A Storrington mother spoke of her ‘relief’ after her son was rescued from the Atlantic during a 3,000 mile race for charity.
In preparation for two years, Nick Rees, 38, decided to take on the ‘Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge’ to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer after his wife, Ellen, was diagnosed with the disease in 2010.
“It came out of the blue,” said Jo Rees, Nick’s mother, after learning her son would be taking on the ambitious challenge of rowing across the world’s second largest ocean.
“I couldn’t think why anyone wanted to do it - he was very serious though.
“But since, we’ve done nothing more than support him and we have now raised funds through several events.”
In total, £167,000 has been raised for the charity, but twelve days after the race launched from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, Nick and his friend Ed Curtis were caught in strong winds, peaking at 30 knots on Monday December 16.
A 40 foot wave crashed into the duo’s boat (nicknamed ‘Breakthrough’) and flung Nick overboard. The only thing that kept him from being swept away was his life-saving ankle strap.
Updating people on their mission via an online blog (managed by Ellen), Ed described the twirling 24 foot boat like ‘being in a tumble drier full of spanners’.
Nick said he was ‘in shock’ and, once pulled to safety, he assessed the damage to the boat, which included a broken oar, navigation light, water in the bow cabin and battery compartment.
Nick said: “It’s no easy decision to say that after two years of preparation, the adventure was over, but actually the discussion was short.
“We were both lucky to be alive, had now survived two capsizes, and were not prepared to take more chances on a third.”
Jo said: “Psychologically it unnerved them a bit.”
Although the close friends decided to end their journey, Jo was relieved to know that her son was safe and coming home.
“First of all I felt relief, but gutted for them. They had been training so hard for this and had to come to terms with it - they hadn’t accomplished what they’d set out to do and for them that was going to be quite hard.”
Once Nick and Ed made the difficult decision to leave the mission prematurely, they called for help, and the Spanish coast guard sent a 45,000 ton bulk carrier on a two hour journey to rescue them.
In his blog, Nick said: “Picture this huge vessel, 170 metres long, able to run us over like a fly hitting a windscreen, and yet it had to park next to us, against the wind and get lines attached to our boat before we could climb the 30 feet to safety.
“It required skill, but without doubt was the most scary experience of our lives.”
Nick has now returned to Farnham where he lives with his wife, but his mother said the best present she could have received was having her son safely home for the holidays.
“He will now be home for Christmas, which will be wonderful and the best Christmas present I could ask for,” said Jo.
“I’m hugely proud of him.”
Nick and Ed are still raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. If you would like to make a donation, visit http://breakthroughatlantic.com and click on the ‘Just Giving’ icon.