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Grit and courage on the sea - 13 men with 12 legs

The thirteen men have only 12 legs between them, but the hero crew has taken on the challenge of the Cowes Regatta after a remarkable transatlantic race. We just received the story from Greg Lance-Watkins.

In News of the World, Paul McNamara writes -

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NEW HOPE: Toe In Water crew at Cowes

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NEW DREAM: Private Chris Herbert on course

THEY'VE duelled with death, been blown up by bombs, and survived catastrophic injuries.

But now a life on the ocean BRAVE has inspired an incredible new purpose and passion in a remarkable bunch of maimed British hero soldiers.

Today eight of this courageous band of brothers take on the world-famous Cowes regatta. But as they prepared to battle the Solent, they told of the historic sea challenge that turned their lives around- the first-ever ALL-AMPUTEE sailing crew to race across the Atlantic.

Private Chris Herbert, whose leg was blown off by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, said: "I never thought we'd make it. There were only 12 legs between the 13 crew members!

"Looking around I thought, 'What are we going to do if someone needs to climb the mast?'

"I found out the next day-when I was ordered to climb it! But when asked I didn't think about it, I just DID it.

"And that's how all the race was. No one cared about not having both legs, or even any legs. We just got on with it."

That's the incredible spirit and fellowship created by remarkable new charity Toe In The Water, dedicated to rehabilitating our injured servicemen by getting them out on the waves.

The determined crew entered last November's Atlantic Race Challenge from the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa to Barbados. And not only did the lads go the whole 2,000-mile, 10-day distance, they came THIRD!

Chris's crewmate Lance Corporal Johnathan Lee, 26, never imagined he'd go on a sailing boat. In fact after losing his right leg driving into a Taliban minefield in November 2007, he never thought he'd do ANYTHING ever again.

But the rookies' transatlantic dash aboard the 65ft Spirit of Juno changed all that.

"It was one of the most exhausting things I've ever done," Johnathan told us. "But it gave me incredible freedom. I did the whole trip WITHOUT my prosthetic leg as I found it easier to manoeuvre around the boat without it.

"It didn't hold me back a bit. I still got stuck in. It's all about the teamwork."

The world-class sailors from Toe -in-Water who are teaching the soldiers don't care about their disabilities, and the feeling seems to be infectious. "Life's too short," said soldier-sailor Johnathan, who survived battle because a daring rescue mission rescued him from the minefield. "It's all about getting on with it and making the most of it."

Chris Herbert loves sailing so much he is taking courses with the UK Sailing Association to become an elite sea captain.

You'll want to read the whole thing.

Toe in the Water unites volunteer racing sailors from all three services and the civilian community with injured servicemen. Service people who have sustained traumatic injuries regain their physical confidence by sailing with men and women they trust. Cat posted about Steve White, who sailed solo round the world in the Vendée Globe to publicize Toe in the Water, in January.

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