Heroes Challenge UK team row out of Campbeltown for Ireland with Kintyre Express in support

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[Update below 21.15] Before most folk were out of their beds this Saturday morning , 25th May, the Heroes Challenge UK‘s endurance team – composed of serving, retired and injured members of the armed services and colleagues in South Wales Police – were in their celtic longboat and on their way out of Campbeltown Loch under muscle power.

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They’re headed for Glenarm on the County Antrim north west coast of Ireland, with their own support boats and Campbeltown’s fast passenger ferry and charters service, Kintyre Express, voluntarily acting as Mother Ship for the effort.

Above, at 7.00am, waiting for the team at the pontoon in Campbeltown Harbour – and photographed by Neil Brown who with Mairi Johnston of Kintyre Express, was also there – are the Kintyre Express team of Haydn Chambers [centre], Kintyre Express’s senior skipper, Jerry Craig [right], cousin of Colin Craig, MD of parent company, Craig of Campbeltown and of its subsidiaries, Kintyre Express and West Coast Motors; and crewman, Bruce Strang.

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Then they’re there, on the pontoon – at least two with prosthetic legs resulting from injuries in service. The two Kintyre Express boats nuzzle the pontoon like a pair of impatient dolphins with a sniff of imminent action.

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Campbeltown harbour is getting plenty of attention – and well it might, with its marriage of the marina [thankfully to be extended] at the pontoons and the great jetties of what has long been a working harbour, for ferries, fishing and cargo boats. The harbour now also has a dredged deep-water berth for boats to ship out completed wind tower sections from the nearby manufacturing facility at Machrihanish.

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Kintyre Express has typically, delivered its very best to support this tough physical challenge – KE IV, above, is the newest boat in its strategically young fleet, launched only very recently. Like her nearest sister, KE III, she has an extended stern deck for observation, bicycles, filming and photography – and it’s being well used by the team today.

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All of the guys in these photographs are either rowers or support crew. They have three teams of four rowers, so four started on the boat, with the rest on Kintyre Express. The plan was to change the rowers every hour on the way across the channel.

Above left is what photographer Neil Brown has called ‘the Titanic Shot’ with one of the rowing crew on the bow of KE IV. On the right is the Cariad y Mor [which we think means 'dearest and more' - but stand to be corrected], waiting for her human engines and looking tiny for the mighty North Channel. Even on a windless day, the Channel has a marked lump from the long Atlantic fetch.

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On the way, pulling strongly through the very calm waters of Campbeltown Loch, with the north shore on the far side, they will know that it’s not going to be like this after they get out into Kibrannan Sound and turn south for Sanda Island and the North Channel.

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Above was the team’s own support boat, waiting to fall into escort position off Askomil.

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With KE IV is close contact, the rowers start to pull away from habitation on the lochside and head for Macringans Point on the way out of the loch.

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Jerry Craig, left above, seen here earlier with the Challenge crew, is freeing Haydn Chambers to support the row by skippering KEIII today on her normal scheduled service from Campbeltown to Ballycastle on the north coast of Ireland. Jerry reported later that, on his way, he had passed the Cariad y Mor inside Sanda Island and that the crew were pulling well.

They had left Sanda astern by midday and will be in to Glenarm by now [15.30] – and on their way to climb Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Sleive Donard. Tomorrow morning [26th May] they row back across the Irish Sea to Portpatrick in Galloway. The celebrated Olymian, rower, Alan Campbell, commented on our earlier story that he is planning to rendezvous with them mid way over. After that, the cycle team take over and do 126 miles to Cockermouth in Cumbria – and on with the challenge.

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In this shot, this morning, they are approaching the exit to the loch, with the Light on Davaar Island to starboard, below; and with the majestic hills of the Isle of Arran in the heat haze in the distance on the far side of Kilbrannan Sound.

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Before they left, Neil Brown took the shot, below, of some of the crew with Kintyre Express skippers Haydn Chambers and Jerry Craig on KE IV’s stern. By now Haydn has been given and is inside a Help for Heroes T-shirt – as have Jerry, Neil Brown and Mairi Johnston. Last night, 24th May, two of the Help for Heroes T-shirts were auctioned at the seriously rated Putechan Hotel at Bellochantuy – and raised £250.

Haydn Chalbers and the Heroes Challenge UK crew.

And Help for Heroes is what this entire epic challenge is all about – to raise funds for the worthiest of causes – one that touches all of us in our protectiveness for those sent by our country, for whatever reason [and it is 'theirs not to reason why'] – on service in actions which are, in every way and for all of them, life-changing; some more immediately than others.

By the time they finish by sky diving into Swansea Airport on 31st May, their physical confrontation of testing  circumstances on land, sea and air will have seen them:

  • cycle a total of 1,206 miles from John O’Groats
  • row across the Irish Sea’s no-holds-barred North Channel – and back
  • climb a total of 13,787ft in summiting the UK’s, four highest peaks (Scotland’s Ben Nevis in Lochaber, at 4409 ft; Northern Ireland’s Slieve Donard in County Down, at 2789 ft; England’s Scafell Pike in the Lake District, at 3029 ft; and Wales’ Snowdon at 3560 ft)
  • cycle on  to Lands End
  • skydive from 13,787ft into Swansea Airport – there must be other ways of getting home.

We can all help by giving what we can to the cause they are doing all they can to support.

You can donate online here – and everything you give will really help. You can also donate by Text: Text HCUK to 70900. You will be charged £5 plus your standard network rate and a minimum of £5.00 will go to Help for Heroes.

21.15 update – expect the unexpected

Kintyre Express skipper, Haydn Chambers has just got back to Campbeltown.

With the changing tide south of Sanda, the endurance team – well named – ended up going to Ballycastle on the  Irish north coast of instead of Glenarm on the north west coast.

They had planned to row 17 miles. They ended up rowing 42 miles – in 10 hours.

Two of the support crew came back with Haydn as they are driving to Stranraer tomorrow to receive the team rowing back into Portpatrick on the Galloway west coast.

They are staying in Campbeltown tonight and are to try to update their blog shortly.

We assume that with that long row to Ballycastle and the 10 hour passage time, the walkers will climb Slieve Donard in County Down tomorrow morning before the rowers get going again on the passage back.

Note: Photographs: for all of the photographs in this feature, we are indebted to the skills and generosity of photographer Neil Brown; and to himself and Mairi Johnston of Kintyre Express for the selection they have given us permission to use.

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