For Capt. Mark Delstanche, who has summited Mount Everest, crossed the Atlantic solo and unsupported, and had world-record setting row to the Magnetic North Pole, there’s no shortage of material from his various adventures to fill a book. While he was encouraged by friends and family to write about his experiences, the idea faded away over the months following his 2021 row across the Atlantic Ocean. But in late September 2023, his stories became available in Cheeky Slappers: My Quest to Become the First Person to Row Solo From New York to London and the Adventures that Led Me There.
“It was reinvigorated when one of the crew bought me a book chronicling the tale of a chap called Brett Archibald who, whilst on a surfing trip, fell overboard the boat carrying him, and had to stay afloat for two days whilst he awaited rescue,” he says. “It got me thinking that if somebody could write a bestseller about treading water for two days, I could probably write a book about my experiences over the years.”
With anywhere between 12 and 24 hours a day at the oars for more than three months on his solo row with nothing to occupy his time but his own thoughts, Delstanche admits that much of the book and what he wanted to include was written in his head before putting pen to paper. He wrote the first draft in just six weeks, much of it during his time on board where he had more spare time than he does at home.
The book includes some background on his early years from his time as a firefighter and career in yachting, along with the big stories of summiting Everest and his rows, as a framework to tell the other stories of his life. Plus, “there’s quite a lot of humor in it as well as more than a few hair-raising moments from my various expeditions, sprinkled with some anecdotes of my career in superyachting and, if you wanted to learn from a few of my experiences, tips on what not to do if you want to keep your job.
“I absolutely loved the whole process of writing it as it got me to revisit a lot of the memories of my past exploits and actually think about how I felt at certain times rather than just breezing through them with my usual sense of bravado,” he shares. “Being that much older, and hopefully a little wiser now, it made me realize that to admit fear is not a weakness as long as you don’t let it control your actions and that maybe, just maybe, I was not quite as great as I thought I was when viewed through somebody else’s eyes.”
Having the book released, Delstanche admits that it’s a strange feeling. Although he was initially hesitant about exposing parts of himself to people who barely know him, he’s OK with it now that it’s out. He’s happy to have those close to him have a chance to read it, along with people he’s never met who are enjoying it.
“The feedback so far has been great,” Delstanche says. “Different people get different things from it, but most of all, I want it to reflect the fact that I’m an ordinary bloke who has been lucky enough to do extraordinary things and that anyone who has the determination can do the same if they put their mind to it.”
One of the greatest lessons he learned while on the ocean was how important his family is, and he doubts he would have made it without their support. He shares, “The South Pole and Northwest Passage were on my bucket list, but I think I’d prefer to stay married!
“To do something like this, you have to be pretty selfish,” he says. “But having done what I’ve done and realized what I put my family through not only during the row but in the years leading up to it, I’ve realized that my time with them is far more important than achieving these near impossible goals, so my adventures will be far more family focused from here on in.”
To read more about Delstanche’s adventures, the book is available through Amazon.