Article by and photo courtesy Jason Evans
The actor Kevin Conroy once said “Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique.” That sentiment perfectly sums up “Fight Oar Die,” the DU-affiliated group of four veterans who took on a grueling 3,000-nautical mile row across the Atlantic Ocean in a UK-based competition known as the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Monday afternoon they completed their journey of a lifetime (and one we’ve been covering along the way as well) by pulling into port in Antigua, as local soldiers saluted, and family and friends cheered. They finished in just over 54 days (the winning team, a group from the Netherlands, did it in 34).
The trip was filled was many amazing moments:
“There’s truly a lot of beauty we saw. A whale breach twice. I got to swim with a pack of bottle nose dolphins, we had gray whales, blue whales, a hammer head shark following us… Sea turtles,” recalled Chris Kuntz.
And some not-so-amazing moments:
“We had a watermaker break, we had our steering mechanism break, we had battery failure,” lamented Alex Evans, the team’s skipper.
Still, they said humor got them through the rough patches, and when they finally got to step back onto dry land they were in high spirits, lighting flares to mark the occasion, and flashing mile-wide grins.
However, their mark upon history was still made, as they become the first all U.S. military team to successfully row across the Atlantic Ocean.
The skipper for Fight Oar Die, an Indiana native turned Denver-resident named Alex Evans, got the idea after a British military compatriot did the race despite having lost part of his right leg in an IED explosion in Iraq. A friend from the 82nd Airborne also signed up, and two more Army veterans eventually joined the cause as well.
None of the rowers went to DU, but a psychologist at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP) by the name of Dr. Jacob Hyde caught wind of their plans and asked to study them as part of his work on the human mind in extreme environments. Dr. Hyde has since departed DU but will use the video logs the men did during the row to put together new studies to better understand PTSD.
The team has committed to donate any funds raised after operational expenses to support GSPP and their unique program which trains future psychologists to treat veterans.
As they hope to field a team every year to support PTSD awareness, they are still looking for your support. You can make a donation here, and if you are a veteran who thinks you might have what it takes to take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, you can inquire about that as well.