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TX: 17.03.04 – DISABLED ROWER COMPLETES HIS RECORD-BREAKING JOURNEY ACROSS THE ATLANTIC

PRESENTER: LIZ BARCLAY

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


BARCLAY
Stuart Boreham is just back from four months at sea. In that time he has rowed the Atlantic alone and unaided, completing his journey in Barbados before returning to the UK. So what's remarkable about that - it's been done before? Well Stuart is the first person with cerebral palsy to make the trip. We talked to him in November when he was in the Canary Islands preparing to set sail. He kept an audio diary of the journey and our reporter Karen Hoggan caught up with him after his safe return. Was it as tough as he expected?

BOREHAM
It was incredible, it was physically so, so demanding. On one particular day during the voyage I suffered from 17 ailments at the same time. But also mentally it was very, very tough. I set out with the intention of completing the voyage in 80 days and when I got going, I had a lot of bad weather, I was taken back towards Africa twice, which cost me 12 days in total, and I then realised that I couldn't do it in 80 days and indeed it took 109. And at that point when I realised I wouldn't be able to do it in 80 days I got into a massive depression, I thought that I'd let myself down, I'd let down everybody that was following me and so on.

AUDIO DIARY
I cannot make the mileage that I need to make everyday, I've failed every single day. I'm supposed to make at least 32 miles a day to get there in 80 days. So to everybody back home who's supporting me I'm sorry, very sorry but I'm letting you down so badly at the moment.

BOREHAM
In fact of course when I got to Barbados I quickly came to realise that the achievement was being the first physically disabled person to row an ocean, rather than the number of days it actually took.

HOGGAN
What was the worst moment?

BOREHAM
I got caught in a very, very big storm, it was four o' clock in the morning, it was pitch dark, the wind was blowing at about 30 knots and the waves were very, very high. And I was in the back cabin, in the back of the boat, with the hatch shut but not completely shut, I was just giving myself a bit of ventilation, and all of a sudden a freak wave swamped the boat and she turned over on her side. And because the hatch wasn't fully sealed the water came flooding in and at that point, because I'd been at sea for so long, my hands were so sore that I couldn't actually activate the locks on the hatch to unlock it and then pull it shut and lock it again. So the only thing I could do was to actually physically open it completely and then slam it and lock it as it was slamming shut. And of course in doing that I let even more water in and I was very, very concerned that the boat wouldn't be able to right herself but fortunately she did everything that was asked of and the only downside was it then took me 12 days to actually get the boat dry again.

HOGGAN
I mean what did it feel like because I mean I can't imagine it - just how that must have been when you're all alone out there?

BOREHAM
Well I guess it was brought home to me on Christmas Day when obviously I had previously been used to being with family and friends and loved ones and so on and there I was out on the Atlantic and I didn't see any shipping or anything and I could see 360 degrees around the boat, just complete desolation. It was the flat calmest day of the voyage, so the sea was just like a piece of glass and fortuitously I'm still a big kid at heart so I woke up very early and was able to see the sun come up and then later on during the day some dolphins swam past. So although it was kind of lonely that was a very reflective day and one that I'll never forget.

HOGGAN
What difference did it make being a lone rower with cerebral palsy?

BOREHAM
Well cerebral palsy affects me in my legs, so I couldn't use my legs to deliver any power or strength to the rowing, I basically had to row from the waist up. And so that gave me some problems because it was tougher on my shoulders and my back and because my feet were in one position all day I actually got some very bad pressure sores as well.

AUDIO DIARY
I'm using one arm more than the other and I'm still not staying on course. I'm 15 degrees off course at the moment.

BOREHAM
So really the physical disability actually made it tougher than I thought, I thought perhaps with a smile and a laugh at myself that because it was something I could sitting down the disability wouldn't actually be an issue but in fact it did play a major part in how I was able to row the boat.

HOGGAN
What was the best bit then, the absolute highlight of the trip?

BOREHAM
Well I guess that that was the end, when I got to Barbados itself what happened I was being pushed north of the island by the wind and for two or three days it looked very much like I hadn't got a hope of making it down to Barbados.

AUDIO DIARY
I'll be heart broken if I can't make Barbados after all this effort. It's still by no means off the agenda but I really do need some north easterly winds or lighter easterly winds so that I can row sideways against them.

BOREHAM
This is one of the moments where my faith sustained me and the last night before making landfall when I went to bed within my prayers I asked that the wind would change and in fact it went from a wind that was taking me north to a very, very strong wind that took me south west and I woke up in the morning and I was 18 miles off of the coast of Barbados, right within the middle of the island and so at that point I knew that I was going to make a safe landfall.

HOGGAN
What kind of reaction did the people of Barbados and your family and friends receive you with?

BOREHAM
They really, really took me into their hearts, I couldn't really walk in the streets without somebody saying well done or something because I had had good media exposure on the island and indeed I was very privileged to meet the Prime Minister of Barbados and he was very personally interested in what I'd achieved and I'm hoping that as well as motivating and inspiring people both in the UK that I will be going back to Barbados to do some work with the Barbados Council for the Disabled.

HOGGAN
So after a 109 days at sea what was your big treat when you finally got on to Barbados?

BOREHAM
The first thing that my dad gave me after he'd greeted me and said hello was a nice cold glass of rum and coke.

HOGGAN
Just one?

BOREHAM
Indeed just the one.

BARCLAY
Bet it tasted like nectar. Stuart Boreham talking to Karen Hoggan.


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