Submariners face toughest of tests

Next month will see four serving Royal Navy submariners face the remarkable mental and physical challenge of rowing unsupported in a race across the Atlantic Ocean.

The team, HMS Oardacious, will be the first ever official Royal Navy team to take part in the world’s toughest rowing race, the 3,000-mile Atlantic challenge.

They will depart from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and are aiming to reach Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua just over a month later.

The HMS Oardacious crew will  face the challenge of battling 30 foot waves, sleep deprivation, salt sores, torrential rain and every submariner’s nightmare – blistering sunshine.

The crew will operate a shift pattern, rowing two at a time for two hours and resting for two hours, 24 hours a day for over a month. They will consume ten litres of water and over 7,000 calories each every day to sustain themselves in this ultra-endurance activity, over which they are expected to row more than 1.5 million oar strokes.

The team’s participation in this herculean voyage will help to mark 50 years of unbroken service in maintaining the Continuous At Sea Deterrent – paying tribute to the human endeavour and commitment necessary to sustain this vital operation.

The platform has also given the team a voice and a platform for some fantastic charity work; working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity to provide mental health support to the submarine community, targeting serving personnel, veterans and their families, with the aim of leaving a lasting legacy of wellbeing.  The team have now raised just over £90,000 for charity and are well on track to meet their £100,000 target.

Marine Engineering Officer and expedition leader Lieutenant Hugo Mitchell-Heggs said: “Our culture as submariners seems like the perfect preparation for the challenge – whether it is knowing everything there is to know about our boat, looking out for our team mates or managing watch systems; all while contending with sleep deprivation and dealing with the emotions of leaving our loved ones… we are focused on the task ahead, and we are incredibly proud to represent the Royal Navy for the first time in this epic challenge in support of a fantastic charity and a project we truly believe in.”

Regardless of the weather, we managed to cover some significant mileage and experienced a range of weather fronts and sea conditions, preparing us well for what might come

Matty Harvey (Communications Specialist and Leading Engineering Technician)

The year has been a roller coaster of milestones for the team; their campaign has been funded by a 52 sponsors from the defence sector and other affiliates.

Weapons Engineering Officer and expedition 2I/C Lt Callum Fraser said: “We have been shown that sponsorship is more than just advertising, it is an alignment of values and the belief in a common goal.  We are incredibly grateful for all the support our sponsors have shown us over the past 12 months, not only helping fund the campaign but also the buy in to promote our story and help with charity fundraising has been great.”

The boat Oardacious is a 28ft fibreglass, self-righting Rannoch-45 Ocean rowing boat.  Weighing just over one tonne when empty, it has two six-foot cabins (one at each end) where the crew will rest in their off watch.

The team will row unsupported, meaning they need to carry everything required to get across safely. The kit list includes a vast array of technical gear for navigation, satellite communications and water production. They have three solar panels to charge their Lithium Ion batteries allowing them to produce over 50 Litres of potable water each day and also power the various navigation and safety equipment fitted.  They have packed over 1.5 million calories of food.

“The average ocean rower looses 12kg during a crossing,” says Nuclear Systems specialist, Petty Officer (ETMESM) Dylan Woods. “We have worked with the Institute of Naval Medicine to develop a calorie plan that allows us to keep our energy levels up through the day, minimise weight loss and provide boosts of moral where necessary when things get tricky.  Our daily rations include about 4,000 calories of dehydrated freeze dried meals and 3,000 calories of biltong, cereal bars, meal replacement shakes, malt loaf, nuts and ‘filth’(chocolate, sweets and snacks).”

Communications Specialist and Leading Engineering Technician Matty Harvey said: “We rowed from HMNB Clyde, the home of the submarine service, around the familiar submarine sites of Loch Long and Loch Goil where we immediately adapted to our new home and routine before heading out into the Irish sea.

You can follow their progress or donate to their charity via their website www.hmsoardacious.com or on social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - @hmsoardacious. You can also text NAVY OAR to 70500 to donate £5 automatically to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity.

Image credit: AJPMedia