Uppingham School friends win world’s toughest race

Team Ocean Reunion, comprising former Uppingham School pupils Angus Collins, 26, Joe Barnett, 25, Jack Mayhew, 26, and Gus Barton, 25, arrive at English Harbour in Antigua after beating 25 teams from across the world to win the world's toughest row, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photos: Ben Duffy/PA Wire EMN-160127-101333001
Team Ocean Reunion, comprising former Uppingham School pupils Angus Collins, 26, Joe Barnett, 25, Jack Mayhew, 26, and Gus Barton, 25, arrive at English Harbour in Antigua after beating 25 teams from across the world to win the world's toughest row, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Photos: Ben Duffy/PA Wire EMN-160127-101333001

Four school friends have sailed into the history books after tackling the world’s toughest rowing race in record time.

Angus Collins, Gus Barton, Joe Barnett and Jack Mayhew, friends from Uppingham School, defied tropical storms, hallucinations and agonising pressure sores during the 3,000-mile journey to the finish line in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The team, Ocean Reunion, was greeted with a heroes’ welcome when they docked at English Harbour in Antigua on Tuesday after 37 days, nine hours and 12 minutes at sea, where they were met by family and friends from the UK.

Not only have the team beat the previous record of 41 days which was set two years ago, they’ve also raised almost £50,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Teenage Cancer Trust.

The keen athletes, who were pupils at Uppingham School between 2002 and 2008, were among 26 teams to have set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 20.

Angus Collins, the 26-year-old team skipper and former Oxford Brookes anthropology student from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, said: “We’re ecstatic to have won the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and this huge welcome in Antigua has blown us away.

“It was incredibly tough and we’re so glad it’s over but it was such a fantastic experience.

“I wouldn’t do it again in a hurry but if any of these guys asked, I’d absolutely do it again.”

Jack Mayhew, 26, who still lives in Uppingham and studied business at Newcastle University with Joe Barnett, said: “It is cheesy to say but there hasn’t been a cross word in 37 days of us rowing. To do that is a pretty good achievement in itself.

“We’ve just been so close. If there is just a little bit of tension it can just turn horrendous in a small environment like that, so we just lived harmoniously all the way across.”

Gus Barton, 25, is a former Exeter University sport science student Barton, and lives in Diss in Norfolk.

He said: “I don’t think words can describe the feeling as we pulled into the harbour. It completely blew us away. We came around the corner and all of us just got goosebumps all over.”

And Joe Barnett, 25, from Colchester, Essex, said the race went better than planned.

The team rowed in pairs in two-hour shifts to beat the previous race record by four days.

Eight thousand calories were burned per day by each rower, with the average number of oar strokes per person being 21,600. The average rest time for each man, between two-hour stints on the oars, was two hours.

Bella Collins, the sister of Angus, is also taking part in the race, in her team ‘RowLikeAGirl’, who are aiming to be the youngest female foursome to cross the Atlantic. They are currently set to finish second.

Race organiser Carsten Heron Olsen said: “We’re delighted for Ocean Reunion and their record-breaking win of the concept class in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

“The team showed determination from day one, battling huge tropical storms, sleep deprivation, seasickness, 40ft waves and excruciating body sores.”

More information is available at www.oceanreunion.co.uk, where donations can still be made. The team hope to hit £100,000 for the two charities.