AN exhausted oarsman is celebrating being back on dry land after completing a non-stop rowing race around the UK coast in a new world record time.

James Plumley, age 24, from Worcester, and three crew mates have spent the last 26 days at sea tackling the daunting GB Row challenge, one of the toughest races on the planet.

Of six teams that entered, Mr Plumley’s crew “The Islanders” was one of only two that was not forced to pull out before the end of the first week.

Never breaking from a strict regime of two hours at the oars followed by two hours off, the team battled not just huge waves and storms but dehydration, sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion to reach the finish line at London’s Tower Bridge after a gruelling 26 days, nine hours and nine minutes.

That saw them smash the previous record by more than 12 hours and Mr Plumley told your Worcester News that what they have achieved is only just starting to sink in.

“It just feels incredible, I don’t think any of us fully realises what has happened yet but it is slowly sinking in,” he said. “The last 26 days have just been about one relentless focus. Towards the end we realised that we actually had a very real chance of breaking the record so to actually achieve it is just unbelievable.”

Mr Plumley, age 24, said he and crew mates Josh Taylor, Gavin Sheehan and Alan Morgan have each lost about 10kg each.

“We are all looking forward now to a bit of rest and relaxation,” he said. “A massage and then a few days just doing nothing in front of the TV are definitely in order.

“I think the hardest part of the challenge was that it was just so relentless. The constant rotation means none of us have slept for more than an hour-and-a-half in four weeks.

“It was tough to keep the energy up and make sure that, when you were rowing, you were actually putting some power in and not just going through the motions.”

He said teamwork was the key to their record-breaking performance.

“We all bonded and worked together so well. Every problem could be solved by someone and we all just wanted to get to the end and back to our friends and families that we kept each other motivated.”

The Islanders scooped a £100,000 prize for breaking the record, plus £15,000 for winning the race. To date, their efforts have also raised more than £10,000 for their chosen charity, Evelina Children’s Hospital in London.

Will de Laszlo, race president and skipper of the crew that set the previous record in 2005, was among the first to hail their achievement.

"It was an epic effort. Massive congratulations to the record-breaking team,” he said. “I'm incredibly proud to be involved in an event that hopefully will inspire other people achieve great things.”