Branson Welcomes North Atlantic Solo Rower

Virgin Atlantic today announced that 23 year old Oliver Hicks of Thorpeness, Suffolk has returned from his record breaking adventure of becoming the first British and youngest person to successfully row solo across the North Atlantic from New York to Europe.  Oliver set off from New York, USA on the 23 May 2005 and arrived today in Falmouth, England after his 4000-mile journey and 126 days at sea.  During his endeavour Oliver had to contend with extreme weather conditions which hampered his progress.Speaking from Falmouth, Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:

“Virgin Atlantic is delighted to welcome Oliver home after his historic journey and I am personally thrilled to see Oliver back on dry land.

“Oliver is the first British person ever to row solo from New York to
Europe, by far the longest and most difficult way to cross.  At 23, he’s also the youngest person ever to have crossed the North.  He’s been at sea for over a third of the year and has been followed by sharks and coped with horrendous storms along the way.  It is as remarkable an achievement as any of the great British adventurers and unlike say Scott of the Antarctic, he has managed to come all the way home.”

Oliver Hicks also commented:

“I am relieved to be back on dry land. I am absolutely exhausted but am so excited to see all my family and friends again.  It has been the most amazing experience of my life.”

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Oliver is raising money for the charity ‘Hope and Homes for Children’  - a charity which began in 1994 and gives hope to children worldwide who have nowhere to live due to war or disaster.  So far Oliver has raised almost £30,500 through his efforts.  Sponsor Virgin Atlantic made ‘Hope and Homes for Children’ its onboard charity between June and August raising a further £124,300.00 through its passengers’ generosity.

Oliver was welcomed home by his family, friends, Richard Branson and many well-wishers at a celebratory champagne reception at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Tamsin Loveless, Head of Communications at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, said:

“Oliver’s achievement is incredible.  He has achieved his goal like fellow record breakers Ellen MacArthur, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Shackleton whose stories will be highlighted in our new Endurance & Survival exhibition for 2006.  We are sure he will inspire others to achieve their goals.

“We’re honoured that he’s chosen the Museum to end this amazing journey and are delighted that the Museum and Falmouth is being seen as the welcoming port for such challenges.”

Steve Ridgway, Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic said:

“This is a fantastic achievement and we are all very proud of Olly’s sheer grit and determination.  However, last time I was here with Richard I had 4,000 HP under my belt aboard Virgin Atlantic Challenger II and our journey only took 3 days!

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our passengers for their generosity which has enabled us to raise so much money for such a worthy cause.”
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