Row2Recovery make it into the history books as the first all amputee crew to row the Atlantic
Blesma's Row2Recovery Atlantic mission ended in glory when its four man crew set a world record as the first British all amputee crew to row across an ocean.
The group, who set off from the Canary Islands on 20 December 2015, took 47 days to complete the 3,000-mile row to Antigua. Skipper Cayle Royce, along with Paddy Gallagher, Lee Spencer and Nigel Rogoff were met by a huge crowd at Antigua’s English Harbour, and were given a military salute by soldiers from the local Army as they finally reached land.
“Rowing into harbour was the most incredible experience of my life,” said Royal Marine Colour Sergeant Lee Spencer. “For 46 days, we had to deal with sensory deprivation. All we saw was sea and sky. To then suddenly hear all that noise was completely overwhelming. I was humbled by the number of people who had taken time to support and follow us.”
The challenge was the third of its kind, but the first to involve a crew made up entirely of amputees. The Row2Recovery crew, who are all Blesma Members, rowed around the clock in pairs, with each duo taking two-hour shifts. Skipper Cayle Royce, who had been part of the previous challenge in 2014, tells us how this expedition presented new challenges.
The Talisker Challenge - described as "the world's toughest row" - got off to a difficult start, with severe sea sickness hitting the team.
“They were two totally different rows. Last time, the conditions were horrific. This time, a couple of storms put us on anchor for a few days, but generally it was easier in terms of the weather,” he said. “What was tougher was the fact that we’re all amputees. We ran the boat differently and had to allow for more time getting around. It’d often be a 10-minute epic just to get from one side of the boat to the other. That chewed into our rest time!”
The row in numbers
- 2.1 million total calories burned per man
- 43,200 minutes row per man
- 1,500 freeze dried meals eaten
- 20% bodyweight lost over the duration of the row
- 3,000 total miles rowed
- 1.4 million oar strokes pulled
- 29 the length of the boat in feet (it was also 6 feet wide)
Lee admitted that he faced self-doubt as the crew set off. “The start was very hard for me,” he said. “The enormity of what I’d said yes to kicked in. I’ve been in the Marines for 24 years, and my biggest fear has always been letting my team down. We were so busy in the build-up to the row that I didn’t really have time to think about it and then, all of a sudden, we were at sea! “But my confidence soon came back. I stopped thinking about rowing across the entire Atlantic Ocean, and broke it down into manageable chunks.”
Row2Recovery might be the charity’s final Atlantic crossing (they’ve raised more than £61,000 so far, which will be split between a number of charities, including Blesma) but the crew are already looking towards their next challenge.
Meet The Team
LCpl Cayle Royce: Skipper Cayle was wounded in Afghanistan in May 2012 whilst serving as a sharpshooter with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force after he stepped on an explosive device. This resulted in above-the-knee amputation of both legs, facial scarring, multiple amputations to the fingers of his left hand and neck trauma.
Guardsman Paddy Gallagher: Paddy served with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. He lost his right leg below the knee in Afganistan in 2009. He has a lot of sailing experience - more than 12,000 miles of offshore sailing.
Colour Sergeant Lee Spencer: Lee is serving in the Royal Marines. He lost his leg in 2014 after he stopped to help at a road traffic accident. He had finished helping people in the crash and was about to walk along the hard shoulder to warn oncoming traffic when another car hit the initial crash and the gearbox took his leg off.
Flight Sergeant Nigel Rogoff: Nigel served as a parachute instructor and PTI in the RAF. He lost his leg after a parachuting accident in 1998. Having only rowed on the Serpentine he is looking forward to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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Row2Recovery Introduction video https://youtu.be/et8Ww3bWBEw