DU-Affiliated Veterans begin 3,000-mile ocean row

Special to LetsGoDU by Jason Evans:

“Wish us luck America, we love you guys.”

Some of the final words from Bryant Knight, a retired Army Special Forces Major, before the “Fight Oar Die” team we’ve been covering pushed out from a boatyard in the Canary Islands.

Their mission: row an incredible 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to the Caribbean island of Antigua in the name of PTSD awareness. They are one of the roughly 30 teams participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an annual UK-based competition. Most of the entrants race on behalf of a charitable cause.

Psychologists from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP) are studying the combat veterans to better understand how the brain reacts to extreme environments. The hope is to gain knowledge on how to better prepare troops for deployment.

Their boat “Woobie” is emblazoned with a DU logo. And the American flag flying from her stern went with Knight to Iraq – twice. Support staff who have been part of the FOD family for months, described excitement mixed with poignant emotion at the scene off the African coast.

According to team psychologist Dr. Jacob Hyde of GSPP: “They got quiet with two minutes to go. [I] Was proud of them and watched them smile when the oars slid into the water.”

In a dramatic scene caught on video, representatives from the company who built their boat, started chanting “USA” as the vessel left port. Cait Alexander of Spindrift Rowing said the team was “emotional this morning but nervous and excited. There were a ton of people at the start with lots of cheers.”

Team members Alex Evans (skipper), Bryant Knight, Chris Kuntz, and Beau Maier have become minor celebrities in the two years they’ve been training for the challenge.

Tuesday night, CBS4 Denver put a live reporter on campus to report on the guys starting their journey in the coming hours. It was their lead story as well.

A meet and greet on the DU campus green last September was attended by Chancellor Rebecca Chopp, and hockey coach David Carle, among others. A Fight Oar Die video was also shown at the DU hockey game November 16th on Veterans Appreciation night.

If interested in following their progress, live positioning will be provided on the free YB Races app. And if you want to donate towards their cause, you can do so on their website www.usvetrow.org.

The team does have a satellite phone to communicate with DU or emergency officials if needed. They will send in pictures as conditions permit, which will be posted on their Instagram and Facebook accounts (both are @Fightoardie).