A ROSYTH soldier isn't planning a traditional Christmas this year – instead he'll be weeks into a mammoth challenge which will see him row across the Atlantic Ocean.

John Ford, a Captain with the Scots Guards, is part of a four-man team who will take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019 where they hope to row 3,000 miles across from La Gomera to Antigua and raise thousands of pounds for the Scots Guards charity.

The team – called the Atlantic Guardsmen – is made up of John, two fellow Scots Guards, John Adams and Dean Charnley; and one 'civvy', Derek Spence, who has previously served with the New Zealand army.

John and New Zealander Derek came up with the idea while they were taking part in the Marathon Des Sables, another endurance feat which saw them run six marathons over five days across the Sahara desert.

"The seed was dropped and it is now coming to fruition," said John, 44. "I have been in the Military for about 26 years now so I have done a lot of endurance challenges and things.

"I don't have any particular background with rowing – I have just rowed on a rowing machine in the garage. I have kayaked and been on the water before but nothing serious, just endurance training through the army so I have a wee bit of experience – I can swim."

The team is getting a boat specially made for them and are hoping the challenge will take around 40 days, however, they are aware that this could be longer.

"It could take anything up to 120 days depending on the conditions," said dad-of-one John. "Basically, it will be two hours on and two hours off for 40 days. On your hours off, you get a wash, something to eat and then sleep for about an hour.

"Christmas and New Year will be spent rowing furiously. It will start roughly on December 10 and hopefully will finish before the end of January."

John and his team are keen to raise as much money as they can during the effort and are busy trying to attract corporate sponsors who will chip in to help them.

"We are in the lucky position that I am in the Scots Guards and our charity is underwriting the costs and we have to raise that back and raise as much money as we can for the charity. It comes in at about £100,000-£120,000 so we are working on events, marketing, corporate sponsorship and that is probably going to be the hardest bit.

"Over time, I have done other sorts of endurance-type events and it is the charity I have always raised money for. 

"I have seen the cost of conflict and I see the benefits the charity brings to the people who have suffered who need assistance. The charity also gives to all the other main military charities so it isn't just supporting the Scots Guards."

As well as fundraising, the team is also having to get stuck into their training – as well as the physical side, they have to take part in mandatory courses covering areas such as sea survival, navigation and first aid.

"We are having to do a lot of functional stuff like dead weight training and conditioning training," added John, who is currently based at Edinburgh Castle as a recruiting officer. "The worst thing to do is just row on a rowing machine. You need to train all the muscle groups."

More information about getting involved in the team's corporate sponsorship effort can be found at their website, www.rowforheroes.co.uk, while donations can also be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=TheAtlanticGuardsman&isTeam=true.