Fewer than five months to go and Force Atlantic, The British Army’s first official ocean rowing crew, are well on their way to setting themselves up for success in the 2019 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC).
In April, the fearless four, took to the water for their first taste of rowing on the open sea. Manning their Rannoch R45 ocean rowing boat for the first time, the crew set about their first day’s sustained rowing in the estuary of the River Crouch and into the South of the North Sea. This initial training was conducted under the guidance of an experienced ocean rower who works with the boat builder Rannoch Adventure, however no amount of advice could account for the shock of the first impact with the wind of the open sea! Come late August, the crew will take on the boat full time, and make the most of every opportunity to train out of their local Hartlepool Marina.
As you will well know, the composition of the crew is an unusual one. Most TWAC crews will have known each other for years and have lived in the skin of their crew mates before the race; knowing this, the Force Atlantic team have been required to look inwards. In developing the essential component of cohesion within the team, Force Atlantic have made a concerted effort to break down the barriers of rank and age to speak to each other openly, and as peers. With an age range of +30 years, ranks spanning from Lieutenant Colonel, two Captains and a Private soldier, undertaking the project will reflect a leadership challenge for the Skipper, Lt. Col. Richard Hall MBE YORKS, equal to the prospect of crossing the ocean itself. On the subject, he said, “We have been brutally honest with each other, candid about our personal motivations, and open with our fears and concerns – speaking always as peers and crewmates. The result has been unity, and mutual respect.” Fundamental to this process have been our Campaign Partners, Made to Measure Mentoring (M2M2UK) and their bespoke coaching and mentorship with our campaign.
Contributing to the crew ethos, Force Atlantic have been getting out and about together as much as possible with several ‘Pop-Up’ rows across Yorkshire. Featuring beauty spots of the largest county in the UK, the crew have been springing up, meeting the public, spreading word of their campaign, and the opportunities available to everyone and anyone in the Army. RHS Harlow Carr, Almscliffe Cragg, Ripley Castle, Newby Hall and Castle Howard to name just a few of the locations the team have appeared at – keep an eye on their social media to see if they may ‘pop-up’ near you! The crew and boat were also lucky enough to have been featured at the Great Yorkshire Show, Armed Forces Day in Leeds and at Henley Regatta, where the prospect of the challenge ahead of them was delightfully and with trepidation by people from all walks of life!
Fundraising efforts have been flourishing lately, with the crew enjoying the most superb support from both those in the Army and many generous private businesses outside. Earlier in the year, Force Atlantic held a fundraising dinner at their home camp at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate. Attending were some special guests and sponsors including broadcaster, author and former RAF Prisoner of War John Nichol, Army Sergeant Major Gavin Patton, author and Ex-SAS soldier Phil Campion, actor Anthony Cotton, local MP Andrew Jones, five-time ocean rowing world record holder Ian Couch, Invictus Games captain and author Davis Wiseman and ABF Soldiers’ Charity Ambassador and wounded serviceman Andy Reid MBE to name a few. The event raised a whooping £12,000 for Army Benevolent Fund, The Soldiers’ Charity. The team offer a huge thank you to all those who helped to contribute to a successful evening and continue to support the campaign.
To come, now fully qualified, the crew are planning a series of gradually more demanding training rows in the North Sea – ‘if you can row there, you can row anywhere!’ Be sure to look out on social media and on our new website, www.forceatlantic.com, for our upcoming rows about the North East!