Luke Birch Jame Sparks Antigua

Luke Birch (left) and Jame Sparks (right) arriving in Antigua after rowing across the Atlantic ocean.     Photo: Courtesy of 2 Boys in a Boat

Duo Breaks Atlantic Rowing Record

Students are the youngest to complete voyage

On Monday evening, after 54 days of nonstop rowing, British students Luke Birch, 21, and Jamie Sparks, 22, became the youngest pair to row the Atlantic Ocean.

Participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the duo left the Canary Islands, off the coast of Spain, on December 4 and finished in Antigua, in the Caribbean, on January 27. During their approximately 3,400-mile voyage, the pair rowed continuously in the face of 46 mph winds, lost their mattress overboard, and narrowly missed being hit by a container ship.

"Luke and I are very similar and we both had this goal. We would have done anything to achieve it," Sparks told the Lincolnshire Echo. "Luke is very tough and gutsy as well as stubborn. That is what you want when you are on the high seas."

Birch and Sparks, under the team name "2 Boys in a Boat," finished fifth overall and second in pairs. Despite eating 6,000 calories a day, the two lost 26 pounds each, but they raised the equivalent of $331,000 for the UK charity Breast Cancer Care in the process.

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Meanwhile, an unusually strong winter storm has ravaged the southern United States, stranding commuters, closing schools, and blowing semi trucks right off the road. States of emergency were declared in Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina as early as Monday in preparation for the winter conditions, but few were prepared for the near-total paralysis of major urban areas.

The weather has forced more than 3,400 commercial flights in the region to be canceled and another 2,000 to be delayed.

Atlanta in particular has turned into a traffic nightmare, with some commuters stuck on the road as long as 19 hours. Weary travelers even took to spending the night in grocery stores and pharmacies.

There have also been reports of hundreds of stranded students spending the night in libraries and gymnasiums, unable to return home.

In Texas, more than 300 traffic accidents have been reported since the storm began. In the city of Austin, police chief Art Acevedo says they are dealing with about 40 accidents every hour.

Although this may seem like an inordinate amount of chaos for just a few inches of snow, most people in the region are unaccustomed to driving in such conditions, and many cities lack the infrastructure to deal with even infrequent winter storms.

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