- English rower Lee Spencer crossed the Atlantic from Europe to South America in 60 days, shattering the previous record.
- Spencer, who has a prosthetic right leg, said he did the crossing to show that "no one should be defined by disability."
- He barely slept during the journey and lost 42 pounds along the way.
On March 11, English rower Lee Spencer arrived on the shores of French Guiana, alone in a rowboat.
He had rowed across the Atlantic from Europe to South America — a distance of 3,800 miles. Spencer set off from Portugal, beating the previous trans-Atlantic crossing rowing record for that route by a full 36 days.
"I was out there for 60 days, 16 hours, 6 minutes," Spencer told Business Insider by phone from South America, where he was recovering from the journey. "That’s the new record."
When he reached the shore in Cayenne, he immediately declared: "I can absolutely, categorically say never again."
Spencer, a former Royal Marine who had always been proud of his physical strength, lost his right leg five years ago when he stopped to help at the scene of an accident and was hit by an oncoming engine.
"We tend to define disabled people by their disability," he said. "That’s such a bad thing to do. So I thought if I can beat an able-bodied record as a disabled man, at something as physically demanding as rowing an ocean, it’ll be a real positive statement that no one should be defined by disability."
Spencer’s two months in the boat were grueling. The second night after finishing his rowing journey, Spencer said he bolted up from bed in his hotel room to instinctively find his "position" at sea, only to realize that he was safe on dry land.
"So part of me is obviously still out in the ocean, rowing!" he joked.
Here’s how Spencer accomplished the feat.
Spencer served three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. But he did not lose his leg in a war zone.
The Rowing Marine
Spencer said he stopped "at the scene of an accident on a motorway" in the UK when the crippling accident happened.
"I was helping the people who were in the accident on the side of the road when another car crashed into theirs, and I was hit by an engine," he said.
The injury was devastating for Spencer, both physically and mentally.
The Rowing Marine
"I was someone who defined themselves by physicality," Spencer said. "[I] woke up in the morning a disabled man. And I thought the person that I was had gone … and I’d have to redefine who I was."
Rowing became an important activity for Spencer. In 2015, he rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic with the help of three other veterans, all of whom have lost at least one leg. The group was at sea for 46 days.
For his solo Atlantic crossing, Spencer rented an English fiberglass rowboat designed for a single passenger.
Anthony Jones/Getty Images
The 7-meter-long boat has an auto-helm system that steered for him, so Spencer just had to focus on the rowing.
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