Dukies Conquer Stormy Irish Sea in Three-Day Charity Row
To row across the Irish sea is already a Viking-like expedition. When combined with a wrathful storm, enormous waves and a series of unfortunate events, it seems all the more unachievable.
Thus when Felix, a current Dukie who is a quadriplegic and has been in a wheelchair since birth, embarked upon this mighty charity row from Rock (Cornwall) across the Irish Sea to Cork, his endurance and character were sure to be tested. Felix, 17, his father and two other team members rowed a herculean distance of 194 nautical miles (223 land miles) in just three days and nights.
Felix and his father, former student Simon Daglish, raised a staggering £11,551.25 which they donated in a 50/50 split to The Dukies’ Foundation and the charity Walking with the Wounded.
After a year’s training in the Duke of York’s Royal Military School extensive sporting facilities, Felix felt determined and ready to face the challenge ahead. Yet his initial expectations were far from the reality that awaited him out on those choppy waters. Opting to have no support boat and a team of just two handlers on shore, the confident rowers set off on July 22 after a delightful family barbecue, filled with optimism and excitement.
Shortly after their happy send off, raging storms broke out, the wind whistled and rain whipped down on the team. The all too important Auto-Navigation system broke, to which Felix responded ‘Absolute Class, I Know’. This complicated matters, especially with the storm working hard to make life difficult for the resilient rowers. Using their initiative and quick thinking they came up with a system, each member would complete one hour of rowing, one hour of steering and one hour of sleeping in rotation.
The boost in efficiency they had hoped for was not so easily realised, although they were back on track and no longer rowing in large circles, which was definitely a bonus. The next hurdle they faced was the ‘near impossible’ sleeping conditions. With only a thin gym mat on which to sleep and little to no protection from the gale force winds, stamina was being driven down by the testing conditions. In addition, their only sustenance was protein bars and energy gels, as Felix says: “It’s obviously impossible to cook in a storm on a row boat”.
After three gruelling days they arrived in Cork at 10:30pm to the sound of a single person applauding from the dock: their handler. Though Felix says it was a tad ‘anticlimactic’, the true sense of pride came later after they’d enjoyed a well-earned kip. Yet despite his disabilities, Felix’s pride lay not in his incredible completion of the expedition, but rather in realising just how much had been raised, as many donations were made while they toiled away at sea. He valued the charitable donations of his supporters as far more important than the significance of his own achievement.
Felix’s motivation came in two distinct forms that supported him at different times. First and foremost, his desire to contribute to charity as is tradition in the Daglish household, with both his father and brother completing other grand charity challenges and raising a great deal of money collectively. His father actually completed the same row when he was Felix’s age and, to repeat history, the pair elected to do it together. The second was the sense of team spirit which Felix believes is rooted both in his experience of Dukie life in the boarding house, and in the powerful sense of ‘responsibility, belonging and unity’ he felt as part of the team during the three days.
Finally, Felix comments that irrespective of the additional physical challenges he faces, this will be the first of many great expeditions which he will embark upon in the near future to raise money for charity, and he encourages everyone to get involved in any way possible as ‘there is no better feeling’.