By Laura Phillips
DENVER (CBS4) – Four U.S. veterans are about to embark on a massive challenge. Researchers from the University of Denver will be there documenting the whole thing.
The group, known as Fight Oar Die, is taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge which means they will row 3,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic in a 28 foot boat.
The boat is called “Woobie” and was built in Port Townsend, Washington. It’ll carry the four-man crew as well as all their water and food for the journey.
No U.S. Veteran team has performed this challenge before and the team is doing it in an effort to raise awareness for mental health challenges.
“If we can do it, if we can get across an ocean in a row boat then you can do anything,” said Bryant Knight, a Fight Oar Die crew member. “That’s the message that we want to be able to put out.”
Knight spent 22 years in the Army Special Forces and retired as a Major. He now lives in Castle Rock.
“Everyone of us had a fellow veteran, a friend that we served with that had issues reintegrating into civilian life once they got out or they took their lives,” said Knight. “You hear so many stories from our vets that they experience this sense of hopelessness and they experience this sense of ‘there’s nothing else that I can do.’ And what we’re saying here at Fight Oar Die is absolutely there is something that you can do you. You just have to put your mind to it.”
Dr. Jacob Hyde is also a combat veteran. He’s now an assistant professor at the University of Denver and is helping the Fight Oar Die team train for the 35-to-50 day journey. He’ll use a satellite phone to communicate with the team during the race and study how they adapt to the extreme environment.
“One of the biggest things I’m looking at is what happens to their cognition as they become more and more sleep deprived,” Hyde said. “They’ll be rowing for two hours and sleeping for two hours and for up to 50 days. We’re really wanting to better understand what happens to the brain and decision making over that amount of time.”
Hyde hopes a better understanding of the body’s response to stress will help them develop better training for troops before they deploy.
“We want to really be able to prepare people up front, help prepare them for missions like this so that they have positive outcomes afterwards,” Hyde said.
Because the team is based Colorado, a landlocked state, Knight compares them to the Jamaican bobsled team. They’ve mostly been training in the gym using Concept2 rowers, but on Tuesday they leave for Alabama to train in the Gulf of Mexico.
The journey begins Dec. 12 in Spain’s Canary Islands, and they’re planning to row all the way to Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean.
More than 30 other competitors from around the world will also try to conquer the feat.
Fight Oar Die is a Colorado-based nonprofit and they still need funding for this challenge. You can donate through the link on http://usvetrow.org/.
Laura Phillips produces CBS4 News at 10 and various special projects. She has been producing news in Denver since 2006. Follow her on Twitter @LA_Phillips.