Former Paratroopers Become Oldest Pair To Row Atlantic Ocean

The veterans had no rowing experience before taking on the challenge.

Two former paratroopers have become the oldest pair to row across the Atlantic Ocean, with a combined age of 123.

Neil Young and Peter Ketley, known as the 'Grandads of the Atlantic', rowed the 3,000-mile journey from La Gomera to Antigua in 63 days, 40 minutes and six seconds.

Mr Young and Mr Ketley met during their time in the Parachute Regiment and have remained friends for 40 years. They had no rowing experience before taking on the challenge.

Speaking to Forces News after completing the race, Mr Ketley said: "It was absolutely wonderful.

"I'm glad it has ended - I can't say the whole thing was enjoyable, the longevity of the whole event was rather difficult to take on  but we've learnt so much and the experience is something that will stay with us forever."

Wings of the Parachute Regiment on the Grandads of the Atlantic's boat.
Wings of the Parachute Regiment on the Grandads of the Atlantic's boat.

The pair faced some difficulties early on in the race that slowed their progress.

"We had a lot of technical issues and we had some breakages, the rowing seat ball bearings were all over the place, we lost various nuts off the seat, we had a broken oar in a massive wave that hit the boat," Mr Young explained.

"We were also without the autohelm that effectively helps steer the boat - you punch in the numbers you want it to go on and it helps steer the boat.

"We went without that for 28 days so we've had plenty of technical issues to deal with.

"But lots of good parts of the rowing as well, we enjoyed seeing the whales that we saw three times, (it was) fantastic seeing them coming under the boat, turning over and showing their bellies!" 


The Grandads of the Atlantic do some final checks on their boat.
The team doing some final checks before leaving La Gomera for Antigua.

Mr Young described pulling into the finish line at Nelson's Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua as "the most surreal place" after seeing nothing but "10 ships" over the course of 63 days. 

The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge had a large military presence with 19 of the race's rowers either veterans or serving personnel.

"It was a long time ago since we were in the military but that sort of training is something you never really forget," explained Mr Keltey.

Tim Crockett, who used to be in the Royal Marine Special Boat Service, also crossed the line just after the 'Grandads'.

While it is official that Mr Ketley and Mr Young are the oldest pair to row the Atlantic, they are still awaiting confirmation on whether they are the oldest pair to row any ocean. But they believe they will soon hold that title, too. 

The 'Grandads of the Atlantic' rowed for three charities, including Support our Paras and the Royal British Legion Industries.

So far, they have raised nearly £30,000 but are hoping to reach £250,000.