Rower tells of dramatic rescue

Charlie Martell
Charlie Martell on board a freighter after being plucked from the ocean 700 miles off the coast of Japan. Photo: ITV Westcountry

Rescued rower Charlie Martell has recounted the moment his attempt to single-handedly cross the Pacific almost cost him his life.

The 41-year-old Royal Engineer Commando, from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, was 34 days into a planned 130-day attempt to row from Japan to San Francisco on America's West Coast when his small boat was hit by a tropical storm.

Speaking exclusively to The West Country Tonight from the deck of the Japanese tanker which rescued him Charlie said: "I knew the typhoon would be hard work and potentially quite dangerous but I didn't know quite how dangerous it would be. I was 115 miles or so from the eye of the storm but still faced 10 metre high waves in 50 knot winds.

"When I couldn't row any more, I strapped myself in and held on for dear life."

Charlie had rowed 700 miles of the 4,500-mile journey when he was forced to send out a Mayday call which reached the Falmouth coastguard who in turn alerted the Japanese authorities.

After a 41-hour wait with a huge crack in the cabin of his vessel, Blossom, he was picked up late on Friday night.

"I was being capsized two or three times every hour," he added. "I was OK for the first six, but the seventh sent me slamming upside down into the water and did the damage that meant I couldn't carry on."

Remarkably, he escaped serious injury but said he'd spend the next eight days on his journey to Canada recovering from exhaustion.

"I do feel I've let a lot of people down, my sponsors, my family, friends and supporters," said Charlie. "It's too early to say whether I'll attempt this again but I'll probably be on operations with the Territorial Army next year which will probably come first anyway."

Despite the disappointment, Charlie still expects to have raised more than £13,000 for various UK charities helping injured servicemen and women.

"My inspiration throughout the trip and when things were getting bad were the people I was trying to raise the money for. They are the guys who inspired me to do this in the first place."