Prince Harry launches new para-rowing programme

His Royal Highness Prince Harry launched a new para-rowing programme for military rowers and presented medals to the 2011 and 2013 Row2Recovery Atlantic crews in a special visit to Henley’s River and Rowing Museum on Monday. 

All ten Atlantic rowers – servicemen injured in military action – completed the 3,000 mile row across the ocean – one of the hardest of challenges for able bodied rowers not least adventurers with prosthetic limbs and other injuries.

Corporal Rory Mackenzie, Team Leader of the 2013 Atlantic Row and a member of the first Row2Recovery voyage in 2011, said, “It’s great for Row2 Recovery to get the royal seal of approval and I’m very proud to have the medal.”

Mackenzie lost his right leg when he was blown up by a roadside bomb in Iraq during January 2007. 

2013 Atlantic crew member Corporal Scott Blaney, who lost part of his leg in a bomb attack in Afghanistan in 2007, added that it was great for their achievement to be appreciated. After receiving his medal from Prince Harry, he said: “I asked him how he enjoyed the rugby!”

The royal visitor was also treated to a para-rowing demonstration with six of the rowers racing on the indoor rowing machines, organised by British Rowing coaches including Rowability Project Officer Katherine Morris, who provided lively commentary. 

“It’s a bit of a shock to the system,” declared Paralympic rower Nick Beighton afterwards. He added that it felt good to be back on the machine again after a long break since the 2012 Paralympic Games when he competed in the TA mixed double scull with Samantha Scowen.

2008 Paralympic champion Tom Aggar was also at the gathering, together with Sir Steve Redgrave, 2012 Olympic champions Heather Stanning, Helen Glover and Alex Gregory.

After a tour in Afghanistan, Captain Stanning is now back in training ahead of next month’s GB Rowing Team Senior Trials and the European Championships in May.

“It’s great to be back at Caversham and it makes me appreciate how hard this programme is. It was a pleasure to meet the Atlantic crews here today,” she said.

Guests also included British Rowing Chairman Annamarie Phelps and Dame Di Ellis, President of British Rowing and new CEO Neil Chugani, together with members of the Education and Training team.

While the medals commemorated the ten Atlantic rowers’ past achievements, the day also celebrated a special legacy enthusiastically endorsed by Prince Harry, designed to make sport easily accessible to all military rowers recovering from injuries sustained in action. 

Working with British Rowing, Row2Recovery has launched a rowing programme to support all four Help for Heroes recovery centres at Salisbury, Catterick, Colchester and Plymouth by introducing indoor and on-the-water rowing for injured service personnel. 

With the additional assistance of The Endeavour Fund, one of Prince Harry’s charities, wounded servicemen and women are offered the chance to participate in sport and adventure challenges, as part of their rehabilitation.

Project Manager David Wiseman said, “We’re keen to support the Row2Recovery hubs and make sure they are accessible to everyone. We have provided facilities to Marlow and Guildford Rowing Clubs.”

One of the Fund’s most high profile events will be in September when the Invictus Games takes place at London’s Olympic Park. Launched by Prince Harry last week, over 300 wounded and sick service personnel are expected to compete in the sporting extravaganza which includes indoor rowing amongst its eight sports. 

With swimming a possible option, Rory Mackenzie said, “It’s superb – I really want to take part!” 

Nick Beighton added, “Having been injured and got into sport myself, I know how important it is. It also keeps that awareness alive, especially with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It’s going to be brilliant.”

Reflecting on the day, Annamarie Phelps said, “Indoor and para-rowing rowing are key growth areas for British Rowing and HRH Prince Harry’s attendance at the launch of the British Rowing military para-rowing programme was a great honour. 

“He was really interested in how adaptable and inclusive indoor rowing is and how easily it can fit into the Invictus Games. 

“Who could fail to be inspired by the Row2Recovery guys with such positive can-do attitudes and the fantastic support from the Endeavour Fund, Row2Recovery and Help for Heroes. 

“It was a truly uplifting day, thanks to our staff from across the organisation who have worked hard to make this happen, and it was a real privilege to be present: a great start to this important project.”

Find out more about Rowability at www.britishrowing.org/rowability. For more information about Row2Recovery, visit www.row2recovery.com.

Wendy Kewley

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