A British pensioner who was expected to become the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic has had his record-breaking crossing plunged into chaos just miles from shore.
Graham Walters, 72, was due to arrive in Antigua on Wednesday morning following a gruelling 3,000-mile voyage in a boat he built in his garden.
Strong winds, however, quickly sent the intrepid rower off course and he was forced to call for assistance to tow him to safety from around six miles off the coast.
Mr Walters had raised more than £1,000 for Help for Heroes and the charity was hoping on Wednesday evening that his 94 days of rowing will still be accepted as a Guinness World Record.
It later confirmed that Mr Walters was greeted by a big crowd when he arrived in Antigua with the coast guard.
He is now waiting to hear back from the Ocean Rowing Association, which adjudicates world records.
In his bid to break the record set by 66-year-old Frenchman Gerard Marie in 2015, Mr Walters spent so long at sea he only recently learned of the global coronavirus lockdown.
He had launched his journey from Gran Canaria on January 25, when reports from China were beginning to surface regarding human-to-human transmission from a new virus in Wuhan.
It was only when Mr Walters was approaching land that the scale of the pandemic's impact became clear, because his arrival had to be timed to comply with a curfew on Antigua.
The carpenter from Leicestershire built his vessel in his front garden 22 years ago to enter it into the first Atlantic rowing race in 1997.
His now-imperilled record attempt was his fifth Atlantic crossing - and third as a solo rower - with all fundraising money going towards Help for Heroes.
Mr Walters named his boat after his grandfather George Geary, a Leicestershire and England cricketer who took part in several Ashes tests.
It is expected to be the boat's final voyage and Mr Walters hopes it will stay in the museum at the English Harbour in Antigua.
As he is rowing solo, the pensioner took a number of supplies on board - including sleeping equipment, solar panels to power the electrics, and a huge stash of chocolate and energy bars.
It is understood Mr Walters had contacted his wife Jean, 62, to inform her of the worsening conditions at sea.
She said: “He may not have arrived in Antigua under his own steam, but there was still a hero’s welcome for him as there should be. His goal was to do his last row in the George Geary, and get it to English Harbour – and he’s achieved that. And he seems quite relaxed about things. I just hope he doesn’t want to go back and finish the last six miles the long way round."
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.
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 here.