Rower gets right Royal welcome

A DOGGED solo rower revealed that his taste for adventure had not been dulled as he touched down on mainland Britain yesterday after four months alone at sea.

A DOGGED solo rower revealed that his taste for adventure had not been dulled as he touched down on mainland Britain yesterday after four months alone at sea.

Oliver Hicks, 23, of Thorpeness, became the youngest person to row an ocean solo when he reached the Isles of Scilly on Wednesday , nearly 124 days after setting off from New Jersey, USA.

He rowed into Falmouth, Cornwall, at 11.45am yesterday to a rapturous welcome from waiting friends, family and supporters, including his main sponsor, tycoon Sir Richard Branson.

Prince William was also among the well-wishers on the quayside at Falmouth's National Maritime Museum in Cornwall.

Mr Hicks, whose voyage was the slowest and longest successful west-to-east Atlantic crossing by rowing boat, said he was already planning his next expedition which could be an attempt to make the first row across the iceberg-strewn Southern Ocean.

"I reckon I've got another row in me. Nobody has successfully rowed the Southern Ocean yet, so I could possibly head down to the Southern Hemisphere. I'd like to achieve a real first," he said.

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“I'm looking forward to talking to Richard, and see if he's keen to support any more adventures, but we'll see about that.”

When the oarsman launched his Virgin North Atlantic voyage on May 27 he hoped to break the current 62-day transatlantic rowing record, but was hampered by atrocious weather.

"It was just one of those things. If we had had better weather, we would have been quicker.

"I have no regrets at all about being out there so long, but I am very pleased to be getting home now. The last weeks have been very tough as it got colder and wetter and darker and rougher,” he said.

“There was one week where it was just wind and you can't get dry and it's cold and your skin starts to blister. It's pretty grim really.”

The most changeable weather conditions in the Atlantic for a century meant the British rower had to change course repeatedly,

As a result his epic voyage ended up being the longest successful west-east transatlantic crossing at around 4,040 miles.

"Even if we had got 100% favourable weather, we probably would not have got a speed record. The route was probably not favourable for a very fast crossing. It's just a hell of an adventure,” he said.

He went on: "Parts of it were very tough, parts of it were a real joy. On the whole it was pretty nice to be out there.

"There were times when I wanted to be somewhere else, but I knew what I signed up for in the beginning. You've just got to stick it out, and I got there in the end. The job's done and the job's a good one.

"We did have lots of bad weather, but it was never severe enough to do major damage or change my mind.”

If he cannot find sponsorship for further exploits which could also include an attempt to row the Atlantic in the other direction he will probably join the Army.

Speaking from Falmouth, Sir Richard said: "I am personally thrilled to see Oliver back on dry land.'

He went on: "He's been at sea for over a third of the year and has been followed by sharks and coped with horrendous storms along the way.

"It is as remarkable an achievement as any of the great British adventurers, and unlike, say, Scott of the Antarctic, he has managed to come all the way home.”

Mr Hicks also became the first Briton to row solo from the US to England when he landed at Porthcressa Beach on St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly on Wednesday afternoon.

After a brief meal with his family on the island he spent a couple of hours mending the rudder on his boat before setting off for Falmouth with his 16-year-old brother Alexander.

After being at sea for 76 days Mr Hicks was re-supplied by passing Royal Navy warship HMS Cumberland when food was running low.

Fewer than 150 people have rowed the Atlantic and only 10 have completed the west-east trip from Canada or the US.

There have been 17 incomplete attempts, and three rowers have been lost at sea, according to the Ocean Rowing Society.

The youngest person to cross the Atlantic from west to east was previously 29-year-old Emmanuel Coindre, who made the trip in 2002.

Mr Hicks is using the voyage to raise money for Hope and Homes for Children charity, which helps children worldwide who have nowhere to live due to war or disaster.

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