Guinness World Record holder Lee Spencer has expressed gratitude to the people of Gibraltar for their support, telling them: “you kept me going”.
Mr Spencer was speaking to the Chronicle from the dry land of French Guiana having arrived in its capital, Cayenne, in the early hours of Monday morning.
Mr Spencer rowed solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean in just 60 days and described the challenge as, “the hardest thing I have ever done.”
In doing so, he smashed the previous record of 96 days and personified his motto, ‘not defined by disability’.
As well as being tired and carrying a few “aches and creaks”, Mr Spencer told the Chronicle the experience still felt “surreal” adding: “I am coming down to earth”.
He added that he was grateful to finally have ‘something soft to sit on for a change’.
He is also getting used to sleeping too, having spent two months with only hours of moderate sleep when he was not rowing.
Mr Spencer spent months on the Rock since 2017 preparing for the challenge, in a symbolic start to the voyage he rowed out of Ocean Village on January 8. Rowing his boat, Hope, into nearby Spain she was taken out of the water and transported to Portimao, Portugal.
He began the 5,600km row across the Atlantic the next day from there.
He will return to Gibraltar next month with his wife Claire, his daughter Harriett and son Billy for a break and to personally thank all his supporters on the Rock.
Among the supporters is the Governor Lieutenant General Edward Davis, who at the time of Mr Spencer’s departure said 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.
The Governor also was right when he said at the time: “he is going to be a record breaker will be my prediction.”
Speaking about Gibraltar and the support he received, Mr Spencer stressed many times during his latest phone call with the Chronicle of how appreciative he was of the support the people on the Rock gave him.
“Thank you so much, I really mean that from the bottom of my heart, this is not some soundbite for a journalist, I genuinely mean it,” he said.
Since his landing, Mr Spencer has been subject to a whirlwind of media interviews and a deluge of congratulations from all corners of the globe. “The response has been overwhelming, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
He received a call from his friend in Australia about appearing on the news there much to his amazement.
Even celebrities such as superman and once visitor to Gibraltar Henry Cavill posted about Mr Spencer on his Instagram account. In addition, a photograph of Mr Spencer’s arrival made photo of the day for UK newspaper the Guardian.
However, no matter the global attention Mr Spencer receives, he is still very humble in his achievement and the joy he is getting is not from the attention he is having but that the message of not being defined by disability is getting out there.
Aware that he has beaten the able-bodied record held by Norwegian Stein Hoff by 36 days, Mr Spencer states modestly states that his boat is better and technology has advanced.
Mr Spencer will depart Cayenne next week and make his way home to the UK, where he cannot wait to “go to the pub”. His local pub have been supporting Mr Spencer and held their own rowing marathon where the regulars rowed the same distance he did, albeit in better conditions.
Hope, has been pulled out of the water and is making its way to the naval base where she will be loaded onto a container to be returned back to her owner in the UK. At present Hope is up for sale.
Mr Spencer served 24 years as a Royal Marine commando and completed three operational tours of Afghanistan, returning to Britain unscathed only to lose his right leg below the knee in 2014 after being hit by flying debris while helping a motorway crash victim.
Mr Spencer’s epic journey was to raise money for the Royal Marines Charity and the Endeavour Fund. Donations can be made via https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LeeJSpencer
While Mr Spencer has pledged that he “definitely is not doing it [such a challenging row] again,” he will spend August next year kayaking the River Amazon as part of a 12 man team called Forces of Nature. A team that comprises of wounded veterans and adventurers that aims to raise money and awareness for the military charity, The Not Forgotten Association.