Rower ‘glad to be back for first day at school’

Standing next to the Polar Row boat before departing Jan Mayen, with the coastguard vessel in the background. From left, Tyler Carnevale, Fiann Paul, Samuel Vye, Tore Wensel (Jan Mayen station commander), Alex Gregory, Danny Longman, Carlos Facchino. Picture: Polar Row

A two-time Olympic gold medallist stranded on a remote Norwegian island for more than two weeks has been rescued – just in time for his daughter’s first day at school.

A coastguard saved Alex Gregory and his crew from Jan Mayen island, where they had been stuck since August 19, a month after starting to row from Norway to Iceland.

The nine-strong Polar Row crew, which included four Britons, had set out to travel 2,000km north to raise £20,000 to build a school in the Himalayas.

The group, who were taken to the Norwegian mainland on Sunday evening, sought refuge on the volcanic island because of ill health and problems with their boat.

Alex admitted he was scared for his life but made a safe return to his Henley home on Monday, just in time to take his daughter Daisy to her first day at school the following morning.

Speaking on the BBC Breakfast Show, the Leander Club member said on Tuesday: “It’s Daisy’s first day at school and she’s very excited. I got back yesterday (Monday) and I’m glad to be back with them [my family].”

He added on social media: “There’s no place like home! Super pleased to see these happy faces at the airport. I’ve missed them, plenty of catching up to do now!”

Alex and co pushed off land on August 8 to row as far north as they possibly could, rowing for four days and nights until they hit permanent ice.

He said: “The whole experience was incredible. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do that [the expedition].

“Up there it was amazing – there was just ice for as far as you could see.”

It was on the way back south towards Iceland – the final destination – when the crew encountered very rough weather and had to abort the expedition at Jan Mayen.

He said: “It was fairly horrendous for a number of days. I was scared.

“At certain times I definitely felt I wasn’t coming back.”

The team, who said they’ve achieved 11 world records despite not completing the row, were rescued when the Norwegian Coastguard arrived to refuel the island.

The Norwegian military and a small number of Norwegian Meteorological Institute workers are the only inhabitants on Jan Mayen.

In a Facebook post on Monday, he said it had been “one extraordinary month, something unexpected and interesting at every turn”.

The Polar Row crew had planned a two-stage Arctic expedition, first travelling from Tromsø, Norway, to Longyearbyen in Svalbard.

However, they, from Svalbard to Saudarkrokur, Iceland, after becoming stranded on the remote island, the only inhabitants alongside, looked after the crew until they were rescued over the weekend by boat and ferried back to Norway.

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