Islington daredevil’s attempt to smash Atlantic record

James Sparks (right) and Luke Birch,

James Sparks (right) and Luke Birch, - Credit: Archant

An adventurous 21-year-old from Islington has begun a gruelling race across the Atlantic Ocean in a small rowing boat.

James Sparks, from Duncan Terrace, set off from Spain in his 26ft-long vessel last Wednesday and could spend up to a 100 days on the 3,000 mile voyage across the world’s second largest body of water.

James and school friend Luke Birch, also 21, will alternate rowing and sleeping for two hours at a time, 24 hours a day, live on freeze dried food and battle the elements all the way to Antigua – in the Caribbean – as they aim to be the youngest ever team to complete the challenge.

Caroline Barkham, James’s mother, said: “I feel disbelief that it’s actually happening, as so many teams drop out before it starts.

“The first night was awful. At the start it was great, really exciting, with lots of feedback.

“Then you realise they are out there on their own at night.

“If they don’t get through the first week they will be so disappointed, so we’ll be relieved when they do that. Then I can feel proud.”

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James spent a tough two weeks training for the event in Spain, including deliberately putting on weight for a journey that will see him lose half a kilo every day.

“By the end all he wanted was fat,” said Mrs Barkham. “He was melting down ice cream and drinking it. It was horrible to watch.

“They have to be completely self-sufficient while they are out there – desalinating their own water and so on. Although they have fresh water for emergencies, they get penalised if they drink any.

“They have to strike a balance between the race and survival.

“Although it is a physical challenge, it’s a huge feat of mental endurance.

“James has always liked putting himself out of his comfort zone. It’s not that he doesn’t get scared, he is almost addicted to the feeling of being scared.”

The team – dubbed 2 Boys in a Boat – hope to raise £100,000 for Breast Cancer Care.