A WINCHESTER man and his friend are top of the pack as they row the Atlantic for charity.

Will North and his university chum, Dan Howie, are battling to reach Antigua to raise £200,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Cancer Research UK, and St Anna’s, a school and home for orphaned and abandoned children.

So far the pair, who are ranked fourth overall, have raised nearly £74,000 and are expected to arrive at the West Indies at the end of January having rowed for a solid 41 days from when they left La Gomera in the Canaries.

The only thing that stands between the highest ranked pair now is to combat the remaining 700 miles – the same distance as John O’Groats to Lands End.

Will’s father Simon, of Pearson Lane in Shawford, said: “It’s just brilliant! Unfortunately their desalinator isn’t working and they’ve had problems with the rudder which they’re having to steer with their feet but they’re hoping for one last splurge to take them to the end.

“It’s quite incredible what they’ve achieved; it seems like just yesterday that I waved them off.”

In his blog posted on Monday (January 13), Dan Howie, said: “This last week has seen some pretty hairy conditions and we have been on high alert at the possibility of another capsize. We had to row nearly broadside on to the waves and wind to maintain our ground and not get pushed south.

“I always dreaded my night shifts as you just couldn’t see where the damn waves were coming from and a capsize at 3am would not be funny!

“Still, we got through it and made some really good ground on the crews in front. Blue Steel has been flying and we are so pleased to have such a brilliant little boat. She is holding strong and so far no issues to report.”

Winchester-born Will, 28, a London-based headhunter, and his friend Dan Howie, have endured 20 ft waves, sharks and numerous technical issues throughout their journey but the intense row has also seen them celebrate Christmas, New Year’s Eve and, more recently, Dan’s 29th birthday on board their beloved boat.

To donate go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/AtlanticRow2013.