The Help for Heroes crew went into the seeding race of the men’s event with a top 100 finish in mind. They sat in the middle of the pack for the duration of the 20 minutes or so they were racing, much like the previous night’s race. Except this time there were 137 boats on the start line. Two years ago they were just hoping to finish. In their third championship, the team has changed, confidence has grown and determination prevails. Just short of the finish line, H4H Valiant passed a Royal Marines crew in gig Jupiter. That gave them the kick to move up a couple more places before they crossed the line in 93rd place, which means they will start race two in the middle of group H.
Rower Darren Godwin, former Leading Hand Marine Engineer in the Royal Navy for 13 years, experienced his first row on open water in this heat. He said: “I spent the first five minutes trying to get comfy. It’s surprising how quick the elements change. The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck. When you came to the crunch, in amongst the other boats, you find that extra gear and push through. It’s a buzz.” Darren, who left service barely able to walk in 2013 with lower limb injuries to his knees and ankle that will impact the rest of his life, joined the gig rowing team in January this year. Although he had first become involved with Help for Heroes in 2007 while at Headley Court, it was only last year, after being encouraged by a friend, that he asked for support for mental health issues which had been building up. Darren, who is currently working as an electrician, explained: “The support I received from Help for Heroes’ psychological wellbeing team and then being referred to Walking with the Wounded was massively useful. I had a lot of anger issues. It gave me the tools to control myself and allowed me to think about taking part in other things like sport. I couldn’t have done this last year. “These last four months have probably been the best I’ve had in three years. I’ve thrown myself into training with the gig rowing team and started an engineering degree with the Open University to focus on a career for the future.”In the next three rounds the set up is two up, two down. There are twelve boats in a race; the top two will move up a group, the bottom two will move down. Where ever the boats finish in the final race is their overall Championship ranking. So how will they do?
Men's Race TwoA slightly delayed departure from shore to get to the start line meant no rest for the men’s crew. They had about 30 seconds to take off outer garments before getting their oars back in the water and being called up onto the line. A slow crawl up to the line directed by the cox kept the crew moving on the ‘get set, go’ and they were first away from the line.It took a few strokes for the crew to get going in the heavy sea state and slamming waves which saw H4H and a few other boats drop back slightly, early on in the race. Once the team had found their stroke and settled down the crew started to catch up with the middle of the fleet going head to head for some time with the Royal Marines in Jupiter once again. With each heavy 10 ground was made. They could not retaliate and H4H Valiant ended up a few boat lengths ahead.
The crew caught up with another gig, Vault, in the closing stages of the race where they dug deep and made ground. As soon as they overlapped they continued to row through to beat them on the finish line in seventh position of the twelve, to retain their place in group H.