Dagenham-born amputee breaks record as he completes 3,800-mile solo row
PUBLISHED: 17:45 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:29 12 March 2019
Anthony Upton © Copyright 2019
A Dagenham-born amputee has become the fastest person to row solo from Europe to South America.
Lee Spencer, who lost his right leg during a traffic accident, broke the able-bodied record for the route by 36 days.
Lee, who grew up in Ingleby Road, said: “Right now, I’m exhausted. The thing I am looking forward to mostis a beer and then relaxing. I couldn’t relax out there, not even when I went to sleep.
“There’s always something to worry about. I only had me to rely on. But I did it and I have proved that a disability hasn’t stopped me being who I was before, someone who defined themselves by their physicality.”
The 49-year-old took on the 3,800-mile challenge between Portugal and French Guiana, South America, raising £55,000 so far for the Royal Marines Charity and the Endeavour Fund.
The record-breaking row began in January and finished in the early hours of Sunday morning when Lee was greeted by his wife, Claire, and Billy, one of his two sons, after 61 days at sea.
During the voyage Lee battled 40 feet high waves in a seven metre long boat.
He said: “There were many incredible moments. I had many highs and many lows. More than once I was convinced it was all over.
“I was fortunate enough to see some incredible marine life including sharks, a mahi-mahi, turtles, lots of flying fish and when the pod of four sperm whales swam under the boat, I could smell the breath from their blow holes. You don’t get that every day.”
Lee, who now lives in Devon, served 24 years in the Royal Marines unscathed but was hit by debris after he stopped to help a motorist whose car had broken down on the M3 in Surrey in 2014. While he was looking at the engine, another vehicle crashed into the car. He was the only one hurt.
In addition to breaking the record for the fastest journey, Lee also became the first physically disabled person to row solo and unsupported from Europe to America.
He was forced to make a stop in the Canary Islands to fix his navigation system but comfortably beat the 96-day record set in 2002.
Lee kept followers updated regularly by live tweeting from his boat in the middle of the Atlantic receiving messages of support from hundreds of well-wishers.
Suffering from sleep deprivation, extreme fatigue, sea-sickness, fear and solitude Lee was out of helicopter range and totally unsupported while on the water.
Lee said: “Disabilities vary and they aren’t just physical. I hope to inspire all those who seek to rediscover themselves and raise money for two very worthy charities who have supported and inspired me.”
Childhood friend, Lee McFadden, paid tribute to man dubbed The Rowing Marine: “I never thought as a kid I was growing up with an absolute legend and that’s what Lee has become.”
He explained how Lee had to abandon plans to complete the challenge in January 2018 after his mum died.
“His parents would have been exceptionally proud of him today,” Lee said.
A spokeswoman from The Royal Marines Charity said: “All at The Royal Marines Charity would like to congratulate Lee on his truly hoofing achievement and remarkable efforts for the Corps Family.”
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