Voyage of a lifetime puts Sheffield man in history books

John Beeden reaches dry land
John Beeden reaches dry land
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He battled sharks, storms and scorching sun to become the first person in history to complete one of the toughest journeys known to man.

Now Sheffield man John Beeden is adjusting back to life on dry land – and new-found international celebrity – after becoming the first person to complete a non-stop solo row across the Pacific.

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Sheffield man becomes first person to complete solo row across the Pacific

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Father-of-two Mr Beeden set off in his 6m-long boat from San Francisco at the start of June and finally made it to his destination of Cairns in Australia on December 27 – weeks behind his intended target after being blown off course several times by bad weather.

John Beeden at the start of his voyage in San Francisco

John Beeden at the start of his voyage in San Francisco

The 53-year-old, originally from Woodseats but now living in Canada with his family, is no stranger to incredible adventures, having previously rowed the Atlantic from the Canary islands to Barbados in 2011.

The lifelong runner is a former member of Hallamshire Harriers and Sheffield Athletics Club and helps organise registration for the London Marathon every year.

He decided to take on his latest challenge through a spirit of adventure and to ‘have something worthwhile on your headstone’.

The last rower to attempt the crossing was Peter Bird in 1983, who was rescued off the coast of Australia in a storm after 294 days at sea.

John Beeden's route across the Pacific

John Beeden's route across the Pacific

But John managed to complete the entire 6,500 nautical mile journey in just 209 days, a few weeks later than his intended journey time of between 140 and 180 days.

He was supported from land during the voyage by friend Tony Humphreys, who help monitor his progress and provided weather advice from land, but had no support vessel alongside him on the ocean.

John was greeted by cheering crowds and his wife Cheryl and daughters Georgie and Libby as he finally arrived in Australia at the end of his marathon row - as well as a pair of immigration officials who wanted to check his passport.

He said: “They checked my passport, even filled in my immigration questionnaire for me and all I had to do was sign it, the best passport control experience of my life.”

John Beeden at sea

John Beeden at sea

John said after arriving on dry land it had been a ‘crazy 24 hours’ as his achievement made headlines around the world and he was interviewed by international news media.

“I’m not sure how much more I could put up with but it does make me realise how big a deal the achievement is,” he said.

“Leaving San Francisco with just Cheryl and Tony on the dock and no fanfare I’m happy to share the story now it’s complete and I made it.”

John’s route took him from continent to continent passing south of Hawaii, through the South Sea Islands, across the Coral Sea and through the Great Barrier Reef, before finally arriving in Cairns.

Speaking immediately after he arrived onshore, John told TV crews there had been times where he thought it would not be possible to complete the challenge.

He said: “To be the first person to achieve something of this scale is incredible really and I haven’t processed it yet.”

John Beeden at sea

John Beeden at sea

John said a series of setbacks during the course of the voyage, which pushed back his arrival time by around a month, made him doubt whether he could make it all the way.

He said: “I didn’t think I could go on and had to dig deep – getting pushed back hundreds of miles that you have already rowed and you have to row it all again.”

In between rowing for around 15 hours a day, John kept a blog of his adventure, keeping readers up to date with his encounters with sharks, dolphins and flying fish along the route.

His wife Cheryl said she hopes John will now put his feet up for a while – but expects that may not last for long. “He says he is not going to go in another boat for a while but I’m sure in a couple of weeks he will be having some other adventure and I will have to restrain him a little bit!”

John Beeden on Christmas Day

John Beeden on Christmas Day

John Beeden's stamped passport

John Beeden's stamped passport