Meet the aristocrat who swapped 400-acre Scottish property for 23ft boat

  • Amazing braveness of good friend of Wills and Kate who braved monster waves (and an enormous whale!) in tiny craft

The customer arrived with out warning, a flash of black and white from the fathomless depths beneath his oar, and all of a sudden Henry Cheape was now not alone.

‘It was a pretty benign day and I suddenly saw this huge whale almost like it was out of a child’s cartoon simply are available in alongside the boat,’ he recalled. ‘I didn’t really feel scared, it was virtually fairly comforting, and you might see that it form of appeared up and winked and simply retreated away and disappeared. It solely lasted about 15 or 20 seconds.’

Long sufficient, although, to disclose the hidden risks lurking beneath the waves that may at any second scupper Mr Cheape’s record-breaking try and row single-handedly throughout the Atlantic Ocean.

‘I had no concept just how big these guys are and I am very small in my seven-metre boat,’ he mentioned. 

Henry Cheape triumphantly completes his epic solo journey in 49 days

Henry Cheape triumphantly completes his epic solo journey in 49 days

Such wide-eyed marvelling on the sheer scale of Mother Nature may maybe be forgiven in a novice rower taking over the ocean’s would possibly with lower than a yr’s coaching. 

He may need been warned off from the problem, provided that his personal ancestor was the proprietor of the Titanic and a survivor of the world’s most notorious maritime calamity.

Undaunted, Mr Cheape overcame storms, near-capsizings, handfuls of blisters and near-exhaustion to set a transatlantic file for a Scot within the annual competitors dubbed ‘The World’s Toughest Row’.

He battled sleep deprivation, near-continuous starvation and accomplished about 1.5million oar strokes in his epic 3,000-mile solo journey from the Canary Islands in a gruelling 49 days, 12 hours and 11 minutes at sea. 

Now recovering in Antigua, the 42-year-old admitted that being miles from security and on the mercy of the climate gods was a humbling expertise: ‘The concept of deafening silence is not one I had really understood until there were a couple of days when there was no wind and literally the only thing you could hear was the blades of the oars touching the water. It is quite extraordinary – to hear nothing, absolutely nothing.

‘The scale of it is quite humbling. You are absolutely a guest out there and you can’t for a second fake you’re on something apart from the again foot.’

As storms closed in, the boat virtually turned over twice in what should have been heart-stopping moments: ‘The first one of those really scared me,’ he admitted. ‘I had no idea what was happening. I got hit side-on by a wave and the side of the boat almost reached the vertical and, boy, did I get wet.

‘If each cubic metre of water weighs a tonne and you probably have three or four cubic metres of water rush over the deck in less than half a second, the power of that is quite something. That was on day two, but you can’t simply go residence, you’ve simply acquired to get on with it. And in that data, you do discover some fortitude to go on that you just maybe didn’t know that you just had.

‘And then about a week before the end, it was very, very rough and it was dark and I had just got back into the cabin having done whatever I intended to do and this wave came and rolled the boat and just threw me around like a jersey in a washing machine.

‘On that occasion, I think I was p***** off rather than scared. It was quite alarming, but I was never holding on bare-knuckle terrified and trying to press the panic button – it never got to that stage.’

To the uninitiated, it sounds just like the form of madcap endurance feat undertaken by such upper-crust Victorian explorers as Shackleton and Scott and when Mr Cheape delivers these nuggets along with his simple drawl and a way of sangfroid, it turns into clear he has the pedigree to compete on their degree.

Dedicated Mr Cheape training for the competition

Dedicated Mr Cheape coaching for the competitors

Having inherited the 400-acre Strathtyrum Estate, close to St Andrews, on the age of 18, and developed its celebrated farm store, Balgove Larder, he’s a nicely kent face among the many Scottish landed gentry.

A distant cousin and shut good friend of the Prince of Wales, it was he who rented a farmhouse on the property to William and Kate throughout their last two years at college, which allowed their romance to flourish hidden away from the general public eye.

There has all the time been a sense that such record-chasing exploits are a wealthy man’s sport. 

For a begin there was the outlay on his boat, PollyAnne, a second-hand R25-class rowing boat which received her class for the 2022 Atlantic Row race. New, the mannequin can value upwards of £60,000.

Then there may be security tools and costly logistics, which suggests bringing in sponsors who’re attracted by Mr Cheape’s society profile. 

That he’s ready for that could be a measure of his dedication to focus on points about meals sustainability.

 Before he may exploit that, after all, he needed to survive and all of the connections on this planet couldn’t pull the oars for him.

His darkest instances afloat weren’t weather-related in any respect, however the inside boundaries that constructed up in his head; the times when he couldn’t get sufficient meals in his physique to make up for the energy he was burning. 

‘It was at least 12 hours of very hard physical, vigorous exercise – in excess of a marathon a day for 49 days back to back,’ he mentioned. 

Despite bulking as much as about 15st 4lbs earlier than he left, Mr Cheape nonetheless misplaced greater than two stone through the voyage.

‘Towards the end, particularly the fourth last day, I had depleted my energy reserves beyond anything I could ever have imagined and continued to push on,’ he mentioned. ‘I was really struggling mentally and physically and the whole thing was becoming overwhelming and yet I had less than 50 miles to go and I had been on the oars for 48 hours on a two-hours-on, 40-minutes-off shift system. So, looking back on it now, that is quite an ask of your body, having just done 2,500 miles of rowing.

‘And those who were talking to me on the phone – my wife Louisa and the weather router – were just like, “Go to sleep, eat some food”, and you don’t need to as a result of there’s no distance left and but you possibly can’t transfer. Anyway, I ate nonetheless many thousand energy, simply compelled them in, and went to sleep and after that I used to be ready to do this final stretch.

‘The last stretch was, by a very long way, the hardest. And every mile was harder than the one before.’

The conventional notion is that the problem ought to get simpler the longer it lasts. 

‘It does become less difficult in the sense you know how to do it and you are getting stronger and fitter, but your body is also in decline.’ he mentioned. ‘You can’t fulfil the 5,000-plus each day calorie demand and you may’t get sufficient correct sleep and the water you’re consuming is filtered sea water with none of the minerals in it you want, so that you must bear in mind to spice up up with electrolytes and all the remainder of it.

‘There’s a lot else happening that it’s a must to consider and it’s not such as you’ve acquired another person on the boat serving to you. You need to do all that stuff your self. The final 50 miles have been as laborious because the final 500.’

Facing as much as adversity within the Atlantic runs within the blood as Mr Cheape’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph Bruce Ismay, survived the sinking of his firm White Star Line’s flagship liner Titanic on its maiden voyage in 1912.

Ismay has grow to be a controversial character within the Titanic story and was initially vilified as a coward for fleeing on a lifeboat. 

But historians have since recommended he was a straightforward scapegoat for the catastrophe and that he helped put together lifeboats and assisted girls and youngsters into them because the ship was sinking earlier than moving into one himself. 

He additionally pressed for ships to be fitted with sufficient lifeboats for all passengers on the subsequent inquiry into the tragedy.

William and Kate rented a farmhouse on Mr Cheape¿s estate near St Andrews

William and Kate rented a farmhouse on Mr Cheape’s property close to St Andrews

Mr Cheape is adamant the prospect of his personal Titanic second ‘never even crossed my mind’, arguing his ancestor’s dangerous luck made his personal transatlantic passage safer. 

‘I am obviously aware of the family link to the Titanic, but I hadn’t made the reference to my journey actually. You can’t let failure come into the equation otherwise you wouldn’t set off within the first place.

‘But if one needs to draw positives from what is probably one of the greatest maritime disasters ever, it is that the maritime regulations that we have to meet today – the criteria of qualification, the number of lifeboats carried, the life raft I have on my boat – every single one of those safety demands goes back to the recommendations of the New York inquiry in late 1912 into the sinking of the Titanic.’

He was additionally stored protected by a St Christopher pendant gifted by his spouse and buoyed by different private objects exchanged along with his three youngsters ‘so we felt we carried a bit of each other with us’ which he caught onto the bulkhead inside the cabin.

‘That was a massive comfort for me just to have that stuff there – huge.’ 

But lacking household events proved robust. Having left on December 13, Christmas and New Year have been solitary affairs misplaced within the huge expanse of blue, his household far past the vanishing horizon.

His beloved daughter’s birthday in January was even more durable: ‘I would row during the day and sleep at night and kept the boat on Greenwich Mean Time so I was rowing when the kids were on their way to school and it helped me to think about what they might be doing. But on her birthday, I found it hard all day.’

It made him decided to complete as rapidly as potential, studying to make use of the situations to surf down waves with 30 knots of wind behind him to achieve time. 

If the climate turned in opposition to him, although, it was ‘absolute agony’. 

Blisters on his arms ‘were bad for the first few days’ and he bears the bumps and bruises of being knocked concerning the boat, however he averted the curse of ‘rower’s bum’ by having specifically made posture-care cushions made for his seat.

He additionally had the consolation of consuming nourishing meals made out of domestically sourced elements and snacks, corresponding to spiced nuts, venison pepperoni and pill: ‘What I was trying to show was I can row an ocean here using stuff which we produced at home and I can package it in recyclable packaging which is robust enough to withstand the rigours of seven weeks at sea and still maintain the integrity of the food.

‘All the food that I ate on the boat was made at home, then freeze-dried and vacuum-packed in recyclable packaging. I was very proud to be able to do that, because as a society we waste between 30 and 40 per cent of our food. It was important for me to highlight how broken our food system is.’

Routine helped too. 

‘If you read about [explorers such as] Shackleton, a lot of their resolve came from routine. Every morning, I washed my face, shaved and brushed my teeth – spending five minutes on a bit of self-pride helped my sanity.

‘Simple things like having a pillow with a pillow case, rewarding myself with clean shirts and boxer shorts every few hundred miles. I didn’t care that nobody else noticed, I simply felt higher carrying clear garments.’

The greatest feeling of all, although? 

‘Finishing – without a doubt. I wanted to get over the line in under 50 days and arrived at sunset on the 49th day. Pushing so hard, I found a new energy reserve I didn’t know existed.’

In reality, he was going too quick and was warned if he didn’t decelerate he would get caught in a strong riptide on the harbour mouth that may finish his race.

‘It was hard to slow down when I was so close and getting going again was almost impossible,’ he admitted. 

‘Crossing the finish line – I can’t actually seize the sensation. You really feel protected, all of a sudden. Because whenever you’re on the market, you’re continually beneath fireplace, you possibly can’t cease, the ocean is all the time on the lookout for somewhat signal of weak point. Finishing was probably the most extraordinary weight off my shoulders.

‘And then seeing family was just overwhelming. Plenty of tears shed – it’s fully involuntary and you’re very grateful.’

The tangible advantages of his row are clear – he has already raised £110,000 in direction of a £250,000 goal for environmental charities, however he has no plans for an additional problem, saying that itch has been ‘absolutely and firmly scratched’.

But has it modified him as an individual? 

‘Nothing will feel impossible any more. But I want to get back to normal now, get back to work and family life and just go back to being Unremarkable Henry.’

Having simply conquered the mighty Atlantic, that may be simpler mentioned than executed.