A team of skiers have successfully completed the first leg of a gruelling challenge that marks the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines formation.
The Royal Marines have skied 1,664 kms from Porsangermoen, in Northern Norway, down to the southern port city of Stavanger.
They completed the distance in just under two months with conditions ranging from blizzards to bright sunshine and temperatures of between -20c and +10c.
But now they have arrived in Stavanger there is little time to rest as they get straight into the next phase – a 1,664 nautical mile sail from Norway down to Cadiz, in Spain.
The Royal Marines Corps was formed in 1664 and this year marks the 350th anniversary on that event. To commemorate the historic occasion, a challenge was devised that would test Royal Marines both physically, and mentally, and display the true commando spirit and determination to succeed.
The Royal Marines 1664 Challenge was the result – an event that covers roughly 4,136 miles (6,656 kms) by ski, sail, cycle, canoe and then by foot.
By the time the Royal Marines 1664 Challenge concludes with a marathon around London in July, more than 4,200 commandos will have taken part.
Getting the RM 1664 Challenge underway were 19 commandos who set out on skis from Porsangermoen at the beginning of February with six of them expected to take part in the Challenge right through to London.
The core six men have been drawn from the main Royal Marine units:-
30 Cdo, 40 Cdo, 42 Cdo, 43 Cdo, 45 Cdo and the Commando Logistics Regiment.
Captain Sam Moreton, 26, from Exmouth, near Exeter, is taking part in the Challenge representing Plymouth based 42 Cdo. He said: “When we set out at the beginning of February, Stavanger seemed a long way away, especially when we considered the arduous conditions that lay ahead across some of the most inhospitable terrain in Europe. But we gelled into a formidable unit with a fantastic team spirit and have been working very well together in true Royal Marine fashion.”
Lance Corporal Matt Robb, 27, from Birstal, West Yorkshire, is representing 43 Cdo, based in Faslane, Scotland. He said: “There were times out there on the snow when we felt small and alone in the wilderness. But the fact that this event will only grow in coming weeks and months drove us on and, by the time we get to London, thousands of marines will have joined us along the way, all of us determined to succeed. The people of Norway have been supportive in this first stage. As Royal Marines we undergo our cold weather training here and so have a close affiliation with the country and we cannot thank them enough for their hospitality throughout our travels.”
Arriving in Stavanger the core six commandos met up with colleagues onboard a 67ft yacht that they will now all sail 1,664 nautical miles south through the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay to Cadiz, in Spain.
Corporal Anthony Fairclough, 25, from Bootle, Liverpool, is representing the Commando Logistics Regiment, in North Devon, on the Challenge. He said: “The sail phase is a chance for us to regroup and plan for what lies ahead when we reach Spain. That is not to say we are expecting an easy journey south. Weather and sea conditions are always unpredictable in this part of the world and we also have to ensure we remain active, and fit, during the journey to prevent muscle wastage as we have a long cycle journey coming up.”
As well as celebrating the Corps’ 350th anniversary, the Royal Marines 1664 Challenge is hoping to raise £500,000 for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund (RMCTF) the overarching Royal Marines charity.
More information about the Challenge can be found at www.1664challenge.co.uk with regular updates being posted at www.facebook.com/rm1664challenge as well as their Twitter feed @RM1664challenge