Meet the Kent student who rowed across the Irish Sea for charity

PUBLISHED: 13:51 29 April 2020

Felix Daglish (photo: Max Bristow)

Felix Daglish (photo: Max Bristow)

Matt Bristow

How one Duke of York’s Royal Military School student braved the Irish Sea to raise money for charity, despite his disability

To row across the Irish Sea is already a Viking-like expedition. When combined with a wrathful storm, enormous waves and a series of unfortunate events, it seems all the more unachievable.

Thus when Duke of York’s Royal Military School student Felix Daglish, a quadriplegic who has been in a wheelchair since birth, embarked upon this mighty charity row from Rock (Cornwall) across the Irish Sea to Cork, his endurance and character were sure to be tested.

Felix, 18, his father and two other team members rowed a herculean distance of 194 nautical miles (223 land miles) in just three days and nights.

They raised a staggering £11,551, which was split between The Dukies’ Foundation (the school’s charity) and Walking with the Wounded, which helps former Armed Forces personnel.

After a year’s training using the Dover school’s sporting facilities, Felix felt determined and ready to face the challenge ahead. Yet his initial expectations were far from the reality that awaited him out on those choppy waters.

Opting to have no support boat and a team of just two handlers on shore, the confident rowers set off after a happy family gathering, filled with optimism and excitement.

Shortly after their send off, raging storms broke out, the wind whistled, rain whipped down on the team and the all-important Auto-Navigation system broke.

This complicated matters, especially with the storm working hard to make life difficult for the resilient rowers. Using their initiative, they came up with a system; each member would complete one hour of rowing, one hour of steering and one hour of sleeping in rotation.

The boost in efficiency they had hoped for, however, was not so easily realised, although they were back on track and no longer rowing in large circles.

The next hurdle was the near impossible sleeping conditions. With only a thin gym mat on which to sleep and little to no protection from the gale force winds, stamina was being driven down by the testing conditions. In addition, their only sustenance was protein bars and energy gels, as Felix says: “It’s obviously impossible to cook in a storm on a row boat.”

After three gruelling days they arrived in Cork at 10:30pm to the sound of a single person applauding from the dock: their handler. Though Felix says it was a tad ‘anti-climactic’, the true sense of pride came later after they’d enjoyed a well-earned kip.

Despite his disabilities, Felix’s pride lay not in his incredible completion of the expedition, but rather in realising just how much had been raised, as many donations were made while they toiled away at sea.

Felix’s motivation came in two distinct forms that supported him at different times. First and foremost, his desire to contribute to charity as is tradition in the Daglish household. The second was the sense of team spirit which Felix believes is rooted both in his experience of Dukie life at his boarding house, and in the powerful sense of responsibility, belonging and unity he felt as part of the team during the gruelling three days.

Finally, Felix says that irrespective of the additional physical challenges he faces, this will be the first of many great expeditions which he will embark upon in the near future to raise money for charity.

He encourages everyone to get involved in any way possible as “there is no better feeling.”

Get in touch

This inspiring piece was written by William Bowden, former Head Boy 2017-18 at Duke of York’s Royal Military School in Dover, now reading English Literature at Exeter University, doyrms.com. Do you have a story about your school? Then email: sarah.sturt@archant.co.uk with brief details. We’ll do the rest.

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