Evelyn Williams recalls oarsome challenge

Posted: March 15, 2016

Brighter Futures rower now back on dry land

Atlantic solo rower Evelyn Williams has spoken of his experiences in taking on the challenge of a lifetime to raise money for the Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal.

Evelyn, from Lambourn, rowed more than 3,000 nautical miles in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The race, billed as the world's toughest row, started in La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 20 December. After 66 days, 13 hours and 55 minutes, Evelyn reached the finish line in English Harbour, Antigua, on 24 February, finishing in 21st place overall.

During the race, Evelyn suffered acute seasickness, was caught in a hurricane, his boat capsized, his water maker broke down and a shark attacked his boat!

He said: "The race was an experience beyond all expectations. There were some enormous lows and some great highs.

"The worst part was the seasickness in the early part of the race. I couldn't keep anything down and I struggled to do daily tasks, so something that should have taken minutes took an hour. It was hard to find the will to carry on at times but suddenly I got over it and was able to get going again.

"On Christmas Eve I'd been told to prepare for stormy weather but no one had predicted a hurricane would be coming our way. Within a day the wind had whipped up to around 70 knots and the sound of the waves felt like a freight train coming towards me.

"The rain was like someone had turned on a fire hose, lightning lit up the whole sky and the waves reached 60ft. I felt like I was in the film, The Perfect Storm. I had to take shelter in the cabin and I could feel the boat buckling with the weight of the water.

"The storm lasted for two days and the boat finally capsized. I then had to dive down underneath the boat to free some rope that had got caught in the rudder. A shark had tried to attack the boat the previous day, so I wasn't looking forward to getting in the water. Fortunately he didn't come back!

"I saw some amazing wildlife out there, when I was about 1,000 miles from Antigua, a pod of about 20 dolphins followed me. They slowed down to my pace and stayed with me for half an hour. It was a beautiful experience.

"The best feeling was seeing the finish line at English Harbour in Antigua. I hadn't seen anyone in months and suddenly out of the pitch black there were hundreds of people shouting and whistling, music playing, lights and ships honking their horns. It looked like a fairground, and all my family were there to greet me, which was a very special moment."

Now back home, Evelyn is looking to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

"As you can imagine after four months away I've got lots to do to get things back into place. I am still tired and still adjusting to the time difference as I was four hours ahead during the race. I've lost a lot of weight and my muscles have deteriorated so I need to get back on physical form again. But it's lovely to be back!"

You can show your support to Evelyn and the Radiotherapy Appeal through his JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/Evelyn-Williams2

Brighter Futures is the registered charity of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Its Radiotherapy Appeal is looking to raise £2.9m to build a radiotherapy centre at Great Western Hospital, so Swindon cancer patients no longer have to make a 70-mile round trip to Oxford for treatment. The appeal has raised £450,000 to date. 

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