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The HMS Ordacious rowers take to the water for the first time outside HMS Neptune Sailing Centre at HM Naval Base Clyde.  The five (four rowers and stand-by rower Lt Cdr Griffiths) head-off on their adventure.

By Gavin Carr

A team of four Royal Navy submariners launched an intrepid bid to row the Atlantic Ocean when they took to the water at HM Naval Base Clyde.

The hardy submariners – who have named themselves HMS Oardacious – have been preparing for the expedition for the past nine months, getting themselves in peak physical and mental shape for the epic challenge.

On Wednesday, July 31, the team finally sailed their 1.5 ton Rannoch R45 boat, which will be their home during the month-long voyage, launching it at HM Naval Base Clyde, the Home of the UK Submarine Service.

“Up to now we have been concentrating on brushing-up on our seamanship skills, conducting Royal Yachting Association training, survival courses and first-aid,” said Lieutenant Hugo Mitchell-Heggs who will be participating in the challenge.

“We have also been bulking-up, using the rowing machine for as long as possible each day and power-lifting and lifting weights.  Recovery is also important and so we’ve been introduced to yoga which has really helped.”

Over the next few days the submariners will test the boat’s capabilities, eating and sleeping in the craft as they make their way around the myriad sea lochs on the West Coast of Scotland.

“During the first day we plan to row one-hour on and one-hour off before mooring overnight at Loch Long,” continued Hugo.  “The next day we intend to row for between 12-16 hours and then we will begin rowing non-stop in two-hour shifts.”

The Talisker Whisky Challenge is the world’s toughest unsupported rowing race.  Setting off from the Canary Islands, the participants will row some 3,000 miles to the finish point at Antigua’s Nelson’s Dockyard.

The Royal Navy rowers – Lieutenant Hugo Mitchell-Heggs, Lieutenant Callum Fraser, Petty Officer Dylan Woods, Able Rate Matty Harvey and Lieutenant Commander Gareth Grifiths as stand-by rower – will take it in turns, rowing for two hours and sleeping for two hours, 24-hours a day for around a month.

“Being Royal Navy submariners will give us an advantage,” explained Hugo.  “When we are on patrol we work six-hour shifts constantly for sometimes months at a time.  We are used to being shook awake in the night and having to get up to deal with an issue.  It’s our natural element.  The personality of the submariner – going from laughter one minute to ‘business time’ the next – will be really helpful.”

Such are the physical demands of the challenge that rowers typically lose 12kg in the Atlantic crossing, burning in excess of 5,000 calories a day.

Luckily the team have had help from Royal Navy colleagues.  Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor (POPTI) Samuel Sims has been boosting their fitness, while The Institute of Naval Medicine has provided a nutrition plan.  Three-times Olympic Rowing Gold Medallist Lieutenant Commander Peter Reed OBE has also been on hand to give the team a series of mental resilience workshops.

The challenge will get underway in December this year with HMS Oardacious hoping to raise over £100,000.  The money will be donated to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNMC) to help develop a project supporting mental health and resilience in the Submarine Service.

For more information on HMS Oardacious’ bid to row the Atlantic Ocean and to learn how you can help, visit their web page at:

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