Amputee Breaks Record by Rowing Across the Atlantic in 60 Days

Based on the reporting of Hilary Brueck for Business Insider

Five years ago, Lee Spencer, a former Royal Marine, stopped on a highway to help people in an accident on the side of the road. But while he assisted, Spencer was hit by an oncoming engine and sustained injuries which called for his right leg to be amputated.

Lee Spencer spent 24 years in the British Military, serving three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He had always taken pride in his physical strength, but after his devastating accident, Spencer thought he would have to redefine himself. However, he came to recognize that disabled people cannot be defined by their disability. This newfound awareness encouraged Spencer’s interest in rowing.  “I thought if I can beat an able-bodied record as a disabled man, at something as physically demanding as rowing an ocean, it’ll be a real positive statement that no one should be defined by disability.”

After years of training, Spencer embarked from Portugal in a rowboat designed for a single passenger. He was prepared for a 90 day, 3,800 mile journey with a desalination machine to make drinkable water and high-energy rations to eat.  He was also fitted with a prosthetic leg designed specifically for rowing. This leg had an ankle joint which could withstand a lot of sitting and pushing.

Although Spencer recalls seeing remarkable marine life on his trip, he notes that it was difficult having no humans around, especially when his situation became dangerous.  He recalls feeling on high alert all the time, saying, “You’re constantly worrying about where you are, what’s happening around you.”

After 60 grueling days at sea, Lee Spencer arrived on the shores of French Guiana. His face was red from the sun and he had lost 42 pounds, but he smashed the previous trans-Atlantic rowing record for his route by 36 days. Spencer believes his accomplishment proves that people cannot be defined by their disabilities.