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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 June 2006, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Commandos in Atlantic rowing test
(L-R) Ben Fouracre, Charlie Martell, Pete Rowlands, Mark Waterson, and team reserve, Steve Clewley.
The team will be rowing 60 miles a day
An Army commando from north Wales is beginning a rowing challenge across the Atlantic ocean with three crew.

The four, known as Team Hesco, are taking part in the Ocean Fours Atlantic Rowing Challenge leaving New York.

They hope to row the 3,118 miles to Falmouth in Cornwall and break a 55-day record which has stood for 110 years.

The team is raising money for the Meningitis Trust which helped Pete Rowlands, 46, originally from Mynydd Isa near Mold, after his son's death.

"It won't be easy, it won't be comfortable, and there'll be times when all we'll want is a beer, a hot bath, and probably a decent stretch of the legs," said Major Rowlands about the two-month journey.

"In order to cover the distance we'll be rowing at least 60 miles every day of the journey, in two-man shifts each lasting two hours.

Major Pete Rowlands
Words can't explain...the loss of a 16-year-old son
Pete Rowlands

"Sleep deprivation, mental and physical exhaustion and severe blisters will be our biggest enemies, but to anyone who's served as a commando, such things are routine.

Team Hesco is made up of Mark Waterson, 46, of Long Riston, Yorkshire, Charlie Martell, 26, of Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and Ben Fouracre, 26, of Chivenor, Devon.

They aim - in their 29ft (8.83m) rowing boat Team Spirit - to beat the time record set by two Norwegian fishermen in 1896.

Last year Olympic rower James Cracknell and TV presenter Ben Fogle rowed the other way across the Atlantic, but the west to east route is regarded as tougher.

Team Hesco was set up in 2003, after the sudden death of Maj Rowlands' son Gareth, from meningitis.


"Words can't explain... the loss of a 16-year-old son," said the officer.

"You can expect to bury your parents - you don't expect your children to go before you."

He said the only indication that anything was wrong with Gareth, who was away at boarding school, was that he complained of a headache the day before he died.

"He represented north Derbyshire at cross country, he was the skipper of the school's seconds side, he'd been on a rugby tour of South Africa, and three weeks before his death [he] returned from Colorado from a two-weeks skiing trip.

"We always planned as a team rowing an ocean, but obviously tragically Gareth died so we switched our focus to the Meningitis Trust."

Rowing naked

The Atlantic crossing is the second of three "extreme" challenges being undertaken by the team to fundraise.

In 2005, they skied 320 miles (515km) to the Magnetic North Pole in a record-breaking nine days, 17 hours and 39 minutes.

And next year a gruelling race through one of the world's great deserts is planned.

Three other teams will be competing in the Atlantic race - two English and one American.

Maj Rowlands added: "The big question everyone asks, having seen Fogle and Cracknell, is 'Will you be rowing naked?'

"Fortunately for us, the answer's no, the north Atlantic is simply too cold!"

Rowers close in on record
24 Feb 04 |  Devon

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