Cracknell conquers another punishing challenge

James Cracknell has completed another punishing challenge, rowing across a waterway which has claimed dozens of lives.

The double Olympic gold-winning oarsman put in a back-breaking eight-hour stint to become the first person in living memory to successfully cross the Foveaux Strait in New Zealand.

James – who suffered serious life-threatening head injuries during a cycling accident in the US in 2010 – will be seen making his crossing in his Discovery Channel programme World’s Toughest Expeditions, to be screened on Sunday.

The journey is understood to have led to the deaths of more than 20 people in the past decade.

James filmed his journey in January, single-handedly crossing from Ruapuke Island to New Zealand’s South Island to investigate what sailors from the SS Dundonald, which was wrecked in the area more than 100 years ago, had to endure. Using a basic wooden boat and with no compass, he tackled 25-knot winds and some of the most brutal waves he has ever faced, powering straight into the swell.

The star rowed non-stop for six hours to reach what he hoped would be the end of his journey. But after getting close to a rock-bordered beach, the current became too strong and he was forced to head for the harbour in the town of Bluff, adding another two hours to the ordeal through a notoriously volatile weather system.

He said: “The current was forcing me one way, but if I didn’t fight it I would have been swept out to sea. I can see why it’s such a dangerous, dangerous part of the world’s oceans and has claimed so many lives and caused so many shipwrecks.”

*The final episode of the four-part series is screened on Sunday at 9pm.