Row2Recovery have now completed three successful Atlantic rowing crossings; in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Following intense weeks of competition, the final Row2Recovery team of four was selected to take part the 2015 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, known as the world’s toughest rowing race. This marked the first time a full team of 4 amputees has taken part in this race.
The Challenge started in La Gomera in the Canary Islands, finishing n Antigua. There were 29 crews in the race but the other 28 are all able bodied.
Renowned for its tough conditions, participants typically row two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours per day. Competitors burn around 8,000 calories daily and lose roughly 20% of their body weight over the duration of the race. Alongside physical exertion, the rowers will face 40 foot waves, tropical storms, sleep deprivation, sweltering heat and the psychological challenges of living and working in a turbulent natural environment.
THE 2013/14 CREW:
1. LCPL CAYLE ROYCE MBE. The team was led by serving Light Dragoon Lance Corporal Cayle Royce, MBE. Cayle, from Devon underwent a double leg amputation and lost the fingers on his left hand following an IED blast in Helmand, Afghanistan whilst serving in the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in 2012. Cayle took part in the race as a member of the 2013/14 Row2Recovery crew
2, GDSMN PADDY GALLAGHER. Former Irish Guardsman, Paddy, lives in Cambridgeshire and lost his right leg below the knee in an IED blast in Nad E Ali, Afghanistan in 2009.
3. FLT SGT NIGEL ROGOFF. Former RAF Parachute Jump Instructor Nigel lives in Hereford and lost his leg above the knee whilst taking part in a Royal Air Force parachuting display.
4. CSGT LEE "FRANK" SPENCER. Serving Royal Marine Lee is from Yelverton. After coming through three operational tours of Afghanistan unscathed, Lee lost his right leg below the knee after being hit by flying debris as he was helping save the life of a crashed civilian motorist on the central reservation of the M3 in Surrey.
Colour Sergeant Spencer had run a few marathons before his accident but has never faced a challenge quite like this one: “I was lying in bed in Headley Court quite early on in my recovery process and couldn’t sleep. In the bed next to me was Cayle – he’d just come back from the last Row2Recovery race and was buzzing. His stories and enthusiasm fired something up in me and I just knew that this was something I wanted to do. I feel so lucky and deeply privileged to be selected to be part of the team and can’t wait to get started. I’m looking forward to seeing flying sharks and experiencing the relief and achievement of finishing”.
Lance Corporal Royce had sailed with the Army before his injury but was inspired to enter the race first time around by a fellow Royal Dragoon Captain James Kayll. “Last time the challenge was the relentless weather ñ for week after week we endured driving rain, 60ft breaking waves ñ at one point around midnight the boat capsized and I was thrown overboard. That wasn’t funny” he recollected. “But I’ve warned the crew that the biggest challenge will be the endless boredom.”
Cayle Royce explained that the race isn’t just physically rigorous it’s a mental game too: “The secret is to be patient. When the conditions are against you, wait, do nothing. When the conditions are good, work hard. As military guys working as a team is second nature to us and soldiers’ banter and good humour will get us through the tough times. We’re trained to focus on the things that matter. A happy boat is a successful boat and we are a very happy, friendly crew.”
The tri-service team was raising money for Help for Heroes, Blemsa, Prince Harry’s Endeavour Fund and Row2Recovery
On 21st January 2014 a Row2Recovery crew of two amputee soldiers, alongside two able-bodied, successfuly rowed the 3,000 miles across the Atlantic unsupported. The crew came third in the race overall, beating 13 other international teams.
THE 2013/14 CREW:
1. LCPL CAYLE ROYCE. 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. A keen outdoorsman and traveler before the injury, Royce is looking forward to getting back into the adventure game and proving what can be achieved despite sustaining life-changing injuries.
2. CPL SCOTT BLANEY. Scott suffered an above-the-knee amputation and soft-tissue injuries from a bomb whilst conducting operations in Afghanistan in 2007. Determined to live life to the full, Blaney successfully swam across the channel in 2009 and campaigns to raise the profile of injured service personnel.
3. CAPT MARK JENKINS. Mark serves with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a Physiotherapy Officer. "I am extremely proud to be part of such an amazing crew, helping to raise both funds and awareness of the challenges still faced daily by injured servicemen and women. I hope we can show what extraordinary things can be achieved despite injury and disadvantage."
4. CAPT JAMES KAYLL. James serves with the Light Dragoons: “I am immensely proud that two of my crew are attempting this row following life changing injuries suffered during operations in Afghanistan. Ocean rowing is an extraordinary activity for any able-bodied person and for Cayle and Scott, the challenge will be ten times more difficult. I am full of admiration and in complete awe of their courage and determination.”
This atlantic attempt was funded by the ENDEAVOUR FUND:
"The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry is proud to support this inspirational team and their awe inspiring Atlantic Row through The Endeavour Fund. The fund was created in 2012 and seeks to help our nation’s wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women to achieve their ambitions in the world of sporting and adventurous challenge".
In a written letter of support for the Endeavour Fund, His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales stated:
“My comrades-in-arms across the Armed Forces are fighters by definition, fighters by nature. The Endeavour Fund aims to reignite that fighting spirit, and inspire those who have served their country to go on and achieve great things.”
"This team is following in the footsteps (or indeed strokes) of the Row to Recovery team who successfully rowed the Atlantic in 2011. The charity that was created as a result of that amazing feat is also proud to be supporting this event and has donated the original boat, Sea Legs, and has gracefully renamed it Endeavour in recognition of the strong partnership with Row2Recovery and The Endeavour Fund".
In 25th January 2012, four amputee and two able-bodied British servicemen completed an epic journey, rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic from the coast of Africa to Barbados.
This near-disastrous trans-Atlantic crossing attempt captured the British public's imagination over the winter of 2011/12. They even received a satellite phone call from Prince Harry, broadcast live to a huge global audience, while in the middle of the Atlantic.
Their incredible voyage was beset with horrendous physical, mental and technical difficulties which saw the crew forced onto emergency rations for 17 days when their water purifier broke. One crew member – above-knee amputee Rory Mackenzie – spent Christmas Day extracting pieces of shrapnel from his buttock as the exertion of the gruelling challenge almost proved too much.
The crew's traumatic and incident-packed crossing generated enormous media interest, including 16 appearances on ITV News, which peaked when they arrived in Barbados, after 50 days 23 hours and 12 minutes at sea, to be greeted by a huge crowd of friends, family and well-wishers led by an emotional Sir Cliff Richard. Their arrival made the front page of The Sunday Telegraph and generated worldwide interest.
THE 2011/12 CREW:
1. CAPT ED JANVRIN. Skipper Ed Janvrin, Row2Recovery’s co-founder, served in the Royal Gurkha Rifles and did one tour of Iraq and two of Afghanistan.
2. CAPT ALEX MAKENZIE. Alex, Row2Recovery’s other co-founder, served with the Parachute Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3. LCPL CARL ANSTEY. Carl was a Sniper with the Rifles and had his femur shattered by a rocket-propelled grenade in his second tour of Afghanistan in 2009.
4. CPL RORY MACKENZIE. Rory served with the Army Medical Corps. He lost his leg in an IED blast in Iraq 2007.
5. LT WILL DIXON. Will served with the Rifles and lost his left leg below the knee in an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2009.
6. CPL NEIL HERITAGE. Neil served in the EOD Regiment of the Royal Signals. He served in Bosnia, two tours of Northern Ireland and two of Iraq. A bomb detonated by a suicide bomber in Iraq 2004 destroyed both of his legs above the knee.