Meet York hero adventurer Rupert Fenby.
Rupert has just become one of the youngest people to row the Atlantic – aged just 19 years and 113 days old.
As one of the 12-strong crew of the Roxy, Rupert set off from Las Galletas, Canary Islands – and 42 days and 2,800 nautical miles later arrived at Falmouth Harbour, Antigua yesterday (Monday).
And by doing so he’s raised more than £2,500 for York children’s cancer charity The Candlelighters Trust.
He was inspired to take on the challenge after reading how American Oliver Crane became the youngest person to row solo across the Atlantic aged just 19, in 2018.
“I immediately just went, yes, I want to do this. Ever since then I’ve been absolutely obsessed with it,” he told David Dunning on YorkMix Radio.
His sixth form and A level exams were cancelled owing to coronavirus. During lockdown he saw an advert from Rannoch Adventure’s new boat Roxy requiring a 12-strong crew to row across the ocean. “And I figured why not? I’ve got nothing to lose.”
After all, he worked as a chef at Dyls Café which gave him a taste of all things nautical. As he said before setting off, it “right next to the River Ouse and seem to be submerged by floodwater several times a year”.
Sunstroke and seasickness
He stormed the interview and was selected, deferring a place at Exeter University to take on the adventure. A gruelling, 300-hour training programme followed.
“It was twice a day, usually three hours worth of training, six days a week,” Rupert said. “It was absolutely horrible. But it’s what’s got to be done.”
Because of Covid restrictions he hadn’t had much time with his crew mates before they set off.
“They were such a generous and kind group of people that even from day one, you felt welcomed and comfortable amongst them.”
So what was the hardest thing about the challenge? “If you asked me what I thought rowing the Atlantic was going to be like before I set off, I’d say, Oh, my back’s gonna be hurting every single day. My legs are going to be on fire, and I’m going to be exhausted.
“But the first week, it was completely different. It was the nausea. It was the sunstroke. You just felt absolutely horrible. And I remember one of the night shifts when I was freezing cold, soaking wet. I was really quite seasick at the time.”
Sailing with dolphins
But he pushed through it – and the rewards came quickly.
“It was the very first sunrise. And as the sun came out, the light was bouncing across the waves.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a whole pod of dolphins started jumping right next to the boat. And that’s set the set the bar quite high for the rest of the journey.”
They ran short of food two days before the end, and were surviving on protein powder and “a couple of meals here and there”.
“So we managed to to get by – I wouldn’t say it was scary at all. Because we all knew we’d come so far, nothing was going to get in the way of us getting to Antigua.”
“It’s an incredible achievement,” said dad Paul. “The whole family is very proud of him.”
And so is the whole of York.