Kirdford celebrates villager’s Atlantic rowing success

Tommy Tippetts
Tommy Tippetts

Kirdford is celebrating the success of 23-year-old villager Tommy Tippetts, who has become the youngest male solo rower to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

At midday on Thursday, April 12, Tommy crossed the official finish line into the Caribbean Sea, sealing his conquest of nearly 3,000 miles of merciless water since he left the Spanish island of La Gomera 82 days previously.

He then headed to land at Port St Charles in Barbados where his family were waiting to greet him. His proud parents and sister, Liz, flew out to Barbados a few days earlier to prepare for the reunion.

Tommy (pictured above right, being interviewed on his arrival in Barbados, and below right, getting set to start the race) encountered numerous problems on his journey, including weather so fierce he was forced to retreat to the island of Ferro in the Canaries where a volcano was erupting, just 50 miles from the start point on La Gomera.

Originally he had been rowing as part of the Talisker Whisky Challenge race, but after re-starting, he had no choice but to continue the gruelling voyage alone.

During the final leg of his journey the rower said he took on what proved to be ‘one of the toughest days I have had to deal with’ due to strong winds and a current, both in the wrong direction, making progress painfully slow.

Later that day his electric watermaker – a vital piece of equipment supplying his onboard fluids – broke down.

He was forced to use an emergency watermaker with a manual pump, producing four litres of fresh water after an hour of pumping instead of the 26 litres the failed equipment provided.

But despite the string of bad luck, Tommy remained in good spirits, tweeting an April Fool’s Day ruse that he would not be allowed into Barbados because he did not have the right paperwork.

It was so convincing his parents received numerous calls and emails from worried followers of his blog, suggesting getting in touch with various authorities and offering accommodation in other parts of the Caribbean.

After reaching Barbados, he sent out a message: “So here I am. Back on dry land after 82 days, eight hours and 40 minutes at sea.

“It has been a hugely surreal few days since I arrived into Port St Charles on Thursday morning, yet as I am sure you can imagine, a truly amazing time.”

Tommy undertook his record-making row to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind.

Thanking all those who had donated, he said: “Both on and offline donations are now at the best part of £10k which is brilliant.

“But please don’t think we are stopping there. Anything you can give is really appreciated.”

Sue Ransley, chairman of Kirdford Community Shop, has been spreading the word about Tommy’s triumph.

“What an amazing achievement,” she said. “He is now a local celebrity on the island of Barbados and a local hero for us back at home.”

n For more information about the journey and to add to Tommy’s sponsorship, visit www.soloatlanticrow2011.co.uk/