FOUR men who rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for Bolton Lads and Girls club received a hero’s welcome at a homecoming event at the club.

The Bolton-based team of Mark Brocklehurst, aged 52, Matt Nuttall, aged 44, Nick Griffiths, aged 42, and Finn Christo, aged 32, spent 59 days at sea, battling huge waves and terrible conditions on their route from the Spanish island of La Gomera to Antigua.

The team finished eighth in the race and believe they have so far raised about £240,000 that will fund a junior mentoring programme at the club.

They are expecting to beat their original target of £250,000 as donations continue to pour in.

The returning rowers were greeted by about 300 people at the club in Spa Road who cheered uproariously as the team entered via a guard of honour, which youngsters created out of oars.

The men were presented with various gifts, some made by the young people that the money raised will directly benefit.

They were also awarded the prestigious keys to the club in recognition of their colossal achievement.

Team member Mark Brocklehurst, who is a board member at the club, said: “It was a fantastic night and to see the reaction from everyone there, many of whom I didn’t know, was brilliant. To be awarded the keys to the club was a really special moment.”

During the evening, the team heard from some young club members who have benefited from mentoring projects.

Mr Brocklehurst said: “That is what it has all been about. When I heard that there were 150 eight to 12-year-olds on the waiting list for a mentor, I saw the problem and we wanted to do something to help.

“We are nearing the total we set ourselves and will be ecstatic when we reach it.”