A British teenager has become the youngest person to row solo across any of the world’s oceans.
Lukas Haitzmann – The Wild Oarsman – rowed 3,000 miles (4,800km) from the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Arriving in Antigua on Saturday, the 18-year-old, from Windsor, Berkshire, beat two world records by becoming the youngest person to row across any ocean solo, and the first Austrian – his father is from Austria – to row solo across the Atlantic.
He was also the fastest solo rower from the 2018 challenge, completing it in 59 days, eight hours and 22 minutes.
While most young people leaving school last summer were thinking about the universities they would be going to, the jobs they could get or where they would travel, Lukas decided he needed a serious challenge.
Having grown up rowing and sailing, he decided to put university off for a year to row across the Atlantic.
His dyslexia was put to the test trying to fundraise enough money to buy a specially-built ocean rowing boat and everything he would need, from food to suncream.
He told Sky News: “To be honest, the fundraising bit was harder for me than the training – I already had the fitness from rowing for the past five years.
“I really like to challenge myself and think it’s important to. My mum wasn’t so impressed when I first told her but I managed to persuade her eventually.
“I didn’t realise I was going to be the youngest person to ever cross an ocean solo until I started doing a bit of digging, because others who have done it have broken some records.
“It wasn’t why I did it, but that did help push me along during the row.”
Many people who do the Atlantic Challenge hallucinate and struggle with the loneliness, but Lukas said he felt it was quite peaceful.
He would sleep for about five hours in the middle of the night as his boat drifted, then a couple of hours around lunchtime to get his energy back up in the heat of the day.
“I didn’t really talk to myself, it was more talking my thoughts out loud. My music ran out after a month so that was a bit hard for the second half.
“I think the most difficult part was my water changer broke after 10 days so I had to use a manual pump to change sea water into drinking water which was very tiring, but I finally managed to fix it.”
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During his nearly two months at sea Lukas said he saw dolphins, which he swam with, a whale swam under his boat, and he saw a turtle and fish.
“I had a storm petrel, a type of bird, following me for a while which was really great, he kept me company, although he wasn’t great at conversation!
“I thought I’d see a lot more though, it wasn’t like there was wildlife every single day, which was quite sad.
“I did see a lot of pollution, some which had been there for a long time, which was awful.
“Being out on the ocean for that long made me really respect it. There’s no messing around, and you really have to have your wits about you.”
The teenager is hoping his feat will help inspire other youngsters to push themselves at whatever they want.
“I’m just a normal kid really, I’m not Superman, I just really enjoy a challenge and this was a way of really pushing myself,” he added.
“I hope it shows people that no matter what age you are, you really can do more than you think. If you don’t succeed, it doesn’t matter, just keep trying and try something else to challenge you if that doesn’t work.”
Not one to remain on terra firma for long, Lukas is going to use his time in Antigua to go sailing with his family before going back to the UK where he wants to go to university.
“After uni, we’ll see, I want to get an education, and actually being at sea really made me appreciate learning more because I couldn’t Google what fish that was, or why the clouds were forming like they were.
“I did miss not being able to pick up my phone all the time, but actually I really relished it because it made you appreciate the ocean.”