Rowers navigate stormy waters

The guys may be away fulfilling their dream of breaking the Atlantic world speed rowing record, but the wives, partners, girlfriends, children, friends and family are at home watching from afar - and have pressures of their own to deal with.

The guys may be away fulfilling their dream of breaking the Atlantic world speed rowing record, but the wives, partners, girlfriends, children, friends and family are at home watching from afar - and have pressures of their own to deal with.

So it's no surprise that the wife of one of the three Norfolk men in the 14-strong team in rowboat La Mondiale might utter the odd robust view of any prospect of similar adventures in the future - even if in private and meant only to be tongue-in-cheek.

And little boys? Well, as any mum and dad will tell you, they are a law unto themselves with the things they say...

Asked how she would feel if her husband Liam Hughes, a consultant cardiologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, were to step off the boat at Barbados and announce his intention to tackle a comparable challenge once again, Claire Hughes seemed perfectly willing to be flexible.


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“I guess that would be OK,” she said.

“After all, once you have the adventure bug, then you have the adventure bug.”

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But their six-year-old lad Fergus, appearing live on Radio Norfolk yesterday morning, gave a less diplomatic response.

“She said she would divorce daddy if he ever did it again!” he announced.

The truth is that Claire, along with the other wives and girlfriends, is firmly BEHIND her man.

She said: “Fergus doesn't miss a trick. I obviously said it as a joke sometime and he overheard!

“But, in all honesty, we are all extremely excited at the moment because it looks like they are in with a real chance of beating the world record, which is a great achievement because it has stood for more than 15 years and a lot of people have tried to beat it.”

Contact with the boat is at a minimum, partly because the crew are so busy on their two-hours-on, two-hours-off shift routine, fitting in their eating, drinking, ablutions and sleeping in their short stints away from the oars.

Another reason is that the solar and wind-generated electricity is at a premium on the boat and is needed most of all to produce fresh water for drinking.

But there is a satellite phone and computer on board, the latter of these used mainly for the crew to write their online accounts of the voyage.

Alongside these blogs, the little contact that Claire has had with Liam has helped to build up a picture of what is happening on board.

“I think he is finding it tough. After all, at 54 years old he is almost 20 years older than the rest of the crew, so he is pretty knackered,” she said.

“But he is not one to shirk his responsibilities and he will be giving it his all. I think it is also fair to say that his presence as onboard doctor is important as well, as there have been some injuries along the way which have needed dealing with.

She added: “He is in charge of the daily bottom inspections, which probably sounds funny, but it's been a very important part of the trip because the amount of time they are sitting down and rowing is so high.

“But I gather he's become rather good at delegating the necessary treatments!

“Having said all that, I'm not sure if when he gets off the boat at Barbados he will ever want to do anything like this again, or not so far anyway...”

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