ROUND the world challenger Sam Greatrex set off from his Halesowen home on the first leg of his mammoth journey with his two best friends by his side today.

The 29-year-old will be 31 when his parents Susan and Barry next see him if he completes his human powered navigation of the Earth in a record 18 months.

The adventurer, who plans to cycle 18,000 miles and row 14,000 nautical miles, aims to smash nine world records on the way.

He also hopes to raise £240,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in gratitude for the help he was given after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when he was 10.

The official start of his challenge will be in Paris on Saturday September 6 after travelling to the French capital by Eurostar.

But he set off from the family home in Cloister Drive this morning with former Windsor High School friends Jonathan Mouzer and Liam Richards who accompanied him to Brighton.

The trio were then returning to London for a few days relaxation before the start of his lap of the world.

After five years in the planning, Mr Greatrex said his feelings were difficult to sum up as he set off from Halesowen.

He said: “It’s been a lot of work to get here, but just to be able to set off with two best mates and embarking on such an expedition is great.

“Not having to sit by a computer thinking about the planning and finally getting on with some cycling is good.”

He will cycle solo, apart from about 2,000 miles through Asia, when he will be accompanied by an Australian endurance cyclist.

A specially designed ocean rowing boat has been built to accommodate him and four other crew men and women who will row with him across the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

They will be at sea for between two and four months at a stretch, living on freeze dried food and rowing two hours on, two hours off.