Two Hampshire firefighters have rowed across the Atlantic, battling extreme conditions over 64 days to raise vital funds for The Fire Fighters Charity and Solent Mind.

Stu Vince from St Mary’s Fire Station in Southampton and Craig Sadler from Cosham Fire Station in Portsmouth set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December and arrived to crowds of supporters lining the shore in Antigua on 15 February.

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is known as the world’s toughest row – and for Stu and Craig, who’d never rowed a distance like it before, it proved a tremendous challenge.

Having both overcome mental health problems themselves, they wanted to test themselves to the limit to not only raise vital funds for two charities close to their hearts, but also awareness of the mental health challenges they face every day.

“As serving fire fighters, Stu & Craig have had to overcome some form of mental health problem during their working life,” they stated before the challenge. “Coping with the loss of colleagues at work, the regular pressures of making life and death decisions whilst attending a wide variety of life threatening incidents or daily pressures such as keeping a roof over their families’ heads.

“It is of no surprise that over the last few years we have all witnessed a dramatic increase in mental health issues in the workplace which is why the team are determined to do something about it, for everyone’s benefit.”

The Fire Fighters Charity supports serving and retired fire and rescue service personnel, their dependants and other eligible members of the UK fire services community, throughout their lives, helping them to live happier and healthier.

Stu has received support from the Charity previously, amid his own mental health battle. You can read his story here.

The pair recorded regular videos detailing some of the struggles they faced throughout the challenge, which included limited hot meals due to tech issues, strong winds, rough seas, homesickness and even hallucinations. While they described it as incredibly “tough”, they said focusing on their end goal kept them going.

Craig said after the challenge: “I can do physical and I can do mental, but I struggle with the emotional side. This crossing has opened up that weakness and allowed me to embrace it. I’ve realised I need my friends, I need my family and I need my Jo and I will make time for that more. I don’t believe you cross the Atlantic, I think it lets you cross it.”

And Stu added: “The sunrises, sunsets, night skies and isolation was like no experience ever felt before. It was amazing but being around people and life is something to never be taken for granted again.”

Louise Furneaux, Community Fundraiser at The Fire Fighters Charity, said: “It’s been incredibly humbling to have watched Stu and Craig’s journey over the last two months, they’ve overcome some huge hurdles and should be so proud of themselves.

“On behalf of everyone at The Fire Fighters Charity, I want to wholeheartedly thank them for their support. Every pound they’ve raised will go such a long way towards helping us support our fire family whenever they need us.”

The pair have so far raised over £14,000 altogether, across both charities. To donate to their fundraising for The Fire Fighters Charity, click here, and to find out more about their challenge, visit their website here.

With The Fire Fighters Charity relying almost entirely on donations to fund its vital work, none of the support it offers would be possible without the generosity of its supporters. You can support the brave members of our fire services community by donating now at