Queensgate - Dartmouth
Oceans, Deserts and Marathons - The Chronicles of Dartmouth
In January 2004 four men conquered the elements, set world records and laid to rest their own demons to row the Atlantic in just 36 days.
For one it would be the culmination and triumph over more than 5 years of hard graft and personal disappointment, and the key to moving on in his life.
For two of them it would be just the start of the physical challenges they would set themselves.
The Dartmouth Four of Phil Langman, Iain “Yorkie” Lomas, Sean Barker and Jason Hart rowed in the Ocean Rowing Society’s John Fairfax Regatta from the Canary Islands to Barbados.
The crew were the first ‘four’ ever to row an ocean and their time was an astounding 36 days: only a crew of 11 French Navy cadets had done it faster in 1992, and that team followed a course more than 100 miles shorter.
The group had been tantalisingly close to even that record after leaping into the lead in the race in its early stages, and the Dartmouth Chronicle had weekly updates giving the readers a glimpse of how the ‘boys’ were doing.
When they rowed their boat Queensgate into Barbados, after 36 days and 59 1/2 minutes, they had broken the previous record for that route by four clear days, won the race and were the first ‘four’ to row an ocean.
The bearded men were shown smiling in the Barbados sunshine, though they were more emotional than that the night before as they crossed the finishing line.
The ‘boys’ had got their victory the hard way. They had paid for their boat by instalments and had fitted it out themselves after their evening training sessions. They had all worked long and hard and done it their own way – deciding collectively what equipment to take and which to leave behind to reduce weight, ignoring safety advice from the race organisers in order to gain minutes a day over their rivals.
For Jason Hart it was probably sweeter than for his colleagues, as he had failed in an attempt to row the Atlantic 2 years before.
He had been forced to burn his boat after being left mid-ocean by his rowing partner – who was also his cousin. The two had sunk thousands into the row and it caused a bad family rift after their return. Jason said burning the boat was like ‘the death of a family dog’.
But he and the rest of the crew were on cloud nine in 2004.
The congratulations poured in.
Chairman of the Dartmouth Regatta, Basil Williams said: “Congratulations to the boys, the regatta committee is very proud of them. I sent them an e-mail telling them to save themselves a bit because they are the chairman’s crew in the invitation whaler race this year.”
The crew returned and spent the next year talking about their experiences. They lectured and even released a book.
And then they went their separate ways.
Jason emigrated with his wife and three children to Canada. He joined the Canadian fire service and all of them settled in well. He seemed to have got the monkey off his back and moved on, a more contented and prouder man.
Shaun moved to Totnes and became a Police Community Support Officer.
But Phil and Yorkie still wanted to challenge themselves in the most extreme ways possible.
They first decided they wanted to take on the Augrabies Extreme Marathon running 6 marathons in 7 days through the Kalahari desert carrying 40-pounds of weight, including water and food to be consumed on the way. They both finished in the top 5 out of more than 50 competitors.
For some people this would have been enough excitement and adventure for a lifetime, or at least a few years.
But not for Phil and Yorkie.
They started training less than 2 months later to take on a feat never before attempted.
They ran the Paris Marathon, then ran from Paris to London on tarmac roads over the next 6 days and then ran the London Marathon: a total of 8.3 marathons in 7 days. They nearly got on national radio, but were bumped off it when a one-legged refugee grabbed the reporters’ attention.
The boys didn’t mind, they just got down to planning their next adventure.
With a couple of other local men, they then decided to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End.
But this is something lots of people have done.
So they decided to run up the 3 highest peaks in Britain on the way and canoe the length of the 3 longest lakes as well. They were also aiming to break the record of 10 days set by another tream mad enough to do it.
They completed the challenge in 9. And to judge by their expressions at the finish line, they hardly broke a sweat.
They won’t tell you what they’ve done, but it’s worth buying them a drink and finding out, because it will amaze and astound you.
This article is a specially edited extract from The Chronicles of Dartmouth 1955-2010 by Phil Scoble, published by Richard Webb. The book is available from White Sails Gallery, the Dartmouth Community Bookshop, the TIC and online at www.dartmouthbooks.co.uk.
First Published July 2012 By The Dart