A WITNEY man has overcome gruelling conditions to come second in the world’s toughest rowing race, despite having no experience in the sport.

Henry Brett, 39, was part of a four-man team made up of England polo players who rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 48 days and seven minutes, finishing ahead of 11 other teams last Tuesday.

The former England polo captain and pupil at the Dragon School, North Oxford, said: “The race went well insofar as we got to the finishing line but it has been pretty brutal.

“It had its moments, but it is a gruelling way of crossing the Atlantic. We were on two-hour shifts so we got about six hours sleep and then were rowing for 12 hours.

“The big thing for us is that we had no knowledge and still came second in a race where there are people who know much more than us. It is quite an achievement.

“The waves were huge at times and we had a gale force eight storm in the first week. I had to stay in a small cabin for three days and three nights with no food or water.

“People told us the waves were big but until you see them it is difficult to imagine and we were right in the middle of that.”

He was joined by James Glasson, 40, Bobby Dundas, 10th Viscount Melville, 29, and Fergus Scholes, 31 in making up the Atlantic Polo team.

Mr Brett and his team rowed 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua to raise money for three charities – The Brooke, Hilton in the Community Foundation and Right to Play.

He said taking part in the race had not been a long-standing ambition but the idea came to him after it was mentioned to him at a dinner party. Mr Brett said: “We had no rowing experience – we went out on the water twice before we set off and that was an hour each time.

“We did some conditioning on rowing machines and the time before we left for La Gomera we spent fundraising and getting the boat built.”

Mr Brett said the money raised was still being counted up.

Talisker brand manager Sophie Brookes said: “The Atlantic Polo team has done tremendously well to win the fours class of the 2013 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, during which the team faced extremely unforgiving conditions.”

The first crew to finish, a British duo called team Locura, also came in last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, another Oxfordshire resident, Eoin Hartwright, from Didcot, is also taking part in the race. If the 17-year-old reaches the finish line in Antigua, he will become the youngest person to have rowed the Atlantic.

Also still at sea are the Atlantic Forces team, four RAF personnel based at Brize Norton.