British Army team set to take on 'world's toughest row' across the Atlantic finish their training at Thorney Island

AN INTREPID squad of soldiers are readying themselves to take on the ‘world’s toughest row’ across 3,000 miles of the Atlantic ocean.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 9:13 pm

The ‘Force Atlantic’ team of four physical training instructors will venture from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour on Antigua in December as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Challenge.

Made up of Captain Scott Pollock, Warrant Officer Class 1 Victoria Blackburn, Staff Sergeant Phillip Welch and Sergeant Laura Barrigan, the team will row in shifts of two hours on and two hours off, 24 hours a day for more than a month.

And this week, the ‘oarsome’ foursome have been completing final stint of training and preparations at Baker Barracks, on Thorney Island, before their boat is shipped off to the start line.

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Instructors from the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, Captain Scott Pollock (standing), Staff Sergeant Phillip Welch (left), Warrant Officer Class 1 Victoria Blackburn (second left) and Sergeant Laura Barrigan, in training at Thorney Island near Chichester ahead of their attempt to row the Atlantic Ocean competing as the Force Atlantic 21 team in the Talisker Whisky Challenge. Picture date: Wednesday October 13, 2021.

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The epic challenge will see the crew consume about a million calories between them and completing more than 1.5 million oar strokes on their 28ft boat.

Captain Pollock, who is the team’s skipper, said the event would be a monumental task after 18 months of training.

The 39-year-old from Telford, who has been in the army for 23 years, said: ‘We feel excited. We have done everything right. We just want to get out there now and do it.’

Instructors from the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, Captain Scott Pollock (standing), Staff Sergeant Phillip Welch (left), Warrant Officer Class 1 Victoria Blackburn (second left) and Sergeant Laura Barrigan, in training at Thorney Island near Chichester ahead of their attempt to row the Atlantic Ocean competing as the Force Atlantic 21 team in the Talisker Whisky Challenge. Picture date: Wednesday October 13, 2021.

Force Atlantic hopes to set a record-breaking time for the fastest mixed team to complete the epic voyage.

‘The record is at 42 days – we want to do it in 40, that’s our aspiration,’ added Capt Pollock. ‘But we’re also not naive enough to know that we don’t control this, the weather does.’

The risk of storms and rogue waves capsizing the boat are the number one concern for the team, who will be unsupported during their odyssey.

Conditions inside the boat will also be a challenge, with limited sleeping space for the crew.

Left to right: Captain Scott Pollock, Sergeant Laura Barrigan, Warrant Officer 1 Victoria Blackburn, and Staff Sergeant Phil Welch who are taking on the challenge to raise money for the Royal British Legion in its centenary year.

Super-fit 39-year-old WO1 Blackburn, who is an instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, said: ‘This is absolutely the most challenging thing I have ever done.

‘But we’re all ready to go. It’s been a long 18 months to get us to where we are today. I’m not nervous or apprehensive.’

SSgt Welch, 37, said the ‘magnitude’ of the challenge ahead was ‘just starting to hit’.

‘I’m getting a little bit anxious now because obviously things are starting to ramp up,’ he said. ‘But I think once we get off that plane onto Gomera, the pressure will be off… But it’s going to be immense. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.’

Sgt Barrigan, 29, of Aldershot, added: ‘I’m excited about it. I just want to go. I can’t wait to get across the line. It’s going to be incredible.’

The team will set off on December 12. They will be raising cash for forces charity the Royal British Legion.

To support them see forceatlantic.com

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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