Dirty Vegan star Matt Pritchard rows the Atlantic

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While most of us have spent months locked down, Dirty Vegan Matt Pritchard has been rowing the Atlantic.

The BBC TV chef is in a team of four crossing the ocean to raise awareness about mental health – and they hope to cross the finish line in Antigua later.

They set off on the 3,200 mile trip from Lanzarote on 6 March, but had to restart from Fuerteventura on March 13.

They were able to undertake the journey because of exemptions to charity ventures under Covid rules.

The trip, named Atlantic Dash, was initially halted because of seat problems, before their craft was holed during a tow to Fuerteventura.

After Matt and crewmates Billy Taylor, Johnny Ward and Martin Heseltine had repaired the vessel they set off again.

Matt said progress in the trip had been “absolutely fantastic.”

It had also been “nice to be at sea during all the craziness” of Covid.

The sailors have enjoyed seeing dolphins, turtles and marlins and, for three weeks, they did not see another boat.

But disaster struck for Matt, who celebrated his birthday at sea, as the end of the trip neared.

The ex-pro skateboarder, from Cardiff, injured his back while rowing.

The 48-year-old said: “I pulled my right lateral muscle rowing and, as you do, I just ignored it.

“Because at the end of the day you have no other option other than to keep rowing and get on with it.”

Pritch
image captionThe men last saw land when the left Fuerteventura in March

But after two days the pain got much worse.

“All of a sudden something went, and I was in absolute agony, and there was nothing else I could do,” the former Dirty Sanchez star said.

“Billy said: ‘You’re going to have to get into the forecabin’.”

Getting in the forecabin – at the front of a boat – was also “absolute agony.”

After speaking to a doctor he was advised to take painkillers they had with them.

“I’m absolutely gutted,” Matt said.

“I’ve sat here, and there’s loads of stuff going through my mind.

“I just feel helpless being here listening to the boys rowing.

“I want to be out there rowing with them, but I can’t because I don’t want to do any more damage to my lateral muscle.”

He’d hoped to be back as an oarsman within a day or two but he is still not in the best shape.

pritch
image captionAs they neared their destination of Antigua, Matt injured a muscle in his back

“I’ve not come all this way to lay on my arse,” he said.

“But at the same time I have got to be sensible, because I do not want to do longer lasting damage to myself.”

By Friday, Matt was still not rowing but was making food and doing other duties.

Billy said it was “so nice” to see him on the mend.

“Matt’s been up and about,” he said.

“He’s been cooking for everyone and making sure everyone has water.

“It’s a real team, crew effort.”

He said they were on track to arrive in Antigua within hours.

pritch
image captionHe was laid up for a number of days but is now on the mend

“We are on the home stretch,” Billy said.

“We feel confident that will be the last spanner in the works.

“We are making good speed. Antigua baby.

“Sunday at some point hopefully we’ll be in. I reckon Sunday, midday.”

Matt remains determined to get back in the saddle.

“If I have to I will row with one hand, my left hand,” he said.

The four are aiming to raise £20,000 to be split between Dean Farm Trust and men’s mental health charity Humen.

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