Wounded veterans cross Atlantic in open boat
By Sebastian Smith, AFP
January 26, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
ENGLISH HARBOUR, Antigua and Barbuda--You meet a lot of accomplished ocean sailors in English Harbour, Antigua. They immediately stand apart from the tourists and weekend boaters.
They're tougher-looking, perhaps, or fitter, or there's something in the easy way they coil a rope. They're different.
But never along these historic docks, or in any other harbor for that matter, are you likely to find the likes of Cayle Royce and Scott Blaney.
Their beards are the classic uniform of long-distance mariners, but their missing legs mark them as almost superhuman.
They were part of a four-man crew of British soldiers that arrived in Antigua this week after a 48-day Atlantic crossing in an open row boat, one of 16 teams taking on the challenge for various charities.
Only a year and a half ago, Lance Corporal Royce, 27, lay close to dying in Helmand, Afghanistan after losing both legs in an IED explosion.
The mine was buried in a place that appeared utterly innocent, hidden by mud from a recent, rare rain.
"Two other guys had already walked right over the place," he remembered.
A keen sailor originally from South Africa, Royce thought the blast had forever robbed him of what he cherished most — a lifelong pursuit of outdoor adventure.
"When I woke up in hospital, I thought this level of adventure sport would be impossible, that I wouldn't be invited," he told AFP, alongside his now resting rowboat.
In fact, he'd only just started struggling to master sophisticated prosthetic legs when just such an invitation came.
An army comrade suggested they enter the approximately 4,800-kilometer Talisker Whisky Challenge rowing race to raise money for the wounded veterans' charity Help for Heroes.
After minimal training on rowing machines, the crew of Row2Recovery joined the competition on their low-slung, narrow boat — open to the waves except for a tiny compartment at each end.