FOUR amputee soldiers attempting to row across the Atlantic in aid of a Henley charity have passed the 2,500-mile mark.
L Cpl Cayle Royce, Guardsman Paddy Gallagher, Fl Sgt Nigel Rogoff and C Sgt Lee Spencer have battled storms, sores and sickness on their voyage.
They are known as the “Legless Rowers” as they have all had one or both legs amputated following attacks or accidents.
The men are taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge to raise money for Row2Recovery, which helps injured servicemen.
They set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 20 and hope to reach English Harbour in Antigua next week.
They are now less than 500 miles from the finish line after more than a month at sea and are among the top 10 boats in the challenge as they attempt to become the first all-amputee crew to cross the Atlantic.
L Cpl Royce, who had both his legs amputated in 2012 after being injured while serving in Afghanistan, skippered another Row2Recovery crew which completed the same challenge in 2013.
Speaking to the Henley Standard from the boat, he said: “It’s going very well. We are progressing nicely and we are on the home run now, thrashing our way and getting good mileage of around 70 miles a day.
“I can’t believe how different the conditions are from last time. Back then there were horrendous swells and constant storms but this time it’s a lot calmer. There’s also a different dynamic on the boat — getting around is a bit more difficult and even simple things like going to the toilet, preparing food or rowing itself are complicated.
“We’ve had a couple of injuries and were down a couple of rowers at one point but the guys soldiered on and we are back up to four. We’ve had to eat a bit of humble pie as you realise there’s no winning out here.”
Storms meant the crew had to lock themselves in the cabin for days at a time. They have also suffered injuries including sores and a broken prosthetic leg, while Flt Sgt Rogoff suffered from seasickness early in the race.
L Cpl Royce said: “The guys are doing really well. The biggest thing is probably the mental challenge, it’s relentless and there’s always lots to do. It’s a mental game when you’re telling yourself you’ve got to be back on the oars in a few hours and dealing with the fact that we are here for the duration.
“I’m trying to let them know from my experiences that it’s not unusual to feel weak but it’s not weakness, it’s fatigue.
“We all have moments where we feel like we can’t continue but having done it before I know what the guys are going through and hope I can be a positive influence. It’s just letting them know they are doing fine. We just want to get there now, have a beer and see our families.”
The crew are currently fourth out of nine boats in the fours class but L Cpl Royce isn’t surprised at their performance. He said: “I always expected us to do pretty well. Being a military crew we are used to routine, it’s second nature to us and we wake up, pull for two hours, have a rest and continue. It’s working well for us and we are very pleased with our current position.”
The crew spent months training for the challenge in the gym and on rowing machines but L Cpl Royce said: “Nothing prepares you. You can train physically on strength and the ergometer but it’s really a mental game and you have to keep motivating yourself.
“You need the self-discipline to get yourself up and get on the oars and until you’re out here, there’s no possibility of understanding that. The desire for a rum punch is overwhelming!
“We can’t wait to see our family and friends, have a shower and a bed. Having done it before I’m excited to get there and share a meal with the other crews and tell our stories.”
As well as Row2Recovery, the crew are raising money for the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association, Help for Heroes and the Endeavour Fund.
To make a donation, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/Row2Recovery