Record-Breaking Rowers Triumph over Sharks, Flying Fish Attacks and Fatigue

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 18, 2008 | Go to article overview

Record-Breaking Rowers Triumph over Sharks, Flying Fish Attacks and Fatigue


Byline: By Abbie Wightwick Western Mail

A welsh university lecturer rowed into the record books last night after an epic 3,000 mile voyage across shark-infested waters. Stuart Kershaw, 27, from Aberystwyth, is among a crew of 14 who set off from the Canary Islands on December 15 to break the Atlantic Ocean-rowing record. Last night they were celebrating after beating the 1992 Transatlantic Rowing Record of 35 days, eight hours and 30 minutes set by French Legionnaires. The rowers landed in Port St Charles, Barbados, at 8.40pm GMT beating the previous record by more than two days.

Hours earlier, speaking to the Western Mail via a satellite link on the last leg of the gruelling journey, Mr Kershaw said he was "elated" and looking forward to eating green vegetables again.

During their weeks at sea the British and Irish crew of La Mondiale had no more than 90 minutes' sleep at a stretch. All rowed two hours on and two off on the 15.5 metre boat which Mr Kershaw described as "a giant surf board".

During the crossing they were trailed by great white sharks, attacked by flying fish and battled through storms with 30ft swells. Daytime temperatures hit 40C.

Yesterday, as the crew sighted land for the first time in more than a month, Mr Kershaw, who lectures at Aberystwyth University, where he also studied, described how the voyage had taken its toll. Speaking 39 miles from Port St Charles he said it would be difficult to walk after so long sitting. The crew, who broke smaller records during training and in the first days of the voyage - including rowing 117 miles in 24 hours - learned to adapt to lack of sleep, which at times caused near-hallucination.

"We have lost a lot of weight but we have mentally adjusted. At first our bodies craved more sleep," Stuart said.

"One nightshift I was falling asleep on the oars and looking at the backs in front of me and they looked like one of those magic eye pictures. I couldn't focus and became disorientated. But in time your body adapts and your brain recovers.

"I've had vivid dreams that I am travelling across great land masses. Once I dreamed we were all in a Winnebago on a huge plain. We were going through a strange environment from an unseen departure. There was no escape, even in dreams."

The men had to be fully alert for sharks when using the open-air "toilet" at the back of the boat at night.

"Usually the sharks just trail the waste we cause and look for food going over board, but small boats have been attacked and we had to be careful. …

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