Sailors celebrate record-breaking triumph in world's toughest rowing race


Two British athletes have rowed their way into the record books after a gruelling endurance challenge in which they barely mustered two hours' uninterrupted sleep in over a month.

Experienced sailors Angus Collins and Alex Simpson, both 27, were part of the Anglo-American quartet who won the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed the world's toughest row.

With Californians Jason Caldwell and Matthew Brown, they battled chronic sleep deprivation leading to vivid hallucinations, as well as cabin fever and the worst the elements could throw at them as they crossed the 3,000 miles to the other side of the ocean.

The Latitude 35 team left La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 14 and landed in Antigua's English Harbour to a heroes' welcome.

They gingerly took their first steps on land for 35 days, 14 hours and three minutes where they were greeted by members of their families, having recorded the fastest crossing in the race's two-decade history.

Describing the two-hour shift rotations which resulted in extreme tiredness, sales and project manager Mr Collins, from Burnham in Buckinghamshire, said: "Alex was talking to me for 20 minutes and I had no idea - I was just tripping for 20 minutes.

"I thought he had a granny hitting him with a stick and he was trying to fend her off with his oar.

"I was sitting there watching it. Then I had kids swinging around me, so I was hitting them with my oar, which obviously made me feel guilty and upset.

"Hitting kids with oars is not acceptable."

The victory was even more enjoyable for the crew having shaved two days off the previous record.

Mr Collins said: "We've got a big thing on the boat about superstition - so I don't say anything about times, records, I hate it.

"We tried to keep it as quiet as possible and I don't think we fully admitted it until yesterday."

Mr Simpson, an investment broker from London, said their success was largely down to good self-discipline and refusing to argue with each other on the 29ft carbon fibre vessel - despite falling asleep on shift as he struggled to adjust to rowing through the night.

He said: "We've all probably done things that might have annoyed another person.

"We never raised it, always let it go.

"It was a respect that that person was struggling so you let it go.

"There was never a bad word said on the boat. Everything was forgotten about.

"Crews cross this ocean and fall out, and you have to remember that we all had the same goal - win the race."

It was the second time that Mr Collins and Mr Caldwell competed in the challenge, having been rivals in last year's race - eventually won by Mr Collin's Ocean Reunion team.

But all four team members said this was the last time they would compete in the annual challenge.

Mr Collins added: "To finish in Antigua is amazing - you can row the North Atlantic and finish in Falmouth with a warm beer and that's it.

"But here you can have rum punch and white beaches, you can't beat it."

Latitude 35 are raising funds for military charity Headstrong.

Talisker spokeswoman Blaire Fraser said: "We are delighted for Latitude 35 and their epic, record-breaking win."

She added: "To us, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a perfect opportunity to support a remarkable adventure that at the same time benefits so many worthy charities."

Eleven teams remain in the competition, with British foursome RowForJames expected in over the weekend, followed by Irish solo endurance adventurer Gavan Hennigan.

:: To track the progress of the remaining teams, visit: