The Four Oarsmen – a team made up of George Biggar, a senior associate in Taylor Wessing’s real estate team, and his friends Dicky Taylor, Peter Robinson and Stuart Watts – crossed the finish line of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge just after 2am UK time on Saturday morning, rowing into English Bay, Antigua, after 29 days and 15 hours at sea: six whole days faster than the current world record for a four-man crew.
The quartet entered the 3,000 mile race as a fundraiser for charities Mind and Spinal Research UK, in memory of George’s mother Anne Fisher and in support of Pete’s friend Ben Kende. So far, they have raised over £250k for the two causes, boosted by a £20,000 contribution from Taylor Wessing and a £20,000 contribution from McLaren Property.
Biggar and his teammates had embarked on the race hoping for a respectable finish time of around 40 days.
Instead, the amateur team surged onto world record pace, taking an early lead that they maintained throughout the race. Relatives hoping to join them at the finish line had to change their flights and rebook hotels as it became clear The Four Oarsmen would arrive far ahead of schedule.
The team rowed in 2-man, 2-hour shifts, 24 hours a day throughout the journey, each burning 10,000 calories every day as they powered their boat, Aegir, from the Canary Islands to Antigua. They survived on filtered seawater and dehydrated food, with almost no contact with their friends and family back on land.
It was a family tragedy that led Biggar to take up the monumental challenge, which he trained for whilst managing a full-time workload as a senior real estate lawyers specialising in investment property acquisitions and disposals.
George’s mother, Anne Fisher, was a highly successful lawyer who struggled with serious depression. Despite her condition, Anne achieved great success in her professional life as a lawyer until deciding to dedicate herself to helping others fighting the same battles as she had.
She re-trained as a mental health and addiction counsellor, joined the Samaritans and became a trustee of Mind. Tragically, on a cold morning in January 2011, Anne, having wandered out at night, was found washed up on the seashore near the family home, drowned. Despite appearing happy and balanced in life, her illness had beaten her.
Peter Robinson’s friend Ben Kende, a rising star of Hong Kong rugby, suffered a spinal cord injury while representing the territory at the Asian Junior Championship in August 2010. He has since adjusted to life as a tetraplegic with limited use of his arms and no use of his legs. Ben was only 18 when this life changing injury happened. Despite the odds, Ben has shown the courage and determination to recover and live a full life. He has since completed a degree in Finance and Marketing at Sydney University and is currently studying for a Juris Doctor of Law Degree at Sydney University.
“We did this for Mind and for Spinal Research – two causes that are hugely close to our hearts and very important to us. It was absolutely astounding to see the amount of support for these charities we’ve helped raise from friends, family, loved-ones and people we’ve never even met,” says Biggar.
“When we were really hitting the wall, that’s what kept us going: the encouragement of our supporters, and the knowledge that we were making such a difference for two very important charities.”
Alistair Watson, partner in Taylor Wessing’s real estate team, said:
“Almost two years ago, George talked to us about what he and three close friends wanted to do: the four of them as a team, putting themselves under huge pressure and great risk to row 3,000 miles across an ocean.
“They have been selfless, inspiring, and brave. They want to help bring about change for hundreds of people and the money that they have been raising for the two charities – Mind, and Spinal Research – will make a significant difference.
“A real estate lawyer who becomes one of four world record breakers? Professionally and personally, we could not be more proud of George as a dear colleague.”
John Gatley, Managing Director of McLaren Property, said:
“This is an incredible feat of endurance. To finish first amongst such a large fleet of boats and to knock six days off the world record is a fantastic achievement by the guys.
“They should be extremely proud of themselves, as should all the competitors.
“We are very pleased to have supported such a grueling and challenging race and to be part of the fundraising for the very deserving charities.”
George Biggar added:
“Taylor Wessing and McLaren, as a major real estate client of the firm, have been so supportive of us, as the Four Oarsmen, and every step of the way. They not only allowed me the scope to undertake this journey, and provided significant financial contributions, they positively encouraged me and my teammates in every possible way when we decided to take on this challenge.”
To donate to Mind or Spinal Research please visit http://thefouroarsmen.com/donate or text “ROWX99” (for Spinal Research) or “OARX99” (for Mind), followed by the donation amount, to 70070