Injured forces heroes begin second gig racing season at Three Rivers Race

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  • Help for Heroes Gig Rowing wounded forces team start 2016 season
  • Team will race in the World Pilot Gig Championships in April as part of Help for Heroes Sports Recovery programme for their second year
  • Team from Plymouth and surrounding areas

The Help for Heroes Gig Rowing team, made up of wounded, injured and sick serving and former forces personnel, launched their second season of competitive racing in Cornwall on Saturday (5thMarch).

Since last year the team has expanded and two crews; seniors and veterans; now exist. At Saturday’s Three Rivers Race in Saltash, which spans the Tamar, Lynher and Tavy rivers, the veteran crew was entered.

Just three of the crew experienced the race in 2015 and the six have only been rowing together in recent weeks.

Despite not having much time to work on technique collectively, the men pulled together at the weekend and although they were the last boat to cross the finish line, they improved on last year’s race time by more than 12 minutes completing the six miles in 1:09:52.

Within the six man crew, from Plymouth and surrounding areas, injuries are both psychological and physical, and include post-traumatic stress disorder, a leg amputation, severe rheumatoid arthritis, spinal calcification and osteoarthritis.

Their service backgrounds span the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Marines and include tours of Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Gulf, the Falklands and Northern Ireland.

Crew member Brian Kilgannon, the oldest of the group at 62, who rowed competitively for the first time, said: “The row was really hard. To say that my first race was six miles is unbelievable. I found muscles I never knew I had. That was teamwork at its best. It would’ve been nice to beat another crew but it still feels like we won. It was phenomenal.”

The team’s gig, H4H Inspire, which was previously known as Ann Glanville, was refurbished and repainted in Help for Heroes’ colours by the rowers and others from the charity’s Plymouth Recovery Centre ahead of the race.

Three Rivers (1) (Large)

H4H Inspire was coxed by Kate Bourn of Caradon Gig Club whose members assist in coaching the Help for Heroes team.

Cox Kate said after the race: “The crew did really well. With the limitations they have in the boat to even complete the Three Rivers course is a massive achievement. The conditions were terrible; wind over tide and a northerly wind; so to get to keep going to the end really gives them an idea of what they can build on. I’m very proud of them. There’s a lot to work on for the season ahead.”

Caradon Gig Club’s Amazon crew won the event overall from combined results for the men’s and ladies races, followed by Looe in Talisman.

The Help for Heroes crew will now focus on training towards the World Pilot Gig Championships held annually in the Isles of Scilly over the first bank holiday weekend in May. The veterans’ crew will enter the veterans’ race on Friday 29th April. Their senior team counterparts will race on 30th April and 1st May.

Help for Heroes Health and Physical Development Manager Marty Aldrich said: “I’m extremely proud to see how the guys have improved over the last 12 months. I have high expectations for the veterans’ crew in the Scillies. They’re better suited to shorter races and this race certainly shows that they’re not fazed by the sea state.”

Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery since 2008 and offers around 300 events each year across 50 different sports at a grass roots and performance level to help rebuild lives.

Sport plays an important part of someone’s recovery, helping with self-confidence and providing psychological empowerment.  These significant mental health benefits can be translated outside of sport and into everyday life.

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