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Yachtsman to embark on solo row across the Atlantic

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PROFESSIONAL yachtsman Mark Delstanche is soon to embark on the toughest challenge of his life as he attempts to be the first person to row solo and unsupported across the Atlantic from New York to London.

The father-of-two will be at the mercy of the elements for anywhere between three and five months, covering a distance of 4,000 miles.

Mark lives in East Sussex but is sometimes based out of Brockenhurst, and his parents have lived near Lymington at Shirley Holmes for 20 years. He has also completed many a training session around the Isle of Wight in preparation for the endeavour next month.

Rower Mark Delstanche before a training session around the Isle of Wight (46147797)
Rower Mark Delstanche before a training session around the Isle of Wight (46147797)

"I'm hoping to set off by the second week of May. However, there may be a slight delay due to the blockage in the Suez which has left the container that I need in the wrong place," he said.

"The idea is to set out from the Statue of Liberty, cross the Atlantic and then head up the Thames, finishing at Tower Bridge."

Mark has been rowing since he was a child and got into expeditions from an early age, inspired by his dad who taught him how to read maps and sail.

"Since leaving London Fire Service in 2000 and joining the yachting industry, my horizons have broadened somewhat," he told the A&T. "This has led to ever bigger and harder challenges."

Mark was previously among the first team to row to the magnetic North Pole. Led by Scot Jock Wishart, the five men took four weeks to complete the route in which they encountered polar bears and collided with icebergs in their specially designed vessel.

On his Atlantic row, Mark will spend 12 hours or more a day on the oars, mainly resting and recuperating at night.

Explaining his "intensive" training regime over the last year, Mark said each day at 3.30am he was on his rowing machine, clocking up 85km within two to three hours.

"After all of the training and preparation, I'm really looking forward to pushing off the dock and getting the job done," he said.

"Whilst at sea I will not only face the physical challenge of rowing in huge seas for many hours every day and the ever present risk of being capsized, but also face the psychological battles that come with isolation in adverse conditions."

Explorer Mark Delstanche on his polar expedition (46164030)
Explorer Mark Delstanche on his polar expedition (46164030)

Mark's dad John, also an ex-London fire officer, said his son had always been sporty, and when he started rowing he "never looked back".

"I haven't really got any trepidation about his challenge," he said. "Yes it's a tiny boat in a massive ocean but it's like a cork - it's self-righting and it will always float.

"What I worry about is complacency, like if the sea is nice and calm and he thinks it will be okay to take his life jacket off."

He added: "I'm very proud of Mark and I think what he's doing is brilliant - but what I'm most proud of him for is the way he brings up his boys. The eldest, Louis, he's a chip off the old block. We all climbed Ben Nevis a few months ago and he ran up it like a gazelle!

"Mark's going all these adventures but he never forgets about his family, or us for that matter - he's a good lad."

Mark hopes to raise £50,000 for two causes close to his heart: Global's Make Some Noise, which supports small charities helping disadvantaged people in the UK, and Plastic Ocean Project.

"Being a sailor form the age of 15 and a maritime professional for the past 20-plus years, I have seen first-hand the increase in pollution in the water," said Mark. "One only has to drive along a major road to see the amount of plastics entering the ecosystem to realise that is a growing problem.

"It has a devastating effect on the marine environment as well as the whole food chain. I think that the net effect is currently being underestimated or certainly being downplayed for fear of upsetting the worlds biggest economies/producers, so supporting a charity that researches the amount of plastics in the seas and actively lobbies for change is something close to my own heart."

Mark will leave behind his wife Helene and his two young boys, aged six and nine, whom he will "miss terribly".

"Fortunately for me, I have a very understanding wife who knew what she was buying into - I was climbing Cho Oyu when I first met her, Everest just after we started going out together and missed the birth of my first son, Louis, as I was in the Arctic on a rowing boat," he said.

"I work on a two-month rotation overseas so although it definitely doesn't get any easier, they are used to papa disappearing off for long periods.

"The good news is that whilst I'm away, the house stays a lot cleaner and slightly less anarchic and the food bills drop by about 75%!"

For more information about the challenge or to sponsor Mark, go to www.northatlanticsolo.com

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