The Rowing Marine, Lee Spencer, has returned to the Rock to give the Governor Lieutenant General Edward Davis, sponsors and supporters a chance to see the boat he plans to row solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean.
Mr Spencer was set to leave Gibraltar earlier this year for the challenge, during which he hopes to set two world records, but postponed the trip after his mother passed away.
The delay has meant he has more time to prepare for the arduous task ahead and a chance to put on essential weight.
At an event in the naval base where the boat is located, the Governor, Mr Spencer’s son Billy and double amputee Cayle Royce who skippered his last row across the Atlantic over two years ago joined Mr Spencer.
Thanking everyone at the event for their continued support, he announced that he is due to leave on his epic voyage in December. The exact date will depend on the weather.
He noted that the year delay gave him an unusual advantage as he had done so much of the hard work in areas such as logistics and publicity that he can focus on getting his body ready for the task.
“The most important part of the whole rowing operation is me, because I will be pulling the boat across,” he said.
“I didn’t really get the time to prepare physically and to really take the time to get myself mentally together and that is normal for ocean rowing. It is such an expensive thing to put together that that has to be your focus.”
“The cliché is very true. The hardest thing about rowing a boat across the ocean is getting the boat in the water at the start line.”
Now he feels he has had the time to get himself ready, to tick all the boxes and to make sure everything is in the right place at the right time to give him the best chance of success.
He has been piling on the kilos in preparation for the weight he will lose while at sea and he has been preparing himself mentally “thinking about how I am going to cope with two to three months of being on my own and coming up with coping mechanisms and strategies.”
This week, he will get the boat in the water and spend time with Mr Royce who is an accomplished ocean rower “he is going to try pass on as much experience as he can to me.” Mr Royce had previosuly accompanied Mr Spencer to Gibraltar earlier this year to help prepare him and the boat for the voyage.
If Mr Spencer ticks all the boxes he needs to this week he will not have to return to the Rock until the beginning of December, this gives him time to focus on training and building up his strength while back in the UK.
While the row may have been delayed a year, the reason for rowing has not changed, he said.
“The reasons are still as important to me now as they were just over two years ago when I had the idea of doing this.” Adding it was the Governor who suggested leaving from Gibraltar and going through the Straits.
Mr Spencer’s reasons are to raise money for the Endeavour Fund and The Royal Marines Charity, to keep the awareness of wounded service women and men in the British peoples conscience and to encourage others not to feel like they have a disability and they are not limited by this.
“Not defined by disability,” is emblazed across the back of the boat.
“This is an important message for me to get out there because I defined myself as a disabled person when I woke up in hospital and I need not have. That got me thinking of how we view other disabled people and in no other way do we define other people in terms of what they cannot do and it does come to define you,” he said.
“I define myself as a disabled person in the sense that I thought I could not be that person anymore and I wouldn’t want anyone else to think of themselves in that same way.”
“I can still do incredible things. I can go out and break records and that is what I intend to do,” he added.
Mr Spencer is aiming for two records, becoming the world’s first physically disabled person row solo and unsupported from mainland Europe to mainland South America and to “smash not break” the able-bodied record of 96 days. “I want to send that statement out there that a disabled person can go out and smash an able bodied record,” he said.
To follow Mr Spencer’s journey or donate visit http://www.leespencer.co.uk
Pics by Johnny Bugeja