Intrepid ocean rowers from The Royal Yorkshire Regiment have overcome fierce storms and 40ft waves to complete an epic 2800-mile row across the Pacific Ocean.
Described as the World’s Toughest Row, they began their journey in Monterey Harbour in California at the start of the Atlantic Campaigns ‘Pacific Challenge’ and finished 35 days later in Kauai, known as the ‘Garden Isle’ of Hawaii.
When I heard about it (the challenge) I just knew I had to do it. I mentioned it to the rest of the guys, and they were all up for it MAJOR SIMON FARLEY, THE ROYAL YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
The four-man crew that consisted of Major Simon Farley and Captains Chris Bailey, Chris Barnes and Samuel Morris were met at the finish line by their ecstatic families before enjoying a freshly cooked meal and a hot shower.
Captain Chris Bailey said: “I will never forget the moment we saw the outline of Kauai. We were all on deck celebrating. We were very lucky to have our families their waiting for us. There were long awaited hugs and a few tears shed.”
To reach the finish, the men rowed in pairs for two hours at a time, rowing an average of 70-miles each day. When they were not rowing, they were sleeping, filling out the logbooks or conducting equipment checks. They also documented their journey on social media where they spoke of their highs and lows.
The crew were strapped to the boat with harnesses and were monitored 24/7 by the organisers for their safety, but apart from that they were unassisted.
It was Major Simon Farley’s love for adventure and challenges that led the team to the start line. He said: “When I heard about it [the challenge] I just knew I had to do it. I mentioned it to the rest of the guys, and they were all up for it.”
The first two weeks were brutal. We had poor weather off the coast of California and the head and side winds were just relentless Captain Chris Bailey, The Royal Yorkshire Regiment
Preparation for the journey was intense with training sessions on both land and water. They rowed on rowing machines up to four times a week and did weight and cross-training to ensure they were at the peak of their fitness when setting off.
Captain Chris Bailey said: “The first two weeks were brutal. We had poor weather off the coast of California and the head and side winds were just relentless."
“40ft waves were a regular occurrence. Rowing at night was quite an experience. Unable to see the waves and then just hearing them crash onto the boat unlocked a new fear in all of us. Both myself and Si (Simon Farley) were washed off the oars one night and we suddenly felt very powerless against the ocean.”
“We constantly had to manage our course to ensure we didn’t roll sideways."
“We came close to capsizing due to the large waves breaking on the beam of the boat, but Si, (Skipper), kept us upright.”
Chris continued: “When we checked our tracking app, we saw that the treacherous weather had slowed us down. It said we were scheduled to take 65-days, which was nearly double the time for which we had planned. It was hard to deal with and we were very grateful when we finally managed to use the wind to our advantage.”
For the duration of the race, home was a 7.5-metre-long (24ft) carbon fibre rowing boat fitted with two cabins. Measuring 1.219 metres (4ft) at its widest point, it was equipped with everything they needed to survive the journey unsupported, including food, safety equipment and a first aid kit.
I joined the Army in 2002 because I wanted to be an infantry soldier - that was my sole focus. However, once you join up you realise there is so much more you can do. If as a young 17-year-old from Rotherham, you’d told me that I would end up being an Army Officer who rowed across the Pacific Ocean, I would never have believed you Captain Chris Barnes, The Royal Yorkshire Regiment
Keeping the team company along the way was an abundance of large marine life including dolphins, humpback and minke whales. They also had a curious bronze whaler shark and a large black marlin that hung around the boat for a short while.
“Probably the most amazing part of the trip was seeing the sky at night with no ambient light,” said Captain Chris Bailey who is currently based in Kenya. “We have some special skies in Kenya. However, an African sky is truly trumped by the sky in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no light pollution the Milky Way was so bright it felt like daylight.”
Captain Chris Barnes, who was the onboard navigator and water-maker, said: “I joined the Army in 2002 because I wanted to be an infantry soldier - that was my sole focus. However, once you join up you realise there is so much more you can do. If as a young 17-year-old from Rotherham, you’d told me that I would end up being an Army Officer who rowed across the Pacific Ocean, I would never have believed you.”
The rowing challenge saw the team raise £26,000 for three charities that mean a lot to them - Young Minds, Give Them A Sporting Chance and St Michaels Hospice in Hereford.
The Royal Yorkshire Regiment now holds the honour of being the only Regiment in the British Army to have crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In 2006, four fellow members of the Regiment spent 76 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean.