Be careful what you buy your other half for Christmas. Warned off purchasing him a flying lesson, in case he ended up buying an aeroplane, Charlie Pitcher's wife bought him an innocuous book. On Atlantic rowing. So Charlie bought a rowing boat instead. Not the kind you might take for a spin around the Serpentine, but a proper ocean rowing boat.
After warming up with 1000 miles of hard sweat around the North Sea, he made his first successful Atlantic crossing. Hooked, and convinced he could beat the world record, Charlie commissioned another boat.
This boat was the lightest, most high-tech, custom-designed ocean rowing machine yet conceived. With the help of one of the country's top sports' physiologists, Charlie turned himself into a human engine, fine-tuned for the task of propelling it to the far side of the Pond.
On Sunday a packed room heard about the meticulous planning and preparation for his world record campaign. Then we were off, alone with Charlie on the deep blue sea. We suffered with him the trials of Atlantic rowing: torn fingernails, salt-ridden clothing, riding out heavy weather in a two cubic metre spin drier, moments of despair and despondency.
There were, too, periods of ecstasy and insight: the uncanny peace of a mid-Atlantic calm, the uplifting company of sea-birds, the realisation that despite the hardship, it was not so bad after all.
South American fishermen tried to 'rescue' him. At the moment of arrival he thought he was in the wrong place, surrounded by dangerous reefs. In fact he was spot on. Charlie had covered the 3000 miles from La Gomera to Barbados in 35 days, setting a new world record, a great achievement for a man a little way beyond the first flush of youth.
That book has more to answer for: Charlie has since made ocean rowing his business, developing boats, equipment and events. To cap off an excellent cruiser event, £130 was collected for Charlie's nominated charity, The C Group, which supports injured Royal Marines.