A Doncaster adventurer has set off on a gruelling voyage – to row 2,300 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America – despite never have rowed before.
Matt Wilds is part of a four-strong team aiming to smash a string of records by rowing from Senegal to Suriname in just 27 days – rowing 100 miles a day for up to 16 hours a day in some of the world’s most dangerous waters.
Matt, formerly of Misson, is a keen sportsman – but had never been involved in rowing until signing up for the project – which aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the world’s seas - 18 months ago.
The Row4Ocean crew set sail from Dakar in Senegal on Friday aboard their boat The Year of Zayed and are bidding to arrive in Paramaribo on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in mid-January.
But former Hayfield School pupil Matt, 40, and the rest of the crew have already experienced a number of problems as they attempt to smash four world records during the marathon voyage.
Power problems and battery charging issues mean the team have to turn off all systems at night – and the team are also further south on their planned route than they would like to be.
Maltby born Matt, who now lives and works in the United Arab Emirates with his wife Debbie, was recruited for the voyage nearly two years ago – despite never having rowed before.
But his sporting background – he is a keen cricketer, rugby player, footballer and sailor – were enough to land him a place alongside crew mates Patrick Bol, Lewis Knollman and Andrew Ruinoff.
During their voyage, the group will pass through some of the world’s most dangerous waters, encountering storms, huge waves and extremes of weather.
The expedition is being undertaken on a multihull craft – which is the fastest ocean rowing boat ever built.
As well as hoping to beat the outright Atlantic rowing record of 27 days, the group are also aiming to become the first multihull to travel continent to continent, break the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing with an average speed of 3.8kn and the most consecutive days rowed 100nm.
The Row4Ocean project is to raise awareness of the 8 billion kilos of plastic dumped into the ocean every year - a staggering 22,000,000 kilos of plastic every day;
Before setting off from Dakar, Patrick Bol said: “We want to go fast and break records but we want to do something even better than that for future generations. We want to give attention to the huge problem of plastic in our ocean. It is something we can all do something about.”
Before embarking, Matt said: “I have always loved the oceans and I’ve spent a number of years boating in different location around the country.
“I want to create awareness and we can all do more. Having spent a lot of time at sea, I have seen first hand the amount of plastic and if we can get people talking, it will have a knock-on effect.
“I want to challenge myself and push my body and mind, make my family proud and showing others that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”
He added: “To achieve something that only a small amount of people have done or would attempt to do is cool and to be able to walk around Dubai Mall (the biggest mall in the world ) and know you are the only one in there that’s done such a challenge is also cool.”
His nephew Oliver Wilds said: “He’s always been a bit of adventurous type.
“He’d never rowed before signing up so it's all a bit mad. He got bit by a shark once, so he’s definitely got a screw loose!
“But he’s up for it and there’s not much fazes him.”
You can keep up to date with Matt’s progress at the Row4Ocean website HERE