Harry congratulates Atlantic rowers

Braintree and Witham Times: Harry, second left, meets members of the Row to Recovery crew (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) Harry, second left, meets members of the Row to Recovery crew (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A crew of injured and able-bodied servicemen who completed the gruelling task of rowing across the Atlantic have been congratulated by Prince Harry.

Harry presented the foursome with medals to mark their efforts - rowing around 3,000 miles (4,828km) in 48 days.

The Prince had wished the men well before their epic crossing began last December, telephoning them from the frozen wastes of the Antarctic peninsula.

At the time he was taking part in his own challenge, trekking to the South Pole with a group of injured servicemen and women.

He caught up with four men whose adventure was made possible by the Row2Recovery charity, which raises funds for wounded troops and their families and supports others who take part in Military Para-Rowing.

Olympic rowing veteran Sir Steve Redgrave praised their efforts and jokingly described the Atlantic rowing challenge as "mad".

Sir Steve was among the guests for the medal presentation staged at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames.

Surrounded by boats, oars and other rowing memorabilia from across the decades the Olympic gold medallist described the achievements of the four men as "pretty incredible and pretty mad".

He said: "I'm pretty proud of my five gold medals and they've got their Atlantic medals which I know I'm never going to get but I'm happy with that.

"The longest I ever spent in a boat was three hours and mentally I could just cope with that, to spend days and nights over and over again in a boat I could not cope with that."

He added: "Their biggest strength is their mental strength."

Scott Blaney, 28, a Corporal in the Grenadier Guards, was part of the four-man crew that rowed across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Antigua, arriving in late January.

He lost much of his right leg when he was blown up by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol in Afghanistan in 2007.

The soldier from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, said: "Why not do a challenge like this and it raises awareness about injured servicemen and women?

"We may have lost our legs or lost our arms but we can still cross the ocean. I loved every minute of it."

When he met the royal guest he joked about Harry's broken toe, an injury he suffered a few weeks before he jetted off for his South Pole adventure last winter.

The Prince also presented medals to another four-man crew who completed the Row2Recovery Atlantic challenge two years ago.

Later the Prince cheered on injured servicemen as they were put through their paces racing on a rowing machine. Harry shouted out encouragement to the group who first competed against each other then paired up to take of the virtual course.

Before leaving Harry was shown the boat the men used to row across the Atlantic.

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