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EXCLUSIVE: Interview With The Force Atlantic Team Rowers

RSS Infrastructure Ltd previously announced that they are proud to be supporting the British Armed Forces ‘Force Atlantic’ rowing team as a ‘Gold’ sponsor for the ‘Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge’, otherwise known as the ‘World’s Toughest Row’.

The Force Atlantic team are the first official British Army team to enter the event and they have the daunting task of getting the boat safely to the other side whilst overcoming a series of obstacles including; contending with the mental anguish that the ordeal will bring as a result of the solitary lifestyle whilst on board as well as sleep deprivation, salt sores, and physical extremes inflicted by the race.

We attended the Rannoch Adventure Open Day to get an exclusive interview with the team.

– Please find the transcript of the interview taken from the video below –

1. What was the motivation behind your decision to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge?

Lt. Col Richard Hall MBE:

“The motivation behind this was that we all work at the Army Foundation College, which is a unit that really enhances and brings to life an emerging career for young people that are joining the Army.

What we are trying to do is really leverage the opportunity advantage that the Army Foundation College gives, and take on some challenge that we thought is really eye catching and cutting edge to a degree, and I think the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge represents something that is quite unique, but it is also quite accessible. You don’t need a lot of knowledge of ocean sailing or ocean rowing at all, what you need is a lot of strength, determination, resilience and mental fortitude.

This is the thing that the Army is good at, it is what we sell ourselves on, so that is why we decided to choose this challenge. Having someone like Kian, who is an 18 year old member of the team, he’s still in training right now and he’s a really important member of the crew, and I think that’s what we wanted to do is to demonstrate that young people join the Army have joined something that is expeditionary in nature, that develops them, and really as an employer, that can maximise the opportunities for everyone.”


2. Could you tell us how you have prepared for the event?

Captain Chris Hames:

“Yeah sure, the preparation for the whole thing from the initial phone call from Rich saying ‘do you want to do a physical challenge?’ what do you say to that, ‘yeah of course I do’, ‘Let’s row the Atlantic?’, ‘Yeah ok!’.

Initially, you think that there are a few little bits and pieces to do, but it snowballs so quickly, the general organisation for starters, it takes up a good 80% of your day at times. There is the physical challenge and the physical preparation, and there’s the mental resilience preparation, and then there is everything else, from getting the boat, getting the team together, to team dynamics and getting sponsorship, it is absolutely immense. The key things we are featuring at the moment are the physical preparation, the mental resilience preparation and actually getting out in the boat.

Physically, it’s lots of weight training, lots of ERG rowing and as soon as we get the boat in August, we are going to be out in it whenever we can, and practising the drills in the boat like; man overboard, radio drills, eating on the boat, going the toilet on the boat, literally everything we can possibly do, that is going to put us in a good state come La Gomera.

Mentally, we’ll have big group team meetings, speaking openly and honestly to each other about how we feel, what are our worries, why are we doing the event itself, everyone’s got their own personal agenda which link in with the whole team ethos, and that is where we are at, at the moment.

We can’t wait to get on the boat in August, and of course we can’t wait to hit the start line, it is getting to the stage where it has taken up so much of our day, with trying to do our day jobs as well, that let’s get on the start line and let’s have that first day when we are out to sea, and we’ve got nothing else to worry about, apart from the four of us in the boat, looking after each other, and getting across to Antigua in good order and that is where we are at really now.”


3. What challenges do you expect to come across whilst out at sea?

Kingsman Kian Helm:

“The main challenges will be hunger, it will be quite hard to get into the routine of eating properly and keeping hydrated throughout because we will be rowing quite a lot. Another challenge is the wildlife around us, getting used to it, and the weather, the weather will be a massive one, as well as the salt sores all over our hands and body.

There are going to be quite a lot of other challenges like sea sickness, how are we going to cope with it, the row is going to be really mentally hard for us all, and trying to keep up with each other as a team, putting up with each other. It’s going to be a really good challenge for us all I think, I’m looking forward to it.”


4. How will your Military background benefit you as you journey across the Atlantic?

Lt. Marc Woolacott:

“So obviously the major training is really good at exposing you to physical and mental challenges, and as you can imagine this row with definitely be a physical and mental challenge. To be honest, the physical side, being in the Army is a given, you’re expected to be physically tough, but mentally it’s very lucky that we are exposed, I say exposed but you never get comfortable dealing with stressful situations, but at least you are exposed to them, and you are able to recognise the sort of stress picking up and have sort of practised methods if you like, to deal with those.

Things like lack of sleep, and learning how you operate when you haven’t had much sleep and still know you have got a job to do, is very useful and transferable skill for sure. I am also an Army diver, which is quite useful, so every week we will have to go underneath the boat and clean it, I think that might be me, so that’s another skill that will be useful for this.”


5. How will the sponsorship from RSS Infrastructure benefit your cause?

Captain Alexander Walsh:

“Oh enormously, so first and foremost, it’s a competition, not only competitive in terms of survival against the ocean, but competitive against other teams who are racing against us. In order to be competitive, we need to be well funded, to get the best kit, such as Rannoch’s R45 model as well as the kit we will be eating from, sleeping in and surviving with.

Not only that, RSS Infrastructure have also offer fantastic exposure within the industry and the local area to RSSI’s operations, which will give great exposure to our charity the Army Benevolent Fund who do a fantastic job in supporting both veterans and serving soldiers from the British Army.”


To find out more about the Force Atlantic, please click:

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About Auctus

Auctus Management Group offers various services to the infrastructure sector, such as Arboriculture, Civils & Construction, Geofencing, Rail Operations, Safety-Critical Resource, Signalling & Telecoms, Track Warning Services, and Welding. We can also provide specialised training for the infrastructure industry.

RSS Infrastructure, a provider of infrastructure solutions, is also a member of the group.

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