ALMOST three weeks after completing the world’s toughest challenge by rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, Lee Felton’s return to Dudley has been celebrated by his family and friends.

Kingswinford man Lee was welcomed back to the borough with a party held at his parent’s house in Pensnett at the weekend.

The 30-year-old, who quit his job as a teacher in Dubai to take part in the cross-Atlantic feat, spent 65 days rowing 10,000km from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua.

Lee said coming back to Dudley and being greeted by friends and family who had not seen him in almost three months was “amazing”.

He said: “When we touched down in Antigua I was greeted by my mom and my auntie Dot Bond, who is a family friend who has known me since I was born, but she has been such a massive help and given so much support.

“My sister Charlotte was also there, which was a massive surprise as she had told me she couldn’t get time off work.

“While on the boat I really missed my girlfriend Anne-Marie, and my cats fanta-pants, Blue and Chang – as well as my family – and strangely I had constant cravings for ice.

“Coming back to Dudley has been amazing, as I have seen all of my friends and family who have been very proud of me for what I have done.”

During the crossing – which has been completed by fewer people than have been into space – Lee and team-mate Sean Lannon battled 60ft waves, terrible seasickness, dehydration and numerous capsizes.

But looking back on the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, Lee described his experience as “cool”, adding: “We didn’t go in with the plan to of wining and for most of the race we were placed last but one.

“However, with a 1,000 miles to go, we both came to the conclusion that we had had enough of being on the ocean and just wanted to get home and decided to buck our ideas up and really start rowing and taking it a little more seriously.

“And as a result, we overtook seven teams. But it was damn tough – a lot tougher than I ever had imagined.

“Not necessarily the physical side of it, but the psychological side of it and dealing with the really trying conditions; wet and salty, and the relentless sun beating down on you 14 hours a day.

“It was like groundhog day. The mental torture of being bored out of your brain and knowing that tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that would be exactly the same, over and over again.

“I would never do it again. My next adventure will be on dry land and involve wheels or an engine!”

Lee’s mum Mandy said she was elated to finally get her son home after a nerve-wracking few months. She said: “I have always been so proud of him but what he has done is amazing.

“When I saw him coming round into the harbour I was so happy that I wanted to jump in and swim to him! The atmosphere was electric and everyone was so excited to have him and Sean back in one piece.

“The comradery between all the teams was extraordinary and is something you don’t get in other sports.

“Here they were all supportive of each other and it didn’t matter which team came in first or which team was last, it was all about completing the challenge.

“The toughest part for me was not getting to talk to him, because whether he is in Dubai or Dudley I’m always in constant contact with him.

“He might not admit it, but I think he hated the whole thing and if he ever says about doing something like it again I know what I will be telling him!

“We have had so much support from so many people, especially my friends Dot who has always been there for both Lee and Charlotte and we must thank Tina Boothroyd, the chairman of Dudley Rowing Club, who has raised so much money for the charities Lee was supporting.

“We all thought he was a nutter for even thinking about doing it and really took some guts, but I am so relieved that he is back safe.”

Out of the 26 teams which started the race, all 26 did eventually complete the mammoth rowing challenge, with Lee and Sean – under the team name of Square One Atlantic – finishing 18th.