Man, 72, set to become oldest person to row Atlantic solo – in homemade boat

A pensioner is set to become the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 72 – in a boat he made in his garden.

Graham Walters is expected to break the Guinness World Record set by 66-year-old Gerard Marie of France on Wednesday when he is due to arrive in Antigua.

Mr Walters set off on his 3,000-mile challenge on January 25 from Gran Canaria in a row boat he built in his front garden 22 years ago.

Graham Walters
Graham Walters is set to be come the oldest person to row the Atlantic Ocean (Help for Heroes/PA)

The carpenter used the boat to enter an Atlantic rowing race in 1997 – the first one to be organised.

Mr Walters, of Leicestershire, is now set to complete his fifth Atlantic crossing, his third as a solo rower, after 94 days – with all of his fundraising efforts going towards Help for Heroes.

He named his boat after his grandfather George Geary, a Leicestershire and England cricketer who took part in several Ashes tests.

George Geary
The boat was used in the first ever Atlantic rowing competition in 1997 (Help for Heroes/PA)

It is expected to be the boat’s final journey and Mr Walters hopes it will stay in the museum at the English Harbour in Antigua.

As he is rowing solo, the pensioner has taken a number of supplies on board – including sleeping equipment, solar panels to power the electrics, and a huge stash of chocolate and energy bars.

His wife, Jean, 62, has said she believes the crossing will be a “massive personal achievement”.

Graham Walters
Graham Walters with his wife, Jean (Help for Heroes/PA)

She said: “He had a rocky start, with the lights going, a leak in one of the compartments and the boat bucking like a bronco.

“Graham has always been an adventurer, so he’s had it in his mind for a while now to do one ‘final journey’.

“To complete the challenge and take the record will be a massive personal achievement for him.”

Mr Walters chose to raise funds for Help for Heroes after being taken by the grit and determination of wounded veterans taking part in a previous Atlantic rowing race.

Graham is expected to complete his fifth Atlantic crossing on Wednesday (Help for Heroes/PA)

David Martin, head of supporter fundraising at Help for Heroes, said: “Few of us would attempt such a challenge in the first flush of youth – let alone in our seventies.

“Graham is clearly a remarkable and determined man.

“We are very grateful that he has chosen to donate the money he raises to Help for Heroes; injuries have ended 40,000 military careers in 20 years and every day this number grows, so his donations will help us ensure that we can be there to support them, whenever they need us.”

Help for Heroes and Mr Walters have urged people to donate to the cause via