship.

None of them will forget the strong bonds of friendship and team spirit which created amid the gruelling conditions, Mr Heath claimed.

This included gale force winds and 10-12m swirls as they made their way through the Canaries. 

Mr Heath said: "You cannot really prepare your body for it. You just have to get out and do it.

"I was surprised by how supportive people can be when you are out working at 2am on the ocean and it sounds like hell on Earth out there.

Describing some of the most physically and emotionally testing times, he said: "It is when you step out of the hatch in the pitch black at night with crazy force winds hitting you from the side.

"You can hear the wind and waves crashing with the boat.

"We have also got to get fed and get to sleep. We have to just get back out there and get the rest of the team back in to rest.

In thanking the team Lyndsey Cape, of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Not only are they breaking records and inspiring people ahead of the Olympics, their money will help Macmillan be there for even more people affected by cancer."