Exmouth Falklands veteran Steve Sparkes is first blind person to row Pacific

PUBLISHED: 10:23 05 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:23 05 September 2018

Steve Sparkes rowing. Picture: Ellen Hoke.

Steve Sparkes rowing. Picture: Ellen Hoke.

Ellen Hoke.

He and rowing partner Mick Dawson complete 2,400 mile race in a 21.5ft boat

Steve Sparkes, adorned with traditional Hawaiian flower garlands on his arrival in Honolulu. Picture: Ellen Hoke.Steve Sparkes, adorned with traditional Hawaiian flower garlands on his arrival in Honolulu. Picture: Ellen Hoke.

A former Royal Marine from Exmouth has become the first blind person to row the Pacific, braving stormy conditions, injuries and even being swept overboard.

It took Steve Sparkes and his rowing partner Mick Dawson nearly 12 weeks to complete the 2,400-mile Great Pacific Race from Monterey in California to Honolulu in Hawaii, in a 21.5ft carbon fibre boat.

The sea was so rough at times that two pairs of oars broke, and their route took them within 50 miles of the eye of Hurricane Lane, which brought more giant waves, rain and thunderstorms.

When Steve was swept overboard, he was only saved by his safety tether connecting him with the boat. He also suffered facial, head, knee and shoulder injuries in other mishaps on board, which slowed the pair down.

Mick Dawson and Steve Sparkes on their boat. Picture: Ellen Hoke.Mick Dawson and Steve Sparkes on their boat. Picture: Ellen Hoke.

Throughout the journey, Steve and Mick took turns to row in a pattern of two hours rowing, two hours resting. It was entirely manual rowing, and the pair carried all their food and supplies on the boat. For the final few days of the journey, they had no gas to make hot food or drinks.

They arrived at the finish at 18.55pm on Tuesday, August 28, and their first request to the crew meeting them was for a flask of hot tea.

What makes Steve’s achievement even more incredible is that, a year ago, he had never set foot in a rowing boat. The idea of entering the race came up after a chance meeting in Mick’s local pub, The Coach House, in Rottingdean. Mick, also a former Royal Marine, is a very experienced ocean rower who was part of the first team to ever row the Pacific between Japan and San Francisco, in 2009. The pub became the “unofficial race HQ” with locals following Steve and Mick’s progress and raising a glass to them on hearing they had arrived safely at the finish line.

The massive achievement by Steve and Mick has raised £12,000 for the Royal Marines Charity and Blind Veterans UK, who supported Steve after he lost his sight in a diving accident while serving with the Marines.

Speaking before the race, Steve said: “I wanted to do something special with a fellow Royal Marine; it’s payback time, to help those that have helped and supported me.”

Other News Stories

Yesterday, 17:00

A non-profit Woodbury theatre company making its mission to engage hard-to-reach child audiences has celebrated the close of its 2018 National Lottery-funded flagship summer show.

Read more
Yesterday, 12:00

An annual charity golf day held in Budleigh Salterton has raised more than £4,500 for a Hospiscare service which allows patients to remain in their own homes.

Read more
Yesterday, 08:00

Details of Budleigh Salterton Health and Wellbeing Hub’s involvement in this year’s carnival have been announced.

Read more
Mon, 12:00

A passion for crime fiction has inspired a visually impaired Exmouth author to launch a new creative and multi-sensory online community.

Read more
Mon, 07:00

With winter approaching GPs are advising people consider a flu vaccination

Read more
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Schools and charities offered free tablecloth

Read more
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Woodbury holiday park looks to add static caravans

Read more
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Charity works with people who have learning difficulties, giving them a voice on local issues, and arranging social activities

Read more
Saturday, September 22, 2018

An Exmouth woman has overcome her fears to complete an abseil to raise vital funds for a charity which supported her cousin prior to her death.

Read more
Saturday, September 22, 2018

Take a peek at the brilliant pictures our readers have been sharing for our birds photo challenge.

Read more

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Local Weather

Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 18°C

min temp: 6°C

Most Read News

Useful Links

Advertise in the Paper
Submit a Story
Subscriptions Order
Competitions
Photo Orders
Family notices
iwitness24
Google Plus
Facebook
Twitter
Reader Travel

Family Notices 24

Read Online

Image
Read the Exmouth Journal e-edition E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up

Exmouth Journal twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Show Job Lists


Find planning applications