They Did It

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North East duo Phil Pugh and Paul Hopkins have, at 65 & 55 respectively, become the oldest pair to have rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean

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Summary of the Feat

Aa part of the 2019/2020 Talisker Atlantic challenge event they set off on 12 December 2019 from the Canary Islands and arrived 70 days later on 20th February 2020 in Antigua.

What makes this feat incredible is that apart from their age (rowing the Atlantic Ocean is no easy feat even for young fit people, let alone pensioners). After just 4 days the wind was up to 25 knots with seas over 30 foot, so they had to para anchor each night due to wind changing direction.  At 21 days they had lost over 50% of power, the auto helm broke so auto steering lost, foot steering failed. The satellite navigation equipment failed too. As such, they had to resort to using a map and compass to navigate by.

About halfway into the journey the hand steering broke, then a few days later they had insufficient power to run the clean water maker. This meant that for the next 4 weeks they had no fresh/clean water to drink or make rations with and had no option but to drink the boats ballast water and use the limited emergency wet rations.

Despite this, they didn’t give up but persevered and succeeded against all the odds.

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Why did they do it?

Phil Pugh’s eldest son is disabled having been born with cerebral palsy and he has always sought to raise money and support the Tiny Lives charity.  Based at the Newcastle upon Tyne RVI hospital, Tiny Lives looks to help premature babies.  Each year Phil likes to do a difficult physical feat to raise funds.  A few years ago he cycled across the United States from East to West. The next year he did a “Megathon” where he kayaked across the English Channel, then cycled over 1,000 miles from France to Spain and then swam to Gibraltar and back.  This time he teamed up with former fireman, Paul Hopkins, to row the Atlantic.  Paul’s chosen charity was the Firefighters charity.

Training and preparation

As part of the intensive training programme the pair would row out into the North Sea and up and down the river Tyne.  In addition to this, they would spend hours on gym rowing machines.  They twice broke the world record time to row a million meters non-stop.

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Other relevant information

To raise the funds to compete – residents from Newcastle, North East businesses and schools all donated money to sign their boat. They got over 3,200 signatures

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More people have been into space or climbed Mount Everest than have rowed across the Atlantic.

Rowing the Atlantic Ocean is one of the most arduous feats even for the young, fit and healthy. So even more impressive given these guys were of retirement age.  A real inspiration to the industry and its people both young and old.

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