Lukas Haitzmann – The Wild Oarsman – rowed 3,000 miles (4,800km) from the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Arriving in Antigua, the 18-year-old, from Windsor, beat two world records by becoming the youngest person, and the first Austrian – his father is from Austria – to row across any ocean solo. He was also the fastest solo rower from the 2018 challenge, completing it in 59 days, eight hours and 22 minutes.
Having grown up rowing and sailing, he decided to put university off for a year to row across the Atlantic. His dyslexia was put to the test trying to fundraise enough money to buy a specially-built ocean rowing boat and everything he would need, from food to suncream.
He told Sky News: “To be honest, the fundraising bit was harder for me than the training – I already had the fitness from rowing for the past five years.
“I really like to challenge myself and think it’s important to. My mum wasn’t so impressed when I first told her, but I managed to persuade her eventually.
“I didn’t realise I was going to be the youngest person to ever cross an ocean solo until I started doing a bit of digging, because others who had done it had broken some records.
“It wasn’t why I did it, but that did help push me along during the row.”
Many people who do the Atlantic Challenge hallucinate and struggle with the loneliness, but Lukas said he felt it was quite peaceful. He would sleep for a few hours in the middle of the night as his boat drifted, then a few more hours around lunchtime to get his energy back up in the heat of the day.
“I didn’t really talk to myself; it was more talking my thoughts out loud. My music ran out after a month, so that was a bit hard for the second half.
“I think the most difficult part was my water desalinator broke after 2 days, so I had to use a manual pump to change seawater into drinking water which was very tiring, but I finally managed to fix it on day 12.”
During his nearly two months at sea Lukas said he saw dolphins, which he swam with, a whale swam under his boat, and he saw a turtle and lots of fish.
“I had a storm petrel, a type of bird, following me for a while which was really great; he kept me company, although he wasn’t great at conversation!
“I thought I’d see a lot more though; it wasn’t like there was wildlife every single day, which was quite sad.
“I did see a lot of pollution, some which had been there for a long time, which was awful.
“Being out on the ocean for that long made me really respect it. There’s no messing around, and you really have to have your wits about you.”
Lukas is hoping his feat will help inspire other youngsters to push themselves, and take on their own chalenges.
“I’m just a normal kid really, I’m not Superman, I just really enjoy a challenge, and this was a way of really pushing myself,” he added.
“I didn’t miss not being able to pick up my phone all the time, but actually I really relished it because it made you appreciate the ocean.”
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