Apr 04, 2024

Ocean crossing

Solo Atlantic Rower Henry Cheape reflects on his 7-week challenge


In November, we reported on one of Simon Moyes’ former patients who was facing the challenge of the World’s Toughest Row: 3000 miles of self propelled rowing across the Atlantic.

On 31st January 2024, Henry Cheape finally pulled on the oars one last time as he reached the harbour at Antigua, to be greeted by his wife and parents along with a crowd of wellwishers. A month on, we caught up with him to find out how it went.

Fifteen-metre high waves, relentless headwinds, fear of the boat being gored by the dagger-like snouts of marlins, and three incidents of total physical and mental meltdown were just some of the dramatic markers of Henry’s epic journey. The race got off to a slightly inauspicious start while still next to the pontoon in La Gomera – the tiny Canary Island from which 39 boats were launched.

When Henry’s GoPro camera fell from the roof of the cabin and plopped into the sea, he instinctively stripped off to his boxers and dived in to retrieve it. The camera had sunk rapidly to the seabed 5m below and it took several exhausting dives to finally locate and rescue the camera. Without having time to rinse off the salt water, Henry quickly got dressed, and was given the signal to set off. But he was so drained from the diving, he could barely get himself around the first corner before striking out across the Atlantic.

A couple of days later, he was hunkered down in the cabin, the boat careening up and down like roller coaster, as giant waves crashed onto the deck. Amazingly, he didn’t feel scared. The boat is self righting, he explains, and his mental training made him confident in both his competence as well as the reliability of the boat. But the reality was, he simply couldn’t afford to allow fear into his head – it was a matter of survival to stay calm.

Most of the time, though, the journey was drama-free. Remarkably, boredom was not an issue. Although Henry didn’t catch sight of another soul for seven full weeks, the rhythm of his new existence took all of his focus. For perhaps the first time in his life, he could think without interruption, and his mind was able to wander for hours, but if he needed any distraction, listening to audiobooks or music helped to while away the hours, days and weeks…



As with almost any endurance challenge, the best way to cope is by creating a routine and breaking the days and nights up into manageable and relatively predictable chunks. Almost every day started the same. Get up at 6am GMT, eat a breakfast of rehydrated food using water from the desalination kit, carry out checks of the boat, wash, brush teeth, shave, start rowing. Four hours of non-stop rowing would be accompanied by audiobooks, music, or just a flow of thoughts and absorption of the surroundings. A short break for eating, rehydrating and then it was back on the oars again for another four-hour effort. And repeat one last time, until he would stow his oars at 8pm. Then it was time to clean up, eat, call family, write in the log book, check on the navigation and goals for the next day, listen to music, fish, relax and hopefully sleep.

Those four-hour slots would sometimes change – for example, if he needed to push ahead of an incoming weather front or shifting winds, or when he had drifted off course and needed to work harder to bring himself back onto the route.


Mind training

The row itself was physically and mentally tough. Henry was told by the row organisers that preparing for the race is 1/3 physical training – building up the fitness and endurance, 1/3 technical training – learning every fine detail of the boat, navigation and every aspect of seafaring, and 1/3 psychological preparation. Henry took the advice seriously, learning how to cope with any technical failures, grilling previous Atlantic rowers on best practice in a whole array of potential circumstances, from giant waves to the possibility of losing battery power. Being of a practical nature with the ability to adapt and think creatively certainly helped when things did go wrong. Mentally, he was prepared, thanks to his sessions with a psychologist in the months prior to the race. ‘At no point did I doubt that I would make it,’ he says with enviable confidence. Even at his lowest ebb (and there were several of those), he was able to bring that self assuredness to bear and just keep going.



Henry ate freeze-dried ‘real’ food for the row, rehydrating each meal in a mess tin with water from his solar-powered desalination kit. The meals were carefully balanced, and he was mostly careful to consume enough calories to provide energy for the massive daily effort. Nonetheless, he lost two stone in weight during the challenge and nearly lost the plot towards the end, when a sudden shift in routine (with the aim of getting ahead of a weather front) meant that he didn’t eat and re-hydrate enough. The result was a mental and physical breakdown, just 48 miles from his destination. After nearly 3,000 miles of rowing, his body and mind simply packed up. In desperation, he contacted his wife Louisa, pleading with her to charter a boat and come and find him. But, after some choice words of advice from Lousia and other finishers, he refueled, re-hydrated by drinking two litres of water and eating 1,000 calories every hour for 6 hours, and pulled himself back from the brink.


Henry raised £120,000 to be split equally between Sustain, Global Canopy and the Nomad Conservation Fund.

Capital Orthopaedics was one of the proud sponsors of the row.


Capital Orthopaedics

Thanks to Simon Moyes’ expert revision surgery on his twice-operated knee, Henry had no pain or problems with his knee during or since the 3,000-mile row – proof positive that the meniscectomy has been a resounding success.

To find out more about how Capital Orthopaedics can help with knee injuries, and any other musculoskeletal issues and sports injuries, contact us here.

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