A FOUR-MAN British rowing crew has taken to the ocean in their courageous attempt to cross the Atlantic in record time.

George Rock and Nigel Morris, from Ingleby Barwick, Stockton, as well as Rob Munslow, Steven Dawson and reserve rower Garry Smith, are taking part.

They left St John's, in Canada, at 5.30am local time yesterday for the 2,100-mile haul east to Falmouth.

Their aim -to smash the long-standing world rowing record for the west to east trip, which was first achieved in 55 days by George Harbo and Frank Samuelson in 1896. In 1987, Tom McLean equalled their feat.

This crew believe they can make it in 45 days.

They have been training for more than two years, and three of the four members were part of a failed attempt in 2002. Mr Munslow said completing the journey was unfinished business.

Speaking before they set off, he said: "In 2002, we got half-way there before losing the rudder.

"There was massive disappointment because we spent three weeks out there and did 1,200 miles.

"We were devastated to have to bring that attempt to an end.

"Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to do these kinds of things. For us, this is a challenge, it is a dream, and it is an opportunity.

"I cannot wait to get out there."

The crew are making the attempt in a 29ft by 6ft boat.

They are carrying a water-maker to convert salt water to fresh water, satellite navigation and communication systems, a life-raft, enough food to last 60 days, a generator and clothing and other equipment.

Safety equipment includes flares, life-jackets, personal radio beacons and survival suits.

Mr Munslow said: "We are totally unsupported. We have everything on board the boat so we can remain self-sufficient.

"If there are injuries, we will have to deal with it aboard the boat -there won't be any replacements."

Aged 26 to 43, the crew has a wealth of ocean rowing experience, but are not taking anything for granted.

The boat has gone through rigorous sea trials and the rowers have spent two years preparing their bodies and minds.

Mr Munslow said: "We have done a lot of training back home, both on the boat and in the gym, and the key is to remain motivated and focused."

Going non-stop at an average speed of three knots with two of the crew rowing for two hours while the other two rest, Mr Munslow said a new west-to-east record was in reach.

He said: "The record is 55 days, set in 1987 by Tom McLean from Newfoundland to Ireland, and we are looking to better that record. A 45-day crossing is pretty realistic, without a doubt."

He said the crew would be pushed to their physical limits if they were to beat the record.

He said: "It's murder on your backside, it absolutely kills you.

"Besides the sleep deprivation, we are expecting to be consuming 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day, and we will be losing a lot of weight, probably about 28 pounds.

"It is pretty extreme."

* Keep up to date with the team's progress with regular reports in The Northern Echo.