Ex-fireman from Charlbury rows to Pacific success for charity

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Witney and West Oxfordshire. Call me on 01865 425483

A FORMER fireman who rowed 2,700 miles with a team across the Pacific Ocean said good humour got him through the challenge.

Darren Taylor, 42, from Charlbury, was part of the Battleborn team that finished second in the inaugural Great Pacific Race from California to Hawaii.

He spent 45 days at sea with three strangers in cramped conditions, but said camaraderie helped them succeed.

Dad-of-one Mr Taylor, an experienced sailor, who quit his job as a fireman at Oxford’s Rewley Road station for the challenge, said: “When you’ve got four people in a situation like that it could have gone horribly wrong, but we turned a terrible journey into humour.

“If it wasn’t life-threatening and wasn’t going to stop us getting to Hawaii then there was no point in getting annoyed.

“It was that attitude which allowed us not just to finish but to finish highly and we were really happy with what we achieved.”

The crew were one of 13 teams to set off on Monday, June 9, and among seven which finished on Friday, July 25.

They were 13 hours behind winners Uniting Nations and four days ahead of third place.

They rowed in two-hour shifts, slept in a small cabin on the 23ft by 6ft boat and used a device to remove salt from sea water for drinking.

Food like macaroni cheese and spaghetti bolognese was freeze-dried and the crew used a bucket and bottles for the toilet. They endured several storms, with one snapping a carbon fibre oar, and nearly capsized on the fourth day.

Mr Taylor said: “It was probably one of the funniest and scarcest moments I’ve ever had.

“I saw one of the guys diving towards me – I didn’t know why to begin with but it turned out he saw my shoe was falling off.

“There were 30ft waves so you’ve got to have a pretty good presence of mind to think ‘there’s a shoe going overboard and we need that’.

“As soon as I saw that I knew I was going to make it because there was no panic at all and that made all the difference.”

Mr Taylor lost more than two stones in weight and wore a watch that monitors brain activity for Oxford Brookes University researchers to study.

He also raised almost £1,000 for new charity Spotlight Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD), which helps people under 50 cope with the condition.

He had originally planned to row in a team with childhood friend Alex Flynn, from Goring in South Oxfordshire, who has the disease, but Mr Taylor found a new team when they pulled out due to a lack of funding.

The team were named after rock and pop band The Killers’ album Battle Born and received messages of support from the group and five-time Olympic rowing gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave.

After reaching land Mr Taylor, who lives in Sturt Close with his partner Louisa Thomas, 39, and two of her three children, said he struggled to stand or close his fist for a week.

He added: “I’ve had a nice rest. I was away for three months so it was great to catch up with my partner and her children.”

 

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