Record-breaking Atlantic Row Ends in Chaos

Oceans Rowing/canoeing
Graham Walters lands in Antigua after 96 days at sea. Photo: AFP

Graham Walters (UK) was on course to become the oldest person to row the Atlantic solo, but with just a few kilometres to go, his record-breaking crossing was thrown into chaos. After 96 days and nearly 5,000km, he was due to land in Antigua yesterday morning but was thrown off course by incredibly strong winds.

Just 10km from shore, he had to accept assistance from the coast guard, or he would have blown past the island. He then had to wait to find out from the Ocean Rowing Association if this nullified his attempt to become the oldest person to row an ocean solo. The record was currently held by the inimitable Fyodor Konyukhov of Russia, who was 66 when he rowed the Pacific in 2019. In the end, the Ocean Rowing Society ratified his effort.

Graham Walters with his boat George Geary. Photo: Graham Walters

Walters’ row has not been easy. At first, his spirits were “quite low” because he was cold, wet and miserable. As he reached the Atlantic and the sun came out, his mood lifted, but he then had to contend with several technical problems: the lights in his boat failed, one of the compartments sprung a leak and his water maker broke. Then a huge wave knocked him off his feet and injured his knee, and a shark chasing down some tuna hit his boat.

But Walters persevered, and the five-time Atlantic rower made it to Antigua, or almost.

Walters started rowing on January 25, so the COVID-19 pandemic passed him by, as he unintentionally self-isolated aboard the George Geary. His wife had been updating him on the pandemic via satellite phone, and he was shocked to hear how bad the situation was. “It’s been hard to imagine what kind of world I would be returning to,” he said.

He soon found out. Because of the pandemic, his family wasn’t there to see him arrive, and he is now caught up in the coronavirus travel restrictions, trying to get home.


About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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