Four man team of amputees - including Wisbech man and former Irish guardsman - receive tumultuous welcome in Antigua after rowing the Atlantic

PUBLISHED: 08:35 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 16:05 05 February 2016

Paddy Gallagher and his team training in La Gomera, Spain

Paddy Gallagher and his team training in La Gomera, Spain

Archant

A Wisbech man who lost a limb in Afghanistan seven years ago was celebrating last night after being part of the first all-amputee team to row the Atlantic.

Patrick Gallagher and his teamPatrick Gallagher and his team

Paddy Gallagher, 30, of Parson Drove, was a member of the Row2Recovery team that successfully completed the 3,000 mile challenge.

‘Four men with three legs taking on one mighty ocean’ (as they describe themselves) received a military style greeting at Antigua’s English Harbour at around 4pm yesterday, having conquered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in just 46 days, 16 hours and 49 minutes.

Thousands of supporters eagerly anticipated the team’s return having followed their gruelling journey.

Team skipper Cayle Royce, who took part in the challenge two years ago, having spent 48 days in a coma and losing both legs when he was injured by a bomb in Afghanistan, said: “We are so proud to be the first all-amputee team to row an ocean and extremely humbled by the support we have received.

“Although totally exhausted, we are ready to celebrate the fact we have just conquered 3,000 miles in the world’s toughest ocean rowing race. There is life beyond injury - that’s our message; we hope it’s out there.”

The Row2Recorvery team set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to embark on the 3,000 mile-long challenge - regarded as ‘the world’s toughest row’ - on December 20.

In the month and a half that followed, the four former squaddies battled storms and serious injury - including having a prosthetic limb shatter during the crossing.

The team, consisting of four injured service men: Cayle Royce, light dragoon lance corporal; Nigel Rogoff, former RAF flight sergeant parachute jump instructor; Lee Spencer, serving royal marine colour sergeant; and former Irish guardsman Paddy Gallagher, completed the challenge to raise funds and awareness for The British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association, Help for Heroes and the Endeavour Fund.

Mr Gallagher said before setting off: “We’re like coil springs at the moment, there are four of us on the boat and between us we’ve got three legs.

“I’ve prepared for the worst and everything else is a bonus,” he added.

The 30-year-old lost his right leg below the knee with the Irish Guards in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast in Nad E Ali, Afghanistan, in 2009. Paddy described the injury as an “occupational hazard”.

“I’m doing it to raise money and awareness for injured serviceman, to motivate those who have not got over their injuries yet.

“I want to let other veterans know that life is not over and you can still achieve the extraordinary.”

Trooper Royce, 29, from Dartmouth in Devon, was joined in the custom-made rowing boat by team-mates Paddy, Nigel Rogof and Lee Spencer.

Rogof, 56, from Hereford lost his leg above the knee whilst taking part in a Royal Air Force parachuting display, while Spencer, 46, from Yelverton in Devon, is still serving in the Royal Marines despite losing his right leg below the knee after being hit by debris as he was helping to save the life of a crashed civilian motorist.

Two members of the team were injured due to the punishing shifts of two hours on and two hours off, while another broke his prosthetic leg during the first few weeks of rowing.

•For more information about the challenge visit www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com or search Row2Recovery on Facebook.

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