A “nervous but excited” Lee Spencer, aka The Rowing Marine, rowed out of Ocean Village at midday today where along the pontoons well-wishers cheered him on.
Among those well-wishers was the Governor, Lieutenant General Edward Davis, who said: “There are lots of words I could offer Lee, I think clearly good luck, clearly thank you for being an inspiration and as Governor of Gibraltar thank you for choosing Gibraltar as your start point.”
The Governor added that he would be tracking Mr Spencer on his website and “I have my Rowing Marine band on today, which I will not be taking off until he lands in French Guiana in hopefully less than 90 days which is the target he has set.”
“He is going to be a record breaker will be my prediction,” he added.
He also noted that Mr Spencer had to ceremonially leave from Gibraltar, pull the boat out of the water in Spain, drive to Portugal and start the row from Portimao.
Lt Gen Davis said he felt grateful to Mr Spencer for “taking this opportunity to thank the people of Gibraltar for all their outstanding support for the during his time here and preparing for what is a truly extraordinary challenge.”
“I think that everyone in Gibraltar will be wishing him well, everyone in Great Britain will be wishing him well and I certainly add my own personal best wishes to him and I know he will succeed because that is what Lee does.”
Lt Gen Davis spoke highly of Mr Spencer and how he inspires others.
“I think there can’t be many people who have met Lee Spencer and haven’t actually been inspired by him, he is one of those great people who does everything for everybody else. He is one of those great people that takes on challenges for everybody else and he is one of those great people that succeeds in a way that is inspirational to all of us.”
As Mr Spencer stepped onto his boat the Governor gave him a warm embrace.
Also on the pontoon waving her husband off was Claire, who said: “I am relieved because now we know this is the start and tomorrow he will start the world record.”
“Now that we know it is happening it is quite exciting. Nerve wrecking, but exciting.”
Mr Spencer, Mrs Spencer, their son and daughter have all booked flights to come to Gibraltar in April on holiday. The Governor will meet with the Spencer family on their return.
“He is coming back and we have already got a celebratory dinner in the diary, so I look forward to having a couple of beers with him, Claire and the kids,” said the Governor.
Mr Spencer’s row has garnered international media attention and global media company AFP travelled to Gibraltar to capture the event.
As Mr Spencer was about to start the first leg of his journey he removed his everyday prosthetic leg and replaced it with his rowing one. But, before doing so he raised it high in the air with a strong sense of ambition and said ‘let’s do this’.
Aside from the crowds and media who had gathered on the pontoons Gibraltar Squadron’s HMS Scimitar and HMS Sabre, a RHIB from Gibraltar customs and a RHIB from the Royal Navy escorted Mr Spencer out of the marina and into the Bay.
Only meters into his quest, Mr Spencer had to manoeuvre around a boat in the busy marina. The Royal Navy assisted in this and towed him briefly away from the boat.
Mr Spencer’s is undertaking the challenge 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 people 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.
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 www.leespencer.co.uk
Before he left Mr Spencer signed a copy of yesterday’s Chronicle where he together with the Governor made the front page.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja