by ALISON BELLAMY
A Leeds man is on his way to breaking a new world record by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in less than 35 days.
Adrenaline junkie Ben Thackwray, 27, of Yeadon, is part of a British team of five sailing in their boat Oyster Shack Ocean Challenger – and a week after setting sail, they are doing well.
They set off on December 23 from the Canary Islands and had an excellent first week at sea.
They are now on track to break the longest standing ocean record, which currently stands at 35 days, eight hours and 30 minutes, set the 11-strong French team in La Mondiale in 1992.
Oyster Shack’s crew, originally known as the Atlantic Six, are: Ben; Simon Chalk, 34, from Devon; Ian Couch, 37, from Suffolk; Mike Martin, 23, from Surrey; and George Oliver, 27, from Bristol.
This is their second attempt after their first trip was aborted due to injury.
They were making good progress on the 2,500-mile row early in December when Andrew Morris suffered a knee injury and the crew had to return to La Gomera in the Canary Islands.
To beat the record they must make landfall in the Caribbean before 20.35 hours GMT on Sunday January 27.
Ben said just before setting out: “Our first attempt saw us get off to the best possible start.
“When Andrew sustained a knee injury, we were around two hours away from potentially breaking the 24-hour speed record, and had already chased down the fleet who had set off three days before us to within 30 miles.
“After we aborted the first attempt, both the boat and I are fine and raring to get back out to sea. We are expecting a favourable weather window soon.
“This time we will be going with the remaining five-man crew, and it will be Antigua or bust.”
Ben is a former pupil at St Peter and St Paul’s Primary, Yeadon, and St Mary’s in Menston. His next challenge is to trek 340 miles across Greenland alone on foot, with only a sled to carry his food and equipment.
In July, he returned from Alaska after climbing Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America at 6,194m (20,320ft).
In 2006, he ran the 150-mile Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, finishing in the top 10 Brits.
He added: “Rowing across the Atlantic is one of my life ambitions and, along with climbing Everest and skiing to the South Pole, is the first part of an Adventure Trilogy which I hope to complete over the next five years.”
Amanda Claridge, from Woodvale Challenge, who built the boat, added: “The team is in great spirits. Having started with a rigorous shift pattern of three hours rowing and two hours resting, they have now settled into a more complicated routine of 12 hours rowing and 12 hours resting in any 24-hour period. This will enable them to get proper rest so they are on top form.
“I am proud of what they have already achieved and remain confident in their ability to make landfall in the Caribbean within 35 days.”
l Follow their progress at www. atlanticsix.com and www.atlantic rowingrace2007.co.uk.