DENVER (CBS4) – Wednesday morning, four U.S. veterans will embark on a massive challenge. The group, known as Fight Oar Die, is taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. It 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 will carry the four-man crew as well as all their water and food for the journey.
“We’re pretty excited, yeah we kick off first thing in the morning. It’s been a long time coming, about two years in planning and it’s go time now,” said Bryant Knight, a Fight Oar Die crew member. Knight spent 22 years in the Army Special Forces and retired as a Major. He now lives in Castle Rock.
Knight says they’ve spent countless hours in the gym and on boats. He adds that the trip should take each team member about 1.5 million strokes on the oars.
“So the record for pure class boat is 33 days, naturally we want to beat that. But that’s solely dependent on the weather. If we make it in 33 days that’s going to be awesome, but if we cross in 35-40 days that will be awesome too,” he told CBS4.
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.
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 also trained 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.
“We feel like we have a responsibility, and we just want to make everyone proud,” said Knight.
More than 30 other competitors from around the world will also try to conquer the feat.