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Rowers close in on transatlantic triumph

PUBLISHED: 09:16 05 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 06 July 2010

TWO friends from the region are on the verge of securing a prestigious victory as they bring to a close a gruelling Transatlantic rowing challenge in Antigua.

TWO friends from the region are on the verge of securing a prestigious victory as they bring to a close a gruelling Transatlantic rowing challenge in Antigua.

Oliver Back, from Oulton Broad, and James Croone, from Whitwell Common, near Norwich, are expected to cross the finish line at Nelson's Dockyard this morning (Friday) to win the pairs 2009 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race.

This will bring to a close an epic 2,934-mile adventure for charity, which has seen them struggle through storms and row alongside dolphins, as they rowed across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

This week Oliver's parents Edward and Susan spoke of their pride in their son's achievements as he edged ever closer to the finish line.

“We are immensely proud. It will be a very, very emotional reunion when we meet up with them,” said Mr Back.

A number of their family members have jetted out to Antigua to welcome the duo in, and Mr Back explained that they hope to charter a boat so that they can meet them at the finish line, a mile out to shore.

“The race organiser is hoping to organise a reception party for them at Nelson's Dockyard, with a steel band and local dignitaries,” he said.

Yesterday morning Oliver and James were just 61 nautical miles away from the finish line after an exhausting 59 days in their boat, the QBE Insurance Challenge. They are expected to cross the line today to finish second overall, but first in the pairs challenge after a closely-fought battle with French duo Francois Lamy and Benolt Dusser.

Schoolboy friends Oliver and James started the rowing race, which was famously completed by James Cracknell and Ben Fogle, on January 4. They have been updating a blog along their way, explaining the highs and lows of their adventure, from the adrenaline rush or rowing at night to their immense frustration at spending five days trying to hold ground on a parachute anchor.

“Now you'd be forgiven for thinking that such conditions would be a welcome break from rowing but in reality nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote James. “Even sleeping has become horribly uncomfortable as our cabin really is a bit of squeeze with both of us in here for any protracted period of time.”

The pair, who are both 26 and live in London, are taking part to raise money for East Anglia's Children's Hospices and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They aim to raise £20,000 for both charities and have currently collected a total of around £17,000.

To donate visit their website www.atlanticrow2009.com

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