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Ship Science graduate breaks world records in 4,300 row across the Atlantic Ocean

Published: 
5 August 2015

University of Southampton alumnus Lawrence Walters (Ship Science, 2014), along with his friend Tom Rainey (both 23), has completed a 93 day row across the Atlantic Ocean from New York and arriving in Salcombe, Devon yesterday afternoon (4 August).

Lawrence, originally from Lymington but now living and working in Bristol, stepped to the challenge after Tom’s teammate injured his back in a training session.

Their epic, non-stop and unsupported journey, which started on 3 May, saw them survive a deadly hurricane, monster waves, hallucinations and a brutal capsize.

Despite originally attempting to break the existing 55 day speed record for the route, the experienced oarsmen saw that chance evaporate within the first month. The crew became stuck in a monstrous loop of current caused by the interaction between the Gulf Stream and a series of seamounts 300 miles south of Halifax, Nova Scotia. After being pushed around in a loop hundreds of miles across for 10 days, the pair were eventually able to break free by rowing back the way they had come to break out of the monster eddy. Their chances of breaking the record in tatters.

Lawrence (l) celebrates with Tom

However, less than a week later the team were helped out by the Gulf Stream and favourable wind conditions, which helped them achieve a new World Record for the greatest distance covered in 24 hours by an ocean rowing boat; an astounding 112.5 nautical miles (129 miles). The second world record was achieved as the two oarsmen finished their challenge as they become the youngest team to ever complete the route.

The twosome took it in turns to row, each spending two hours on the oars before resting in the cabin for two hours whilst his team mate took over. They carried everything they needed on their boat, making drinking water by using an electrical desalination device powered (like everything else) by solar panels.

The duo arrive in Salcombe

As the midsummer approached the duo’s progress was of sufficient concern for them to start rationing their food supply. They saved up an occasional meal and held onto one or two chocolate bars from their 6,000kCal daily food supply. This meant that they were gradually getting fewer and fewer calories every day and after their last chocolate bar was eaten two weeks ago they have only had spicy vegetable noodles to eat. Both rowers have lost a significant amount of weight during the challenge.

The idea for the row came about when Tom decided to take on a challenge to honour the memory of his late father, Luke, who died from a Brain Tumour in 2012. In taking on the North Atlantic they have been raising funds for the Brain Tumour Charity to fund their early detection programme and help prevent other families losing loved ones from this indiscriminate disease. As the team approached their finish post the amount they had raised had exceeded £53,000 and continues to rise. Those wishing to support the team by making a donation can do so at https://www.justgiving.com/OceanValour/

The duo broke two world records

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: "Tom and Lawrence have put themselves through an extraordinary challenge to raise an incredible amount of money for us and for a cause they believe in passionately. None of us will forget their achievement. Their commitment to helping us end the misery caused by brain tumours, after what Tom’s family went through when they lost Luke, is genuinely awe-inspiring.”

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