Rower, 72, set to become oldest to cross Atlantic

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George Geary in EnglandImage source, Graham Walters
Image caption,
Graham Walters is crossing the Atlantic without support, carrying all food and kit in his small boat

A 72-year-old man is set to claim the title of oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic after a 13-week adventure in a handmade boat.

Graham Walters, from Thurmaston in Leicestershire, is raising money for Help for Heroes by rowing from Gran Canaria to Antigua.

This is his fifth Atlantic crossing, the fourth in the boat hand-built in his garden 22 years ago.

Mr Walters has to time his landing to fit in with a coronavirus curfew.

Mr Walters set off from Gran Canaria on 25 January for the 3,000-mile trip and has faced rough seas, a broken water maker and a hammerhead shark paying him close attention.

While aware of the coronavirus pandemic, his support team said he was not fully aware of its impact until approaching land, when he is having to time his arrival to obey a curfew in Antigua.

Image source, Graham Walters
Image caption,
Mr Walters met up with other rowers while in preparing in Gran Canaria

Mr Walters has promised this will be his last crossing and hopes the boat will go into a museum in Antigua.

The record is currently held by Gerard Marie of France, who completed the solo challenge in 2015 at the age of 66 years and 323 days.

The boat is called the George Geary, after Mr Walker's grandfather, who was a cricketer for Leicestershire and England.

Help for Heroes said he chose to fundraise for the charity after helping several wounded veterans, who were taking part in a previous Atlantic rowing race, when he was on a support boat.

Impressed by their determination, he decided to do a final crossing raising funds for sick veterans.

Image source, Graham Walters
Image caption,
A veteran of Atlantic crossings, Mr Walters has met other rowers including Ben Fogle and James Cracknell

His wife, Jean, 62, said: "Graham has always been an adventurer, so he's had it in his mind for a while now to do one 'final journey'.

"To complete the challenge and take the record will be a massive personal achievement for him."

David Martin, from Help for Heroes, said: "Few of us would attempt such a challenge in the first flush of youth - let alone in our 70s.

"Injuries have ended 40,000 military careers in 20 years and every day this number grows, so his donations will help us ensure that we can be there to support them, whenever they need us."

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