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Injured British soldiers set for trans-Atlantic row
by Staff Writers
La Gomera, Spain (AFP) Dec 4, 2011

Four British servicemen who were seriously injured in Iraq or Afghanistan are set to depart Monday on a gruelling trans-Atlantic rowing challenge.

They are part of a six-man team that intends to make the roughly 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometre) trip from the Spanish island of La Gomera in the Canaries to the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The voyage, dubbed "Row2Recovery", had originally been scheduled to get under way Sunday at 12:30 pm (1230 GMT) but it was put off for 24 hours due to high winds.

Two of the team members had one of their legs amputated, one needed a double above-knee amputation while the fourth was left with his right leg shorter than the other following surgery for a severed nerve and needs a leg brace to walk.

The remaining two team members had not sustained injuries.

"We are hoping that what we are doing can inspire other servicemen and their families who have gone through similar or worse experiences," Row2Recovery spokesman Sam Peters said.

The team hopes to raise over 1 million pounds ($1.6 million, 1.16 million euros) for three charities supporting wounded servicemen. They have already collected over 600,000 pounds in pledges.

They face myriad challenges: battling towering waves and driving rain during storms, navigating around huge cargo ships and sharks, and trying to make sure the small boat does not capsize in choppy waters.

The team members will alternate between two-hours of rowing and rest periods of the same duration and the trip is expected to last between 50-60 days, depending on weather conditions.

They are expected to lose 25 percent of their body weight during the voyage.

"It is impossible for them not to lose weight, they will be using 9,000 calories per day," said Peters, who added sleep deprivation and the repetition of their daily routine would be other major challenges.

The arms and torso do much of the work in rowing but the legs also play a vital role, pushing down on the floor of the boat to anchor the rower and channeling energy to the upper body.

"There is definitely an aspect of proving to myself and others that there is a life beyond injuries -- and not an ordinary life but a pretty spectacular life," one of the team members, British army lieutenant Will Dixon, 27, said last week.

Dixon lost his left leg below the knee in a 2009 bomb blast in Afghanistan.

The team's progress can be followed on their website www.row2recovery.com.

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