A 72-year-old rower has finished a solo trans-Atlantic crossing he started at the end of January – well before the coronavirus outbreak had spread around the globe.
Graham Walters set off from the Spanish island of Gran Canaria on January 25 and arrived in Antigua on Wednesday, a journey that took 96 days.
Walters now holds three world records: Oldest person to row across the Atlantic solo; oldest person to row across any ocean solo; and the oldest person to row across the same ocean multiple times, a spokeswoman for Guinness World Records told CNN Thursday.
Walters was 72 years and 192 days old when he completed the feat, beating Frenchman Gerard Marie, who was 66 when he rowed across the Atlantic in 2015.
Walters had to contend with some difficulties along the way.
“At the start of the crossing, the weather was cold and wet and miserable so my spirits got quite low, but once the sun came out when I got to the Atlantic everything was fine,” he told CNN in a statement.
But the weather did cause some problems later on.
Walters had to get towed toward the end of his trip by the Coast Guard after fighting against strong winds that were blowing him in the opposite direction of his destination. Having aimed for Antigua’s English Harbour, Walters realized he was going to miss the line.
“As I was at such a critical point, I had to face the fact that if I didn’t take up their offer then I would miss Antigua,” he said. “But I’m delighted to have arrived and it was great to have such a fantastic welcome.”
Having been in open water since January 25, Walters has also missed much of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. When his wife updated him on how badly things had gotten – with many dying or out of work – he was shocked.
“Nothing like this has ever happened in our lifetime so it’s been hard to imagine what kind of world I would be returning to,” he said.
Now that he’s landed in Antigua, he’s been wearing and mask, and there are restrictions, he said.
“And of course, no one could give me a hug or a pat on the back when I arrived. But so far, so good. I guess things may be different when I return to the UK,” he said.
Walters has now rowed the Atlantic five times – three times solo and twice in two-person boats – and recently rowed from the source of the River Thames to the sea.
This was Walters’ last crossing before hanging up his oars, having rowed the Atlantic alone to raise funds for UK military veterans charity Help for Heroes.
Walters, a carpenter by trade, built his boat in his front garden 22 years ago.
Called the George Geary, the boat is named after his grandfather, a former Leicestershire and England cricketer who played in several Ashes tests and joined the Air Force during World War I.
Walters plans to leave the boat in Antigua and hopes it will find a place in a museum in English Harbour.
“Graham has always been an adventurer, so he’s had it in his mind for a while now to do one final journey,” said Jean Walters, his wife, in a press statement. “To complete the challenge and take the record will be a massive personal achievement for him.”
Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, congratulated Walters on his achievement, adding that he “deserves to be recognised for his legendary status.”
“To have broken the age record so conclusively is a testament to his determination and single-mindedness, and to do it in a boat he built in his back garden makes it all the more impressive,” said Glenday in a statement.