Oarsome foursome in record Atlantic rowing feat
Four school friends have sailed into the history books after tackling the world's toughest rowing race in record time.
Angus Collins, Gus Barton, Joe Barnett and Jack Mayhew defied tropical storms, hallucinations and agonising pressure sores during the 3,000-mile journey to the finish line in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
The team, Ocean Reunion, was greeted with a heroes' welcome when they docked at English Harbour in Antigua after 37 days and nine hours at sea, where they were met by family and friends from the UK.
Sporting beards and all-over tans, the quartet - who are hoping to raise £100,000 to be split between the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust - celebrated with local beer and chocolate after tentatively taking their first few steps on dry land in more than a month.
The keen athletes, who met at Uppingham School in the East Midlands, were among 26 teams to have left La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 20.
Collins, the 26-year-old team skipper and former Oxford Brookes anthropology student from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, said: "We did a lot of planning, we spent a long time on the water, so for this to all come together is amazing."
Former Exeter University sport science student Barton, 25 from Diss, Norfolk, said he would compete in the annual race again - but only if he was asked by one of his Ocean Reunion crew mates.
He added: "I don't think words can describe the feeling as we pulled into the harbour. It completely blew us away. We came around the corner and all of us just got goosebumps all over."
Mayhew, 26, from Uppingham, who studied business at Newcastle University with Barnett, said: "It is cheesy to say but there hasn't been a cross word in 37 days of us rowing. To do that is a pretty good achievement in itself.
"We've just been so close. If there is just a little bit of tension it can just turn horrendous in a small environment like that, so we just lived harmoniously all the way across."
Barnett, 25, from Colchester, Essex, said the race went better than planned. "Before you leave you have all that irrational fear of sharks and stuff, whereas when you're out there you have more rational fears about the water," he said.
The team rowed in pairs in two-hour shifts to beat the previous race record by four days.
Race organiser Carsten Heron Olsen said: "We're delighted for Ocean Reunion and their record-breaking win of the concept class in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
"The team showed determination from day one, battling huge tropical storms, sleep deprivation, seasickness, 40ft waves and excruciating body sores.
"The people of Antigua have given them an unforgettable welcome and we're all looking forward to hearing their tales from the ocean."
Talisker brand manager Sarah Fleming said: "Only one week ago the fleet faced a tropical storm, which developed into Hurricane Alex.
"The Ocean Reunion team has shown determination to win from day one of the race and it has certainly paid off with this highly commendable record breaking victory."
Helen Bearfield-Swift, from the Teenage Cancer Trust, said: "Ocean Reunion have been utterly incredible from start to end.
"Winning the world's toughest row is a fantastic accolade to their determination, passion and strength and we're so grateful they chose us to fund-raise for."
Claire Phillips, from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: "This is a fantastic achievement for Ocean Reunion, but they have certainly put a great deal of effort into reaching this point.
"We are incredibly grateful to Jack, Angus, Joe and Gus for the phenomenal fund-raising they have been doing for us in the months leading up to the challenge and for what they have endured over the past month or so at sea."
Female foursome Row Like A Girl, featuring Collins' sister Bella, are currently in second place.
To track the teams, visit taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com.