THE ‘MADNESS’ of a former Prebendal student saw him complete a gruelling 41-day row across the Atlantic.
Locura, the Spanish word for madness, was the name chosen by Birdham-born Tom Salt, 30, and his rowing partner Mike Burton, 53, for their seven-metre ocean rowing boat: Locura Rows The Atlantic.
The transatlantic journey was part of the 3,000-mile Talisker Whiskey challenge, which saw Tom and Mike finish in first place, seeing off all competitors.
In the process, they have raised nearly £100,000 for charity.
“It was such an adventure,” said Tom, now back in the UK.
Departing from La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, they arrived in Antigua 41 days later.
Tom said the pair were shocked at just how many people were waiting to cheer them over the finish line last month (January), describing it as ‘overwhelming’.
“There were hundreds of people on the shore. I was genuinely expecting 20 or 30 people – we couldn’t have been more wrong.”
The pair did interviews all that day, all the following day and well into the night.
“If people are genuinely this interested, it’s an absolute pleasure talking about this,” said Tom. “It was such an adventure. I love doing these things.”
However, he said the pair could not have completed the challenge without the constant support they received from people while they were in the middle of the ocean.
“We were aware of just how much people were being incredibly supportive and really taking the time to write – something I never anticipated,” he said.
“Never did I think it would touch so many people that I might have known years ago or more randomly, people I’ve never met.”
Just after a week into the journey, their satellite connection broke and Tom said he used to spend a couple of hours each day having to hold two pieces of copper together to download messages of support and encouragement from people.
He doubted whether they would have got so far without people’s support.
“The boost it gives you was just huge,” he said.
The pair did not see too much of each other when they were on the waves, as they used to take it in turns to row and sleep, and Tom said it could be an isolating experience.
He said it was an ‘incredible’ journey.
“It’s the first time I’ve taken on something that severe,” said Tom, who was given two-and-a-half months off work by his employer BT after helping to launch the new BT Sport channel.
“I’ve done a round-the-world yacht race before. This was certainly new heights.”
The pair met when doing the race in 2009.
“The great thing for us is that our friendship has stemmed from doing adventurous activities,” said Tom. “It’s not from working together.
“The nice thing is we know what we’re like in those times.”
He said the pair knew they could trust each other and put their lives in the other’s hands.
Setting off from La Gomera, he said the only thing on their minds was completing the journey, let alone finishing in first place.
“Really, you’re looking at 50/50 odds of getting across,” said Tom.
“Chances are something is going to happen and you will have to abandon your boat.”
The pair have raised more than £90,000 for the Generous Hearts Foundation, a Romanian charity, which helps improve the living conditions of orphaned children, some of whom have mental and physical handicaps.
Tom and Mike beat 15 international teams to win the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge 2013 in 41 days, two hours, 38 minutes and 54 seconds.
The pair rowed in shifts of two hours on, two hours off,
A live race tracker on www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com saw people following the pair’s progress from start to finish.
TOM Salt’s former English teacher at the Prebendal School, Robert Brittain, remembered him as ‘always smiling and cheerful, always prepared to give his best’, adding he was ‘dedicated and a hard worker’.
“I’m not surprised he’s gone on to do something very impressive,” he said.
“It’s an amazing achievement what he’s done.”
Money will benefit charity
THE triumphant rowers have raised more than £90,000 for charity, thanks to their superhuman efforts.
Tom Salt said the couple chose a little-known Romanian charity called the Generous Hearts Foundation, based in Bucharest.
It cares for orphaned children, some of whom have mental and physical handicaps.
Rather than raising money for an established charity, he said they wanted to fundraise for a smaller charity where a big amount of money would make a big impact.
“That’s where we started from,” he said.
After they discovered the Bucharest-based charity, the pair visited and became convinced this was the right destination for the money.
“It was a very small charity. What they were trying to do was incredible. Everything really looked great and they really have been overwhelmed by how much support we’ve had,” he said.