Four British amateur oarsman battled sea sickness, 40ft waves and even hallucinations as they smashed a record by rowing across the Atlantic in just 29 days.
George Biggar, 32, Dicky Taylor, 32, Peter Robinson, 32 and Stuart Watts, 34, spent 29 days and 15 hours at sea for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed the world’s toughest row, during the gruelling 3,000-mile crossing from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean.
The oarsmen – who had been aiming for a ‘respectable’ performance of about 40 days – raised more than £250,000 for the Mind and Spinal Research charities.
They were met by emotional family and friends as they pulled their shattered bodies onto dry land at just after 2am GMT on Saturday.
Yet all the exhausted crew wanted was to devour junk food and enjoy a cup of tea.
George Biggar, 32, Dicky Taylor, 32, Stuart Watts, 34 and Peter Robinson, 32, (pictured from left to right) celebrate their success in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge
The crew, who rowed in two-man, two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, shed a remarkable 38 kg between them during the race.
The quartet snacked on a diet of filtered seawater and dehydrated food while rowing across the Atlantic.
On returning to dry land Mr Taylor, a 32-year-old IT consultant from Corbridge in Northumberland, said: ‘We’ve all just had two full breakfasts, we had so much pizza last night and we’re all still hungry.
‘We’ve been without sugar the whole time and just rowed on fat so the cravings have been huge.’
Mr Biggar, a property lawyer from London, added: ‘And tea all round…the amount of things you crave are amazing.’
The Four Oarsmen rowed into Antigua after 29 days and 15 hours at sea, beating the old record by six days
The group, dubbed the Four Oarsmen, set out to raise awareness of mental health – and funds for the Mind charity – after Mr Biggar’s mother Anne Fisher died aged 54in January 2011.
Ms Fisher, after a prosperous career as a solicitor, retrained as a mental health and addiction counsellor and became trustee for her local Mind branch.
She endured a lifelong battle with mental illness before drowning in the sea near the family home in the Lake District a month after Christmas.
The four will split the money between Mind and another charity, Spinal Research, in support of Mr Robinson’s friend Ben Kende, once a rising star of Hong Kong rugby, who suffered a spinal cord injury while representing the territory at the Asian Junior Championship in August 2010.
Speaking moments after arriving in the harbour, Mr Biggar said: ‘It’s amazing to complete the row.
‘Yeah, we set out with it as a charity initiative for two charities. For me personally, the Mind element is commemorative for mum who struggled with mental illness through her life.
‘I always felt a need and desire to do something to commemorate mum, and to bring that to fruition and to complete it – to do it such justice in such style with such great support is amazing.’
The team rowed in two-man, two-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, each burning 10,000 calories daily as they powered their boat, Aegir, to reach Antigua just after 2am UK time yesterday
The 6ft 4in-plus friends were expecting to take 40 days to complete the row – but families of the crew had to rebook flights to greet them as they progressed well ahead of schedule.
The previous record was set last year by Anglo-American quartet Latitude 35, in a time of 35 days.
Mr Biggar, Mr Taylor, Mr Robinson, a 32-year-old farmer from Alnwick in Northumberland and Mr Watts, a 34-year-old account director from Gloucester, led the 25-team fleet from very early on in the race.
Race organisers said they believed the quartet completed the fastest Atlantic row of all time, as well as in race history.
Lisa Everingham, global Talisker marketing manager, said: ‘We are delighted for Four Oarsmen and their epic, record-breaking win, which is a truly unbelievable achievement.’