Four rowers complete Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge for Freewheelers

Force Genesis team

Force Genesis team of Mark Sealey, Gemma Best, Amy Wood and Will Cogley have so far raised over £7,500 for Devon Freewheelers. - Credit: Atlantic Campaigns

A team of rowers taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, in aid of Devon Freewheelers, have crossed the finish line after 50 days at sea.

The four-strong crew of Force Genesis set off on the 3,000-mile row on December 12, 2020 and were welcomed back as heroes when they reached Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, in Antigua, on Monday, February 1.

Force Genesis, made up of Mark Sealey, of Wiveliscombe, Gemma Best, from Clevedon, Amy Wood, from Salisbury and Will Cogley, of Portishead, near Bristol, completed what was billed as the ‘world’s toughest row’ in 50 days, 22 hours and 16 minutes after setting off from San Sebastian in La Gomera, the Canary Islands.

A total of £7,537 has been raised towards a target of £20,000 for the Honiton-based charity and the rowers said the 50 days at sea had been ‘awesome and amazing', adding ‘we worked seriously hard’ to reach the finish.

Devon Freewheelers CEO, Daniel Roe-Lavery, said: “I am delighted they made it across and they are back on dry land. What a lifetime achievement for each and every one of them. We can’t wait to see them when they get home.”

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Coronavirus had put a stop to the Devon Freewheelers holding any fundraising activities since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, but Roe-Lavery thanked those who were coming up with unique ways to help the charity.

He added: “Through the ongoing situation, and lockdown, people are looking at weird and wonderful ways to do their fundraising while maintaining social distancing. We are thankful to everyone fundraising for us in this difficult and challenging time."

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The crew chose to fundraise for Devon Freewheelers - a JustGiving page is still taking donations at - after rower Mark Sealey’s chance meeting with a Devon Blood Biker and learning about the work of the charity. 

Before setting off on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, Sealeysaid: “We all thought Devon Freewheelers, the blood bikes, was such a worthy charity.

"They are such a great charity. You see the Devon Freewheelers bikes on the road. They deliver so much, including blood, surgical equipment and baby milk. 

“We wanted to support a smaller charity that is struggling through the pandemic day-to-day.”

While at sea Force Genesis were hit with sea sickness, battled boat power issues and experienced auto helm problems, scuppering automatic steering of their vessel.

Sailing expert and Devon Freewheelers volunteer Brian Saunders helped the crew solve the steering issues, giving advice to Force Genesis over the satellite phone.

Despite the trials thrown at them while at sea, official race organisers said Force Genesis brought 'a lot of motivation and smiles to the challenge'.

After celebrating crossing the finish line, Force Genesis said they would 'definitely do it again'.

“The rowing is easy. It’s the rest of it," they added, admitting being on the Atlantic Ocean away from the modern world had been 'fantastic'.

“It’s been nice to get away and to be able to focus on one thing, especially during such a negative time,” they said.

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