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24 September 2014
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   Inside Out - North East: Monday September 25, 2006

Rowing the Atlantic

Vivaldi Atlantic 4
Atlantic challenge - the crew aboard Vivaldi Atlantic 4

The Vivaldi Atlantic expedition was a British Atlantic record crossing attempt that took place in the summer of 2005.

The crew were all members of the 2002 Skandia Atlantic crossing attempt that ended after 21 days when their rudder was ripped off in a storm.

Their aim was to break the existing Atlantic Rowing Records and to create a new one for rowing directly to mainland UK.

The crew

Steve Dawson from Boston, Lincolnshire
Nigel Morris from Ingleby Barwick, Teesside
George Rock from Ingleby Barwick, Teesside
Rob Munslow from Monmouth

They set off from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada on 01 June 2005 and intended to finish in Falmouth, Cornwall, England less than 55 days later.

Their route covered 2100 miles of Atlantic.

Dangerous venture

It is dangerous. Five men have died trying to row from Canada to the UK and the record of 55 days was set more than 100 years ago.

But that record was to a line at sea drawn from the Bishops Rock lighthouse. More than 100 miles west of the British mainland.

No one has rowed land to land. This crew wanted to be the first, but their main reason was the sense of achievement.

Fixed routine

The routine was set from the start - two men, two hours on, two hours off, propelling 1500kg of boat more than 2000 miles.

The boat

Name: Naturally Best
Length: 29 feet
Weight: 320 kg
Designed and built by Woodvale Events.

The only time off is time to rest. There are two sleeping bags - for four… absolutely no privacy.

By day five the crew had cleared the Grand Banks; a treacherous stretch of water where "The Titanic" sank.

Stormy passage

It was on day five that their luck almost ran out.

They rowed into a massive storm. The boat was tossed about like a cork - but she held together and upright.

It was back to the daily grind of putting on the miles and suffering the injuries.

Setting daily targets helped them through.

Sometimes as good as 80 miles a day. But on this day they were in for the worst storm of the crossing.

"We were looking at waves towering above us. They were huge. They were not bungalows they were tower blocks.

"There were times when we did not think we would be coming home. We did not think we would make it."

After the second big storm conditions improved dramatically. Again they survived.

Disaster strikes

Day 34, around 300 miles to go. Disaster almost struck. An oar broke. There was one spare left. If it happened again they would be down to one man rowing.

By Day 37 they were expecting the wind and the currents to push them towards England. Nine times out of 10 that is what would have happened. But not on Day 37.

George: "There has no change for five days - we are getting nearer to the French coast … the current is pushing us south."

Their dilemma - strike north to Falmouth for a land-to-land crossing and risk being pushed backwards into the Bay of Biscay.

Or go all out east for the record; cross the line drawn from Bishops Rock lighthouse; and get a tow the remaining 100 miles or so to the Scilly Isles.

Differing opinions

Crew members expressed differing views.

Rob: "I got on the boat not to finish at the Scillies - it is Falmouth for me. The Isles of Scilly never interested me."

Steve countered, "If we end up being swept into the bay and asking for help it's no good."

Nigel summed it up: "It is the world record; we should not be bloody beating ourselves up about it.

"The most important thing is that we end this as friends."

The record

The Naturally Best crossed the finish line near Bishop Rock lighthouse, off the Isles of Scilly on 11 July, taking 39 days, 22hrs, 10mins 30secs and smashing the previous 55-day record.

Record breakers

Eventually, they voted to go for the record and crossed the official finishing line on Sunday 10 July 2006.

They had smashed the record by 16 Days. And were the first four-man crew to complete the west to east crossing of the North Atlantic.

North to Falmouth was now the goal, but the wind and the sea were against them.

A tow to the Scilly Isles was quickly arranged, and the Scillies were waiting for them.

Nigel: "It was a fantastic reception"

Triumphant crew
The four rowers celebrate on their arrival in Falmouth

Family reunions

The next day the guys finally got to their original destination - Falmouth and their families.

They were not stars; they were ordinary guys who raised the money themselves for their crossing. That was the strength of their achievement.

Nigel: "We are not from privileged backgrounds. We are just normal lads. It really shows what everyday blokes can achieve."

Rob: "It was a privilege. On a small boat. A thousand miles from anywhere, with three good friends."

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The Heron murder

Peter Heron c/o Press Association
Peter Heron speaks out.
Image c/o Press Association

Peter Heron is in his 70's.

He was a director of a multi million pound haulage firm and should be enjoying a quiet retirement.

But he can't.

Last year he was charged with his wife's murder.

Anne Heron's body was discovered by Peter at their home in Middleton St George, near Darlington - her throat had been cut.

It was one of Durham's biggest ever police inquiries.

Last year he was locked up and charged with the murder of Anne Heron.

Although the case against Peter Heron has been dropped through lack of evidence, he says it's left him tainted and he's still fighting to clear his name.

A claim is now being made against Durham police for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.

"I appeal, not for my sake, for Anne's sake, they won't bring Anne back, but he's got to be caught to stop somebody else going through the agony that I and my family are going through."
Peter Heron

Since his arrest almost a year ago, Peter Heron has refused to talk publicly about what he's been through.

However, he did agree to talk with Inside Out on the anniversary of Anne's death.

The case still raises more questions than answers.

At present the police are reviewing all the forensic evidence.

D.C. Superintendent Jones from Durham Police says:

"Decisions that were taken at the time were taken in good faith and with due regard to the evidence that was present...

"The inquiry has been going on for 16 years now - we haven't closed our minds to any possibility whatsoever. We remain open minded and would like to hear from anyone who has information that might help us in concluding the inquiry."

A murderer is still at large and Peter Heron still has to clear his name.

Peter Heron reflects on the events of the last two years:

"I wanted to go in front of a judge, I wanted to go in front of a jury, and I wanted them to say 'not guilty' and at that time everything would come out in the open.

"But nothing is in the open, everything is still in limbo and I'm not prepared to let that go on any further.

"I'm proud of my good name and I want it back."

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Lottery winners and losers

Eamonn Holmes and Lottery riches
Winner or loser - what's been the impact of the National Lottery?

Inside Out examines the impact the National Lottery has made on the North East and Cumbria.

Mickey Hutton and Kate Fox speak to some of the winners, and looks at how it's changed their lives.

The Lottery started 12 years ago - and Camelot say that they've created more than 100 millionaires in the North East and Cumbria during that time.

An estimated 73 per cent of us play Lottery each week, but what's it like to be a millionaire?

Lottery millionaires

We visit Sarah Cockings from Whitley Bay who won £3 million, and who famously bought her sister breast implants with some of her winnings.

"I wouldn't say my life has changed," she says.

"I have a nice car, a massive wardrobe, shoes, bags. As far as friends go, it is still much the same."

Lottery tickets
Ticket to happiness? Are Lottery winners more cheerful?

But some winners wish their numbers had never come up.

We hear about Callie Rogers from Cockermouth, who won almost £2 million.

She was just 16-years-old and the World was her oyster, but life since the win hasn't worked out as expected.

She's been easy-prey for the tabloids, and has sometimes felt depressed.

We also meet Mark Brudenell from Stockton who runs a small building business.

He says that life became boring after winning the Lottery.

Lotto capital of Britain

We visit Sunderland which, according to the latest available figures, has the highest spending on the Lottery per head in the country, bar the City of Westminster.

Inside Out also hears from critics and supporters of the Lottery, and speak to organisations who are unhappy about how the money is distributed.

So has the National Lottery been good or bad for the region?

Some say it's created a lot of false hope amongst people who can least afford it.

But others point to the £800 million which has been spent on good causes here.

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