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Ocean Village backs Marine hero’s new superhuman effort

Ocean Village backs Marine hero’s new superhuman effort Ocean Village backs Marine hero’s new superhuman effort Ocean Village backs Marine hero’s new superhuman effort

EVERY day we come across fundraising heroes, people who have gone to extraordinary lengths to raise money for projects that they passionately believe in and we applaud them all.

But from time to time we come across individuals that despite extreme disabilities go beyond that which most of us might be capable of achieving to ensure that those in need of help remain within the nation’s conscience.

Lee - aka ‘Frank’ - Spencer who describes himself as a father, husband, Atlantic Ocean rower, guitar-playing pirate and Guinness World Record holder, was a Royal Marine for 24 years is one of those extremely rare breed.

And what is it that makes Lee that little bit more special is that in January of next year with sponsorship by Ocean Village will set off from Gibraltar in an attempt to be the first physically disabled person to row across the Atlantic, east to west, from mainland Europe to mainland South America.

Starting in Gibraltar on January 18, he will attempt to row 3,500 miles to Venezuela non-stop and unsupported. Not content with that huge challenge Lee will also attempt to beat the able-bodied record set by Stein Hoff in 2002 of 96 days, 12 hours and 45 minutes in a double Guinness World record attempt.

Lee is not new to rowing challenges having been part of the four-man team of wounded soldiers who rowed the Atlantic as part of the Talisker Whiskey Challenge - with just three legs between them - taking a Guinness World Record for being the first physically disabled team of four to row an ocean. 

This time around Lee will be alone in his epic dual challenge attempt.

In the run-up to the Atlantic challenge Ocean Village will host a series of events starting with a leaving party and fundraiser to be held on January 13, which is the last Saturday and weekend before launch.

January 16 will see an informal lunch-time meet and greet with the opportunity for a show around the boat. Then Lee will have a one-day break to prepare before launch day on January 18 with a breakfast time send-off.

Members of the public are invited to join the launch event on the day and see Lee off at Ocean Village Marina.

What makes Lee’s story all the more remarkable of triumph over adversity is that despite him surviving three tours in Afghanistan it was a freak off duty motorway accident that changed his life.

Lee had to stop to fix a flat tyre while travelling early in 2014, cursing his misfortune he posted on Facebook ‘Could this day get any worse’.

A few hours later on the M3 he stopped again to help at a serious collision. Moments later a second car collided with the stationary car and the engine and gearbox were catapulted into Lee’s right leg taking the limb almost clean off just below the knee, badly dislocating his left knee and catapulting him 10 metres.

Amazingly he didn’t lose consciousness. After many sorties into landmine fields and working in areas where bombs were a regular occurrence, Lee felt mentally prepared. 

Well aware of his life-threatening injuries he understood the crucial need to tourniquet the bleeding right leg. With the help of others stemmed the bleed until the ambulance service arrived.

Lee lost his right leg which was amputated below the knee and required a full construction of his dislocated left knee but was soon back to raising cash in sponsored walking events.

A short time later he was invited to apply to join the crew of four amputee rowers on the ‘Row2Recovery’ attempt at a Guinness world record.

After a 6-month selection process, Lee was invited to join the other crew members - Cayle Royce, Nigel Rogoff and Paddy Gallagher. On December 20 2015, the four men set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on a punishing schedule of two hours on, two hours off, through fair weather and foul, including a terrifying series of storms in Hurricane Alex.

Despite battling side swells, 30ft waves and losing three stone in weight, Lee and the crew rowed into Antigua 46 days, 6 hours and 49 minutes later, establishing a new world record.

The boat was renamed ‘HMS Legless’ in typical service-style humour and Lee says: “It was both mentally and physically demanding, petrifying at times for someone whose previous nautical experience was the Torpoint Ferry.”

Now as he prepares for his extraordinary single-handed record attempt he explains why for him it is so important to push himself to such extremes.

He said: “I am trying to maintain in the nation’s conscience, the wounded servicemen and women who can be easily forgotten. Secondly I want to prove there is life beyond injury and disability, it need not define you or limit your expectations.”

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