From near death to new life

At 76, John Masters is cycling close to 100km a week. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Jonty Dine

John Masters celebrated his 76th birthday last week not with champagne and cake, but with a 102km cycle.

It was the 477th straight day John has spent on his bike, racking up over 13000km.

John’s cycling journey has given him a new lease on life which was nearly lost at sea back in 2005.

The former sailor had to be winched to safety off the Chatham Islands in one of the biggest rescue missions ever mounted off New Zealand.

John was crewing a yacht on the 11000km Buenos Aires to Wellington leg of the round-the-world race.

A rogue wave on Boxing Day threw John across the boat with the impact against the bulkhead resulting in perforated intestines.

“The guys on the boat didn’t think I was going to make it.”

More than 100 people were involved in the eight-day rescue, which was complicated by a lack of fuel on the Chathams and very rough conditions.

John eventually made it to Wellington, not on a yacht but in a rescue helicopter.

He lost “quite a few feet” of internal organs and his dream of sailing around the world, though he was alive when the odds had been stacked against him.

John shows the same strength in his new sport that he needed to survive in the cold of the Southern Ocean.

“It becomes a discipline and routine - I don’t have to get up and go to work anymore, so I get up and go for a bike.”

John’s first cycle came during the national lockdown on March 24.

“We were allowed to do exercise within 2km of our homes, so I set up a little circuit.”

Starting with a 20km ride, John has progressed to a total of 13,623 with his 500th straight day set for August 6.

So committed to his regime, John will check for a window of clear weather to ensure he gets out every day, one which came at 2.30am in the morning.

The work is paying off too as John has seen a significant reduction in cholesterol and lost 13kg.

John has no immediate plans to end his impressive cycling streak.

“I see no reason why I would stop - I would need a really good excuse."