British all-amputee Atlantic rowing team celebrate Christmas

Row2Recovery Team. Picture: Facebook

Row2Recovery Team. Picture: Facebook

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The first all-amputee team to take part in the world’s toughest rowing race will celebrate Christmas with tinned fruit after covering around 300 miles during the event’s first five days.

Miltary veterans Lee Spencer, Nigel Rogoff, Paddy Gallagher and Cayle Royce - aged between 29 and 56 - set off last Sunday to cross the Atlantic from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean.

The Row2Recovery crew is one of 26 teams taking part in the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which may take between 40 and 90 days depending on weather conditions.

Lance Coporal Royce, from Devon, took part in the competition two years ago after undergoing a double amputation following an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2012.

The 29-year-old is captaining the team, which is raising funds for Row2Recovery, The British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association (Blesma), Help for Heroes and the Endeavour Fund.

Fellow team member Mr Rogoff, a former RAF flight sergeant, lost his leg above the knee after being injured during a charity sky dive at Aston Villa’s home ground in 1998.

The 56-year-old, from Hereford, said: “You have to encourage injured people to stick their heads out the front door and crack on with life, which is exactly what we’re all doing.”

In a statement issued by the team on Christmas Day, Mr Rogoff said: “It’s hard going but wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t and we wish everyone a merry Christmas.

“We are eating tinned fruit and adding water to our dry food packs - there’s not much room for turkey on our rowing boat.

“We’re missing our families but looking forward to hitting Antigua in 40 or so days’ time a bit worse for wear but it’s worth it for our great charities.”

A post issued on the team’s Facebook page on day three of the row read: “The seasickness has well and truly kicked in with two members of the team struggling to eat anything since they set off.

“Their aim is to head south as quickly as they can to benefit from stronger currents.

“The conditions have also brought a new challenge where the oars are getting pushed by the force of the sea against their prosthetics sending them flying off their seats.”

Serving Royal Marine Colour Sergeant Spencer, from Yelverton in Devon, completed three operational tours of Afghanistan unscathed before losing his right leg below the knee when he was hit by flying debris after stopping to help out after a crash on the M3 in Surrey.

Speaking before he set off on the marathon row, the 46-year-old said: “I hope that we can demonstrate to people who have similar injuries that they can still continue to do extraordinary things.”

The fourth member of the team, Mr Gallagher, is a former Irish Guardsman from Cambridgeshire. He lost his right leg below the knee in an explosion in Afghansitan in 2009.

More information about the team can be found on Twitter (@row2recovery, @leglessrowers) and at Facebook.com/row2recovery

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