Rowers would 'do it again'

TWO RAF officers who failed to cross the finishing line of a transatlantic race after rowing for 3,000 nautical miles said today they would be prepared to take on the challenge again.

TWO RAF officers who failed to cross the finishing line of a transatlantic race after rowing for 3,000 nautical miles said today they would be prepared to take on the challenge again.

Squadron Leader Matt Stowers, 33, of Teignmouth, Devon and Flight Lieutenant Mark Jacklin, 34, who was born in Portsmouth, Hants, and grew up in Ipswich, Suffolk, had to be towed home for the last mile because of bad weather and problems with their 24ft boat.

The pair, who are members of the RAF Regiment and based at RAF Honington, in Suffolk, left the Canary Islands with 15 other boats on October 19 for the 2003 Atlantic Challenge. They arrived in Port St Charles, Barbados, on January 5 after 78 days at sea.

The servicemen, who are both married, had hoped to beat the existing world record by reaching the finish in less than than 41 days but were hampered by three severe storms.

Only six boats finished the race - one is still at sea.

Squadron Leader Stowers said they were faced with bad weather and a technical problem which meant that only one of them could row when they were within sight of the finish.

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They had the option of spending another three or four days rowing around the island to find a different route into port or accepting a tow.

"We were faced with an agonising decision. But we were down to our last 10 litres of water and our last three packets of noodles," he said. "But by accepting a tow into port we didn't technically finish the race even though we had rowed across an ocean. It was gutting.

"We have massive regrets. But there was nothing we could have done realistically. We had family and friends waiting for us but I didn't want to do anything. I was emotionally, physically and mentally shot away.

"I would be prepared to go out there again. I am not saying I will but I would be prepared to.'

Flight Lieutenant Jacklin added: "I agree. We would like to have finished the race. And there are so many things where we think we could do it differently or better if we did it again. But it's too early to think about doing it again at the moment.'

The pair had only taken up rowing 18 months before the race and hope their achievement will raise £30,000 for a children's charity.

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