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British man becomes first to complete World’s Toughest Row with a pacemaker

Elliot Awin has completed the World’s Toughest Row after crossing the Atlantic (World’s Toughest Row/PA)
Elliot Awin has completed the World’s Toughest Row after crossing the Atlantic (World’s Toughest Row/PA)

A man from Surrey has become the first person to complete the World’s Toughest Row with a pacemaker, crossing the Atlantic solo in 44 days.

Elliot Awin, 37, a wine importer from Dorking, set about the 3,000 mile row from San Sebastian de La Gomera, Spain to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua, in December in his boat, aptly named Pacemaker.

Mr Awin, formerly an avid rugby player, was forced to quit the sport around nine years ago when he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, taking up CrossFit and then rowing instead.

Elliot Awin completed the row in a boat called Pacemaker
Elliot Awin completed the row on Friday (World’s Toughest Row/PA)

The keen athlete had a pacemaker fitted in 2020 – just four years later he finished the World’s Toughest Row, arriving in Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua on Friday.

“A lot of people refuse to get a pacemaker as they’re worried they won’t be able to play with their grandchildren or run for the bus but what better way to show people they should get it – I just rowed the Atlantic!” he said.

“Yes it changed my life, but I can still do epic stuff.”

World’s Toughest Row
Elliot Awin from Dorking in Surrey, taking part in the World’s Toughest Row in his boat named Pacemaker (Elliot Awin/PA)

Following his experiences with his own heart health, Mr Awin set up a charity called Wave Wrangler, “a platform for anyone living with an arrhythmia to share stories and experiences” as well as to raise money.

One of the charity’s aims is to provide defibrillators to underfunded sports centres and communities, while some of the money raised during Mr Awin’s Atlantic challenge will go to the British Heart Foundation.

“As a 27-year-old, you think you’re invincible, you think nothing’s going to happen,” Mr Awin previously told the PA news agency from his boat.

“I woke up in the middle of the night with a heartbeat of 220 beats per minute, but still went to work the next day. The number of times I had an episode whilst playing rugby but then rung NHS Direct because I was scared to ring 999.

“Eventually NHS Direct ring the ambulance for you and you’re in an ambulance and they’re saying ‘this is what the ambulance is for’. Don’t be too proud to call an ambulance if you’re having heart issues.

“Go and get yourself checked, and it’s not the end of the world if you do get diagnosed with something, because the technology, the research, the doctors out there are so incredible.”

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the BHF, said: “Elliot’s feat is a true inspiration. His achievement is a testament to his incredible determination and the advances in research that mean people with dangerous and debilitating heart rhythm conditions can receive life-changing treatments.

“There are around one million people in the UK living with a heart rhythm condition. The money Elliot has raised will enable the scientists we fund to continue working for new breakthroughs that can save and improve lives.”

To find out more about his fundraising, visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/wavewranglerTWAC2023.