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Morson sponsored Force Atlantic embark on epic 3,000 mile race

James Kenealey rowing

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  • Morson sponsored Force Atlantic embark on their 3,000 mile race across the Atlantic to Antigua 

  • Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes throughout the course of the journey

  • 30 teams are participating from around the world

Morson are proud to be the prime sponsor of the British Army’s Force Atlantic team in the Atlantic Challenge rowing race who start their epic row from the Canary Islands today! The premier event in ocean rowing, the Atlantic Challenge is a 3,000 mile row from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda. The race takes place annually, with 30 teams participating from around the world.

Morson’s inspiration for sponsorship of the Atlantic Challenge was two-fold.

“Firstly, the company have a long track record of sponsoring athletes in various sports but until now, not rowing. Secondly and crucially, the commander of the Force Atlantic team, Lieutenant Colonel Rich Hall MBE, is the Commanding Officer of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, the only Junior Entry Phrase 1 training establishment in the British Army.”

The college provides long-term educational opportunities for young people from a variety of backgrounds, providing personal development and equipping them with leadership skills to succeed in life, either within or beyond the military.

“This provides a diverse talent pool for the Army to draw from. Ultimately, this in turn improves the quality of our Morson Forces contractor base when those from the College leave the military and are looking for their next career move.”

The Row

Alongside the commander Lieutenant Colonel Rich Hall, the team consists of Captain Alex Walsh, Captain Chris Hames and the youngest of the team and a recent College Junior Solider graduate, Private Kian Helm. Captain Chris Hames, whose 30 years in the army includes 20 years with the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, spoke about the make-up of the diverse team and the race ahead.

“The rank and age gap haven't been without issue. It's taken time for us to get to know each other, understand our strengths and areas where we need to support each other. There's a healthy respect for each other's experience and simply no other words needed.”

To successfully complete the voyage in good time, the crew must be able to work together and harness each other’s skills and traits.

“We all have our strengths which will help us massively. Kian is a great joker and keeps morale high. Skipper Rich is excellent at taking everything in and suggesting perfect plans and while I have a knack of problem solving when needed, Alex tempers my ‘just do it’ approach with analytical thinking.”

The crew have been training hard to prepare for this huge undertaking.

“The training has been both physically and mentally challenging, as you would expect.  We have been concentrating on core, posterior chain exercises and of course rowing, both long steady distance and benchmark setting. The hardest benchmark setting to date is 90 minutes full effort on an indoor rower. That’s enough to put most people off!”

As well as physical sessions on dry land, the team have to spend time out on the boat to get used to the conditions in which they will be working. Among the many dangers on the route, including 20ft waves, the team battle against the physical extremes faced by participating in such a long and strenuous challenge like salt sores and sleep deprivation.

“Easily the toughest actual session so far was our recent three-day trip out in the boat. We went through all the drills as we will in real time and our return leg saw us fighting the tide and wind. It was hard and painful. It was the crew spending in excess of five hours constantly rowing and was absolutely what we needed to really test us.”

It is estimated that each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes throughout the course of the journey.

The team rely on a desalination device on board the boat to purify sea water for drinking. It’s estimated that each of the three crew members will burn between 5,000 and 10,000 calories a day, and so the dehydrated rations on board are high in calorific content, if low on taste.

“They’re not too bad but they’ll quickly become boring. We do have snacks to dip into to break up the monotony of the rations.”

For around six weeks, the three-man crew will live a life of strict and tiring routine – two hours rowing, two hours off, 24 hours a day.

“It’s very tough but it’s something that we will adjust to. We’ll probably manage six hours sleep per day because certainly some of our two hours off will involve personal and boat maintenance.”

Over €6 million has been raised for charity over the course of the last four races, but the members of the crew are all driven to make the row a huge success for other reasons.

“We all have our own personal agenda, but more importantly we have a collective objective. As well as our key objective to raise money for The Soldier’s Charity, we want to show the Army as a professional organisation who have the best build up and delivery of all the teams.”

Tied into this message is one about the value of ex-forces veterans in the world beyond the military, as Chris reflects.

“Often, serving personnel may not see the value they hold to employers - simply by being disciplined enough to turn up to work on time and work hard. Also, often if veterans are leaving the services young, having a mortgage and paying bills are alien concepts and will be a real shock. Every bit of help provided is gold dust and in particular Morson's help in the transition process provides that comfort blanket and ensures individuals are not alone in realising their worth as they transition into civilian life.”

As for what happens when the Force Atlantic team transition across the ocean and finally reaches Antigua:

“I can't speak for the whole team but I suspect I will simply want to walk on the land, have space to move, a beer… oh and sleep!”

We wish the team good luck and a safe and speedy journey! We'll be posting regular updates on their progress so come back to the blog for the latest info.
Follow the race live!