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Pensioner falls just short in trans-Atlantic rowing bid

Graham Walters was blown off course near his goal of Antigua.

A 72-year-old man seeking to create history by becoming the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic has reportedly fallen just five miles short of breaking the record.

Graham Walters, of Leicestershire, was attempting to break the Guinness World Record set by 62-year-old Gerard Marie of France, while raising money for charity Help For Heroes.

Mr Walters set off on his 3,000-mile challenge on January 25 from Gran Canaria in a row boat he built in his front garden 22 years ago.

However, nearing landfall in Antigua, Mr Walters was blown sharply off course by strong winds.

Being blown towards Barbuda instead, and suddenly facing several more days of rowing to reach Antigua, the pensioner instead opted to call for help and a tow into port.

“It was going to take another five days of rowing,” a spokeswoman for Help for Heroes, the charity for which he is fundraising, told The Times.

“He just felt he did not have [it] in him.

“I don’t know what it means for the record but in our eyes he is a complete hero.”

This was Mr Walters’s fifth Atlantic crossing, and his third as a solo rower.

A carpenter by trade, Mr Walters named his boat after his grandfather George Geary, a Leicestershire and England cricketer.

His wife Jean, 62, said before the mission’s conclusion that her husband had been keen to record a “massive personal achievement”.

“He had a rocky start, with the lights going, a leak in one of the compartments and the boat bucking like a bronco,” she said.

“Graham has always been an adventurer, so he’s had it in his mind for a while now to do one ‘final journey’.”

Mr Walters chose to raise funds for Help for Heroes after being taken by the grit and determination of wounded veterans taking part in a previous Atlantic rowing race.

David Martin, head of supporter fundraising at Help for Heroes, said: “Few of us would attempt such a challenge in the first flush of youth – let alone in our seventies.

“Graham is clearly a remarkable and determined man.”

Help for Heroes and Mr Walters have urged people to donate to the cause via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Georgegearyrow.

PA Media