An amateur endurance athlete and his three friends are believed to have set a new world record for rowing the Atlantic, raising more than £250,000 in memory of his tragic mother in the process.
George Biggar, 32, spent 29 days and 15 hours at sea for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, dubbed the world’s toughest row, during the 3,000-mile crossing from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean.
The quartet – also featuring Dicky Taylor, Peter Robinson and Stuart Watts – were met by emotional family and friends as they pulled their weary bodies onto dry land in English Harbour at just after 2am GMT on Saturday.
The group, dubbed the Four Oarsmen, set out to raise awareness of mental health – and funds for the Mind charity – after Mr Biggar’s mother Anne Fisher died aged 54 on January 24 2011.
Ms Fisher, after a prosperous career as a solicitor, retrained as a mental health and addiction counsellor and became trustee for her local Mind branch.
She endured a lifelong battle with mental illness before drowning in the sea near the family home in the Lake District a month after Christmas.
The four will split the money between Mind and another charity, Spinal Research, in support of Mr Robinson’s friend Ben Kende, once a rising star of Hong Kong rugby, who suffered a spinal cord injury while representing the territory at the Asian Junior Championship in August 2010.
Speaking moments after arriving in the harbour, Mr Biggar, a real estate lawyer for international firm Taylor Wessing in London, said: “It’s amazing to complete the row.
“Yeah, we set out with it as a charity initiative for two charities. For me personally, the Mind element is commemorative for mum who struggled with mental illness through her life.
Dicky Taylor, Peter Robinson, Stuart Watts and George Biggar in training ahead of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (Hank Jansen / PA Wire)
“I always felt a need and desire to do something to commemorate mum, and to bring that to fruition and to complete it – to do it such justice in such style with such great support is amazing.”
The 6ft 4in-plus friends were expecting to take 40 days to complete the row – but families of the crew had to rebook flights to greet them as they progressed well ahead of schedule.
The previous record was set last year by Anglo-American quartet Latitude 35, in a time of 35 days.
Mr Biggar, Mr Robinson, a 32-year-old farmer from Alnwick in Northumberland, Mr Watts, a 34-year-old account director from Gloucester, and Mr Taylor, a 32-year-old IT consultant from Corbridge in Northumberland, led the 25-team fleet from very early on in the race.
They battled sea sickness, 40ft waves, hallucinations and chronic fatigue, but had their spirits lifted through a chance encounter with a minke whale and a calf which swam underneath their 26ft fibreglass vessel in the middle of the ocean.
Race organisers said they believed the quartet completed the fastest Atlantic row of all time, as well as in race history.
Lisa Everingham, global Talisker marketing manager, said: “We are delighted for Four Oarsmen and their epic, record-breaking win, which is a truly unbelievable achievement.”
:: For more information, visit taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com