A WINCHESTER man and his friend are just a matter of days away from the finish line after having rowed across the Atlantic.

Will North and Dan Howie have spent over 50 days at sea and rowed over 2,500 nautical miles in a bid to raise £200,000 for charity.

The pair who met at university are hoping to raise the money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Cancer Research UK, and St Anna’s, a school and home for orphaned and abandoned children, as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Will North said: “We’ve had a great couple of days, getting into the 200s, seeing whales surround our boat and hearing that our fleet buddies Atlantic Polo and Row2Recovery have arrived safely in English Harbour. This together with the news that we are still leading the pairs race and that our donations are above £100,000 is an incredible boost for us. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.”

Will’s father, Simon North, of Pearson Lane in Shawford, said: “It’s getting earlier and earlier every day. They’ve seen the whales and the sharks which they wanted to do and I spoke to William and he’s incredibly strong because.”

Having left La Gomera in the Canaries on December 4, Will, 28, and Dan, 29, have endured some of the worst North Atlantic weather systems in 100 years. They’ve capsized twice, rowed amongst 40ft waves and been hit in the face by flying fish. Life on board has been an endless challenge with injuries and sores, a blisteringly hot cabin, no autohelm and the need to hand pump fresh water every day.

Mr North added: “They’ve got everything against them but they’ve spoken to other teams who have already arrived and it’s given them a bit of a push. It’s going to be just brilliant.

“The great thing is they are the first of the pairs. I cannot believe it’s almost here. Now it’s about getting people donating, that’s really what it’s all about.”

Their families, who inspired the pair to take on the incredible challenge, are expected to fly out to Antigua over the next few days ready for Dan and Will’s arrival.

To donate go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/AtlanticRow2013 or visit http://www.atlanticrow2013.com/.