Force Atlantic

Date: Monday May 27, 2019 at 11:30am

Back in November 2018, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hall MBE, the Commanding Officer of the Army Foundation College at Harrogate, proposed to a few of his troops, an opportunity like few others – to row the Atlantic Ocean.

A project that stems from the ambition to bolster the Army’s floundering 2018 recruitment campaign, FORCE ATLANTIC has developed from an initiative to demonstrate to the wider public and those considering leaving the services, the breadth of opportunity available to those in the British Army – regardless of age, time served, background or life experience.

The four soldiers to take on the mantle of FORCE ATLANTIC are Lt Col Richard Hall himself (The Yorkshire Regiment), Captain Alexander Walsh (The Royal Lancers, Queen Elizabeths’ Own) and Captain Chris Hames (Royal Army Physical Training Corps). The final member of the crew is18 year old, Kingsman Kian Helm; a Private soldier who, having just left AFC Harrogate, is still in training at the Infantry Training Center in Catterick, ahead of posting to the Duke of Lancashire’s Regiment. In January 2020, when the crew complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, he will be the 3rd youngest person ever, and the youngest member of any Armed Force to complete the challenge.  

   

The challenge consists of a grueling 3000 mile row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, to Antigua. The crew will face up against; the ferocious elements, degradation of the body to salt sores and the endless repetition of rowing action, and most importantly the degradation of the mind, through being trapped on a 9m by 2m vessel with 3 other people for 40+ days and nights, rowing 2 hours on and 2 hours off until landfall.

With the crew being complete they have moved quickly to get themselves as prepared as possible for the challenge ahead. Physical training is the easy part, (and the crew are under no illusions that is not set to be grueling!). Rather, passing the formal qualifications required to enter the race, the coordination of the crew and training across the busy work schedules of the crew members, and the considerable fundraising effort required just to get in an eligible position to compete which takes the most time and effort. Captain Walsh openly admits to preferring a grueling training session to another spreadsheet!

Force Atlantic made the first trip to their chosen boat builders, Rannoch Adventure, shortly before Christmas. Rannoch represent the current class leading boats in ocean rowing with every winner of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge since 2012, and every standing trans-Atlantic rowing World Record being set in one of their boats. The R45 model Force Atlantic will be chartering, features a sleek hull design, with a shallow draft and ‘accommodation’ for 4. The GPS, AIS and auto-helm systems are all built in to ensure the guys can be seen at sea and to know where they are going. Getting familiarized with these will be a priority for Lt Col Hall and the crew.

Early in the New Year, Force Atlantic headed down to the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre (JSASTC) in Gosport, where they began to knock off a few of their Royal Yachting Association (RYA) backed courses - Sea First Aid and Short Range Radio (VHF), with Sea Survival and Essential Ocean Navigation to complete in the next few months closer to the event. The fantastic military and civilian staff at JSASTC put the crew through their paces, brushing up their basic skills. Force Atlantic followed these basic courses by testing their seamanship with a RYA Competent Crew Course. The guys spent a week, on a beautiful 72’ Challenge yacht, one of two the JSASTC own, getting to grips with the reality of life at sea.

    

Sailing between Gosport, Cowes and Cherbourg in France over a particularly rough 5 days on the channel, the crew experienced a little of what the Atlantic will throw at them. Kian discovered his penchant for ejecting his breakfast overboard in rough waves, Chris and Alex were treated to some food poisoning, and Rich discovered the difficulties of sleeping at sea, being thrown from his bunk on an hourly basis in the heavy weather!

One thing that has been going well for the crew is the fundraising. Force Atlantic has been delighted and privileged to be supported by some fantastic companies, who have really got behind the campaign and are helping to push the crew to the start line in La Gomera! Special mention goes to RSS Infrastructure, David Lloyd Harrogate, Morson and Capita.

Among events the crew are looking forward to, the team are booked in for their first official row in the boat, training rows in the North Sea and fundraising appearances at the Great Yorkshire Show, Armed Forces Day in Leeds, and some secret pop-up events, so watch this space!

Force Atlantic are holding a fundraising dinner night on Saturday 18th May with a cohort of friends, family and celebrity guests! If you should wish to support the campaign please visit forceatlantic.com for more information and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @forceatlantic.

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