RAF News

RAF Pilots take on extreme row challenge across the Atlantic Ocean

The rowing team look at their reflection in their row boat.

The Atlantic Flyers, a team of 4 RAF Pilots will take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic annual ocean rowing Challenge to raise money for Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Starting on Sunday 12th December and likely taking 30 days, the challenge will see teams from around the world race against each other to cross the Atlantic Ocean.  The 3000 miles expanse will take roughly 1.5 million oar strokes, from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua & Barbuda.

Row boat with the RAF and Starlight logo.

Commanding the Atlantic Flyer's is Wing Commander Phil Holdcroft.  He is already a multiple Ultra Marathon and Triathlon winner; former Iron Distance RAF Triathlon champion; and one of the few in the RAF to earn his Green Beret.  However, tragedy truck in 2014, when his daughter, Isla, was diagnosed with Leukaemia.

Fortunately, Isla is now a beautiful, happy and healthy 7-year-old, in her fourth year of remission.  To raise money and awareness for the incredible charities that supported them here, Phil has pledged to mark each year with a near impossible endurance challenge.  His next is the Talisker Whisky Atlantic annual ocean race.

Phil on a rowing machine.
Wing Commander Phil Holdcroft.

Fellow team member Flight Lieutenant Si Berry is an RAF physiotherapist and great fitness enthusiast.  He is excited to tackle something awe inspiring and life changing, towards a journey of self-discovery. 

Si cross armed in-front of Chinook.
Flight Lieutenant Si Berry.

Squadron Leader Sonny Roe has already raced for the RAF Enduro-mountain biking team and completed an Ironman event. Usually found in the cockpit of a Eurofighter Typhoon, on Quick Reaction Alert duties, defending the UK against Russian and terror related aggression, Sonny will take up oars.

Sonny cross armed in-front of Typhoon.
Squadron Leader Sonny Roe

Flight Lieutenant Chris Carrington-Smith is a Qualified Flying Instructor on the RAF’s newest Turbo Prop training aircraft, teaching new recruits how fly and achieve the high standards required of them in a career in military aviation.  He has represented the RAF at Sailing, Telemark Skiing and Adventure Racing, and has also competed in marathon running, the Ironman triathlon, Fencing and Swimming.  Chris is inspired by the spirit and resilience of those in combat, pushing themselves to the extremes for others.

Chris trekking with his dog on a snowy hill.
Flight Lieutenant Chris Carrington-Smith.

Rowers will venture into an extreme environment with high waves up to 20 feet and beautiful marine wildlife.  They may experience sleep deprivation, hallucinations, salt sores, and hunger; while using 800 sheets of toilet paper and burning over 5,000 calories per day.  But left to their own thoughts amid the blue expanse, the race is not only a physical but very mental challenge.

"This epic challenge epitomises the resilience and determination of the men and women of the Royal Air Force, testing physical and mental boundaries to their limit. I know the team will excel in this endeavour, and I am delighted to give my personal support for the inspirational cause they are supporting."

Air Marshal Sir Mike Wigston
Chief of the Air Staff

A life changing experience, the rowers will build strong friendships, and grow their mental and physical resilience.  It is a huge achievement, and upon finishing, rowers join an exclusive group of comrades who share the unique experience of successfully crossing an ocean. 

Read more about the Atlantic Flyers challenge and backgrounds here

Or follow their progress on social media: