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Rower, 72, feels ‘great’ after breaking two world records with Atlantic voyage

Graham Walters has become the oldest person to row solo across any ocean.

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Graham Walters has now rowed the Atlantic five times (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters has now rowed the Atlantic five times (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters has now rowed the Atlantic five times (Help for Heroes/PA)

A pensioner who rowed solo across the Atlantic said he feels “great” after breaking two world records.

Graham Walters, from Leicestershire, was told he had been confirmed as the oldest person to row solo across any ocean and the oldest person to row an ocean more than once, despite being towed ashore in the last few miles.

The 72-year-old is recovering in Antigua following his epic 93-day journey to raise funds for Help for Heroes.

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Graham Walters has become the oldest person to row solo across any ocean (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters has become the oldest person to row solo across any ocean (Help for Heroes/PA)

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Graham Walters has become the oldest person to row solo across any ocean (Help for Heroes/PA)

He made landfall on Wednesday in his quest to break the Guinness World Record set by 62-year-old Gerard Marie, of France, in 2015.

Mr Walters set off on the 3,000-mile challenge from Gran Canaria on January 25, in a boat he built in his front garden 22 years ago.

But as he neared the Caribbean island of Antigua, he was blown sharply off course by strong winds.

With the weather conditions taking him towards Barbuda instead, he faced several more days of rowing to reach Antigua so he opted to call for help and be towed into port.

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Graham Walters entered the Atlantic rowing race in 1997 – the first one to be organised (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters entered the Atlantic rowing race in 1997 – the first one to be organised (Help for Heroes/PA)

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Graham Walters entered the Atlantic rowing race in 1997 – the first one to be organised (Help for Heroes/PA)

On Thursday, Mr Walters was told that, despite asking for assistance, he had still fulfilled the criteria to break two world records.

Speaking after his crossing, Mr Walters told the PA news agency: “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.

“As I’ve done the crossing before I know how long the journey feels and I do things like count the days – so I can say ‘I’ve done 1/10th” or ‘I’ve got a quarter to go’ and that really helps.

“I feel great now I’ve completed the journey – it’s good not to have my table flying around or being drenched in buckets of water.”

Asked if he was disappointed after asking for assistance, Mr Walters said: “I’m disappointed that I ended up being towed right at the end but it was the right thing to do – especially now I know I have got my world record.

“I was looking at my charts and I had just realised that I was very soon going to miss the line to get me into English Harbour when the Coastguard offered to assist me.

“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 – and because that help was offered to me made it easier as it almost took the decision away from me.

“But I’m delighted to have arrived and it was great to have such a fantastic welcome.”

Questioned how he was adjusting to coronavirus restrictions, Mr Walters told PA: “It’s like I have been in a bubble and have now woken up in an alternative universe.

“In Antigua there are coronavirus restrictions, like I’m having to wear a mask, but that’s not really a problem. 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.”

This was Mr Walters’ fifth Atlantic crossing, and his third as a solo rower.

Commenting on whether he would row the Atlantic again, Mr Walters said: “I have promised my wife, Jean, that this will be the last Atlantic crossing, and my boat, the George Geary, is staying in Antigua, hopefully in a museum.

“But I have promised Jean before that I’d done my last crossing and managed to persuade her.”

Asked if he had any other world records he wanted to break, Mr Walters said: “I’m very happy to have got my World Records, but if I could achieve another one, it would be to be the person who has visited the most places in the world.

“That would be my dream, but unfortunately it’s going to stay that way as I’m not a multi-millionaire.”

His wife Jean, 62, said before the mission’s conclusion that her husband had been keen to record a “massive personal achievement”.

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Graham Walters with his wife, Jean (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters with his wife, Jean (Help for Heroes/PA)

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Graham Walters with his wife, Jean (Help for Heroes/PA)

“Graham has always been an adventurer, so he’s had it in his mind for a while now to do one ‘final journey’,” she said.

Mr Walters chose to raise funds for Help for Heroes after seeing the grit and determination of wounded veterans taking part in a previous Atlantic rowing race.

David Martin, head of supporter fundraising at Help for Heroes, said: “Few of us would attempt such a challenge in the first flush of youth – let alone in our 70s.

“Graham is clearly a remarkable and determined man.”

– Help for Heroes and Graham Walters have urged people to donate to the cause via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Georgegearyrow

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