News articles

Skip to content

RAF Officer and two friends row the Pacific Ocean for charity

In July, Flt Lt Matt Siely and two friends, Luca Feser and Cutu Serruys, achieved a world record by self-sufficiently rowing from Monterey Bay in California to Kauai Island, Hawaii as part of ‘The World’s Toughest Row – Pacific’.

The rowing team on the boat at sunrise

Through this adventure the team, named Hold on for Dear Life (HODL) and in the aptly named vessel, Spitfire, have raised £15000 for their chosen cause, The Ocean Clean Up charity.

The team rowing

Their impressive journey across the Mid-Pacific Ocean took 38 days, 16 hours, and 19 minutes, making them the fastest recorded trio to take on the route! Out on the ocean they were faced with tropical storms, 30ft waves and numerous technical obstacles in their boat caused by the extremely adverse conditions. This all whilst adapting to the marine environment, suffering from sleep deprivation in a routine of two hours rowing and one to rest, and only being fuelled by dehydrated ration packs as nutrition.

"An expedition such as this is extremely dangerous and requires extensive preparation, something that the RAF is no stranger to. I adopted many of the skills I have gained in my career so far to appropriately train and ready myself and the team for all eventualities."

Flt Lt Siely

The preparation for such an event took two years and brought together several skills obtained by Flt Lt Siely in the RAF, along with providing lessons that he hopes to take back into his role. Mental and physical resilience was key in achieving Team HODL’s goal to set a world record and their training consisted of rigorous sea survival, weather, navigation and first aid courses. They also spent over two hundred hours off the coast of the UK acclimatising to the boat and strengthening their capability as a group. Adapting to the tough conditions, their substantial teamwork, grit, and determination led the team to overcome setbacks and beat the current record by 22 days.

The team on their boat celebrating their success

Returning to work in his role as a Training Officer, Flt Lt Siely will use his experience of building a fully prepared and resilient team, to enable and encourage the development and capability of the RAF personnel he teaches. He will also be supporting a team of three air cadets aiming to complete the Atlantic crossing in 2025.

"It is obvious why this is one of the toughest endurance events existing. The marine environment, the solitary confinement and the relentless rowing contribute to an expedition that takes you to a very tough place physically and emotionally! However, once you have mastered a routine and your team is functioning like a well-oiled machine, you begin to enjoy what a privilege it is to be able to enjoy the ocean and its beauty."

Flt Lt Siely