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Rower hopes for new world record after crossing the Atlantic solo aged 72

Graham Walters, from Leicestershire, is recuperating in Antigua after a three-month journey.

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Graham Walters says he believes he has still broken the record (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters says he believes he has still broken the record (Help for Heroes/PA)

Graham Walters says he believes he has still broken the record (Help for Heroes/PA)

A pensioner hoping to become the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic has said he believes being towed ashore in the last few miles will not affect his world record.

Graham Walters, from Leicestershire, is recovering in Antigua following his epic 93-day journey to raise funds for Help for Heroes.

The 72-year-old 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 on January 25 from Gran Canaria in a boat he built in his front garden 22 years ago.

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

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Mr Walters’s boat has been used in a previous Atlantic crossing (Help for Heroes/PA)

Mr Walters’s boat has been used in a previous Atlantic crossing (Help for Heroes/PA)

PA

Mr Walters’s boat has been used in a previous Atlantic crossing (Help for Heroes/PA)

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 a tow into port.

Asked if he believed the help he received would affect his claim of a new world record, Mr Walters told BBC Radio 4: “I think it’s okay as far as I know.”

Describing how he was feeling following the crossing, he added: “It feels kind of strange at the moment.

“The body seems okay but the legs haven’t quite adjusted at the moment. It’s been 93 days.”

Mr Walters said he had slept for up to two hours at a time during the crossing, forming a habit of rowing before sunrise.

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

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

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

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

Describing his daily routine starting with a breakfast of sausages, beans and porridge, the charity fundraiser said: “Dark rowing is fantastic because you are looking at where the sunrise comes up. You have all these colours and contours.”

Commenting on the last few hours of the crossing, Mr Walters told the BBC: “The problem was with the wind. It was taking me past Antigua.

“As I was rowing, I knew that I wouldn’t have made the island so it was necessary to get a little bit of help.”

Mr Walters, who may have to wait at least a fortnight to fly back to the UK, said he had learned of the UK’s lockdown from his wife during his journey.

“I am just going to take things as they come when I get back,” he added.

A carpenter by trade, Mr Walters named his boat after his grandfather George Geary, a Leicestershire and England cricketer.

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The boat was used in the first ever Atlantic rowing competition in 1997 (Help for Heroes/PA)

The boat was used in the first ever Atlantic rowing competition in 1997 (Help for Heroes/PA)

The boat was used in the first ever Atlantic rowing competition in 1997 (Help for Heroes/PA)

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

“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 Mr Walters have urged people to donate to the cause via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Georgegearyrow.

PA