Main Photo: The start of the Real Boat Race as Big Ben strikes 2100hrs on May 4, 2013

The Real Boat Race is a 500-mile, six-day rowing challenge starting In London, at The London Eye, and ending at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Crews have to navigate two of the world’s most historic rivers and must also cross the English Channel – the world’s busiest shipping channel.

A row up the Seine can only be attempted on a Spring tide. Thus the crews have a four-hour window on only three days of the year in which to navigate the mouth of the Seine at Le Havre.

The tricky combination of conditions and requirements means more people have stood at the summit of Everest than have completed this challenge.

Crews use purpose-built 32-foot adventure gigs, essentially customised Cornish pilot gigs. They’re safe, fast and tough enough for a Channel crossing in all but the most severe weather. Six rowers and one cox pilot each gig and the crews of 12 will operate in 2-hour shifts, disembarking every two hours onto support boats for food, hot drinks and (if they’re lucky) some sleep.

This race is an test of strength, endurance, teamwork and plenty of willpower.

Charlie and his Help for Heroes team – including injured servicemen – left London on May 4, 2013. Seven days later they would arrive in Paris, having rowed all the way – including a 200-mile stretch upstream on the Seine.