Thursday 29 September 2016

Celebrity backing for rowing team undertaking longest Atlantic route

Published 07/03/2016 | 15:16

Team Essence of, left to right, Ross Johnson, Mathew Bennett, Oliver Bailey, Jason Fox and Aldo Kane (Team Essence /PA Wire)
Team Essence of, left to right, Ross Johnson, Mathew Bennett, Oliver Bailey, Jason Fox and Aldo Kane (Team Essence /PA Wire)

Celebrities have thrown their support behind the star of a popular Channel 4 TV show currently undertaking a world record-breaking Atlantic Ocean row.

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Jason Fox of SAS: Who Dares Wins - along with Mathew Bennett, Ross Johnson, Oliver Bailey and Aldo Kane - set off on their 3,807 mile journey from Lagos in Portugal last month.

Rowing the longest route across the pond to Venezuela, so far they have been battered by numerous harsh weather systems, 30ft waves, strong winds, have lost equipment and survived three capsizes.

They are trying to break the current world record of 52 days for that route, by rowing two hours on two hours off 24 hours a day and completely unsupported - raising £250,000 for the NSPCC in the process.

Due to the conditions, the crew - aged between 37 and 39 - have had to battle, captain Mathew said - adding that coming in under their 50 day target will be a "mammoth task."

"That said, I truly believe in this team and given a window of opportunity by Mother Nature we'll do our very best to make up that time," he added.

Seven years in the planning, the 37-year-old said he became "hooked" on the idea of rowing the Atlantic when it was described as one of the world's toughest endurance events.

Mathew said the team originally looked at the traditional race crossing between the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, but that in their view it was a "huge shortcut" so decided on this route which is 500 miles longer.

"Convincing the three former Royal Marines on the team was easy. As soon as I asked they immediately said yes, Oliver took a little more persuasion, but a dinner and copious amounts of good wine soon changed his mind," he added.

Former special forces operative, Jason Fox, 39 - who appeared as one of the instructor's on the popular series last year, said it was important for him to get involved for two reasons.

He said: "The first being that I am always needing to challenge myself both physically and mentally - it is something I have done for 20 years and keeps my mind focused and alive.

"Secondly, I have children and feel strongly about them keeping their innocence and growing up safely. Especially since, on my travels, seeing children suffer terribly hits me hard and bothers me a lot."

He added: "I feel fortunate and glad to be on this expedition and I am proud to be doing it in aid of the NSPCC and alongside such amazing guys."

Recently passing the halfway point, the five men, who have no previous rowing experience and range in height from 5ft 8 to 6ft 5, have spent more than four weeks at sea on the 8.5 metre long and 1.2 metre wide boat.

So far, there have been a number of familiar faces throwing their support behind the crew.

Good Morning Britain presenter and journalist, Susanna Reid, tweeted: "Sending huge support and motivation to @teamessencerow taking on the toughest challenges the Atlantic throws at them."

Adventurer Bear Grylls also posted: "Good luck guys! Much respect. Commando ethos shining bright."

And while out in the mid-Atlantic, at points, the closest human being to them will be Major Tim Peake in the International Space Station.

Last month, the astronaut tweeted: "Good luck to the boys in the boat below. Time to grab an oar and be counted, @teamessencerow - the biggest test of your lives starts today."

Actor Ross Kemp has also tweeted his support, as well as former Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie and Olympic rower Helen Glover.

To make a donation to Team Essence visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/teamessence

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