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'Flabbergasted' foursome finish ocean voyage for suicide-prevention charity

Four friends who rowed the Atlantic in memory of a tragic former Harrow schoolboy have raised more than half a million pounds for a pioneering suicide prevention charity.

Harry Wentworth-Stanley, old school mates Sam Greenly and Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, and Leeds University friend Rory Buchanan, battled gruelling physical and mental conditions to complete the 3,000-mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 39 days, four hours and 14 minutes.

The Row For James team were greeted in Antigua's English Harbour by emotional family, friends and celebrity backers, including theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh and actress Cressida Bonas.

The quartet, who live and train in London, were inspired to take part in the challenge - dubbed the world's toughest rowing race - following the death of Mr Wentworth-Stanley's brother, James, who killed himself aged 21 after a short bout of depression.

Their trans-Atlantic exploits resulted in donations exceeding £550,000 - a race record - which will fund James' Place, a series of non-clinical crisis centres designed to offer support for those with depression.

Mr Wentworth-Stanley, 26, a chartered surveyor originally from Milland in Hampshire, said: "When we set out on this challenge, aim number one was to raise as much money as possible for this charity and we are completely flabbergasted by how much we raised.

"To see the money ratcheting up has really spurred us on and secured the future of a much-needed facility, James' Place."

His mother, Clare Mountbatten, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, said: "It has been fantastic to be here today, and the fact that donations have been pouring in shows how much faith people have in the charity and what we're trying to do."

The team left La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 14 2016, with their 30ft carbon fibre boat packed full of energy drinks, protein snacks and luxuries such as hot sauce.

But they were not alone for long on their journey - a bird they nicknamed Boris joined them from their second day of the race, the 10th anniversary to the day of James's death, and stayed with them until they arrived in the Caribbean.

Mr Fenwicke-Clennell, 27, an investment director from Essex, said: "It was quite strange to have a bird with us, it was like there was someone watching over us perhaps.

"We had a lot of moments thinking there were five people on the boat - there was a comfort and security about that which we all felt."

Describing the heroes' welcome they received as they rowed their way into the harbour, Mr Buchanan, 28, a commercial property director from Islington, said: "You can't prepare yourself for that level of support as you turn into the harbour.

"By the time we touched land we were all complete wrecks.

"The messages we had from people saying they managed to overcome some sort of depression off the back of us pushing out this message - that drove us faster and harder than anything else."

The team arrived in second place, four days behind Anglo-American foursome Latitude 35.

Mr Greenly, 27, a member of the Scots Guards originally from Andover in Hampshire, said: "It was a total surprise to us, five days in, to be where we were and contending for first place having never rowed an ocean before. It spurred us on throughout."

Friend of the team, Ms Bonas, who was among those at the finish line, said: "I'm so proud of all the boys and the awareness they have raised for an important cause that is close to both my heart and many others."

Carsten Heron Olsen, chief executive of race organisers Atlantic Campaigns, said: "The way these guys pushed winners Latitude 35 all the way to the finish line - and an eventual race record - had supporters gripped.

"The Row For James story really epitomises the spirit of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, and the staggering amount they have raised thanks to the enormous generosity of the public is something these four athletes, and everyone connected with them, should be so proud of. Well done."

:: For more information about the charity, visit RowForJames.com, and track the race at TaliskerWhiskyAtlanticChallenge.com

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