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Transatlantic pair's oarsome victory

PUBLISHED: 12:24 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 06 July 2010

AFTER spending just short of 60 days at sea, a man from Oulton Broad finally touched land again last Friday as he won a gruelling Transatlantic rowing race with this best friend.

AFTER spending just short of 60 days at sea, a man from Oulton Broad finally touched land again last Friday as he won a gruelling Transatlantic rowing race with this best friend.

School friends Oliver Back, from Oulton Broad, and James Croone, from Whitwell Common, near Norwich, crossed the finish line at Antigua early on Friday morning to win the pairs 2009 Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race in their boat QBE Insurance Challenge.

It completed an epic effort from the pair, which saw them row the 2,934 nautical miles from La Gomera in the Canaries, in 59 days, 16 hours and 17 minutes. The time saw them finish second overall, but first in the pairs competition.

Speaking from Antigua this week, Mr Back described his arrival back on land as bizarre.

“It was surreal as for just under 60 days we'd seen nothing but sea and sky. It was an odd experience to see land, my family and girlfriend Victoria. It was amazing and emotional,” he said.

Despite finishing at 2am local time, Oliver and James were greeted by a party of around 50 people who were armed with flares, banners, champagne and their requested meal of burger and chips. Their parents and girlfriends also chartered a boat to meet them as they approached the line a mile out from the line at Nelson's Dockyard.

Oliver's father Edward Back said: “Once we were out of the harbour into the vast ocean it brought home what they had been through. We were searching for an hour before we located them. It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life, the elation was fantastic.”

Oliver, who flew home to London on Wednesday, admitted that the pair, who are both 26, are slowly recovering and trying hard to build their strength after losing 30kg between them during the race.

“It was so much harder than we thought. It is really hard to describe, hour after hour, rowing and rowing for 59 days. The moment we realised we finally made it was like nothing else,” he said

Their great effort was made as part of an attempt to raise £20,000 for East Anglia's Children's Hospices and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. To donate visit their website www.atlanticrow2009.com

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