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Islington daredevil sees off sharks and storms to break Atlantic rowing world record

Luke Birch and Jamie Sparks Pic: Ben Duffy Luke Birch and Jamie Sparks Pic: Ben Duffy

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
5:18 PM

Despite facing sharks, life-threatening waves and near gale force winds, a young man from Islington has crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat.

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Jamie Sparks, 22, from Duncan Terrace, and pal Luke Birch, 21, are now officially the youngest pair in the world to row across any ocean after 54 days at sea.

The daredevils set off from Spain in their 26ft-long vessel at the start of December and 3,000 miles later they landed in the Caribbean on Monday, finishing fifth in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – second in the pairs category.

Jamie said: “It was mentally and physically exhausting. It was too cold at night, too hot in the day.

“We were eating dehydrated food, decontaminated water and we were totally immersed in a new world.

“We got salt sores everywhere and the chafing was appalling.

“There were good parts as well, but it’s funny – already I am looking back on it really positively when I hated most of it. But that’s human nature.

“I was a bit wobbly to start with [after getting back on land] but I have stabilised now.

“At least we finished in Antigua – it’s a lovely place to relax.”

The gruelling trip across the world’s second largest body of water saw the friends row for two hours on, two hours off non-stop for the whole journey.

Jamie lost two-and-a-half stone despite ingesting 6,000 calories a day.

“If you were eating that much at home you would put on lots of weight – but it’s like we were at the gym 12 hours a day.

“It was like a solo row sometimes, you wouldn’t see the other person for days.

“There was Christmas, New Year and my birthday while we were out there. We didn’t do much for New Year’s Eve.

“I think we celebrated early because we were working off GMT.”

But was the adventurer frightened during the perilous voyage?

“About 10 days in there was a storm that lasted for three days and nights. It was completely dark because of the clouds. You couldn’t see where the next massive wave was coming from. That was pretty intense.

“We also saw shark fins coming up behind the boat – although they didn’t seem very interested.

“Other times we had dolphins swimming alongside us – and the sky was incredible. We saw a shooting star nearly every night.

“But you are so immersed in your own world of misery you hardly notice.”

The pair managed to raise more than £190,000 for Breast Cancer Care.

Jamie is already planning his next adventure. He said: “I either want to climb Everest or cross Antarctica in the next two or three years.”

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