An RAF pilot is celebrating his nine-year-old daughter being cured of leukaemia by taking on the world’s toughest rowing race in support of the charities that supported her.

In December, Wing Commander Phil Holdcroft, along with three other RAF pilots, will board an ocean rowing boat and attempt to race unaided across the Atlantic Ocean in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

In summer 2014 Phil’s daughter Isla was diagnosed with leukaemia at just 22 months old.

He said: “Thanks in no small part to the miracle workers at Oxfordshire’s John Radcliffe Hospital, our family have been able to conquer the seemingly impossible. Isla is now a thriving nine-year-old, and as of 26th October 2021, she has been in remission for five years… and is now officially cured!"

Phil, who was based at Benson while flying Merlin and is currently based at Shrivenham, the UK Defence College, said: “As Isla’s father, I yearned for a way to help my daughter and repay the amazing charities that helped save her life. As such, I pledged to mark each of her five years in remission with a near impossible endurance challenge.

"They also offered the means for me to connect with Isla and reflect on the suffering and uncertainty which she has endured.

"The only rule was that the challenges needed to get tougher each year - a rule I nearly regretted when running 100-mile foot races and swimming in alligator infested lakes!"

Phil has raised money for Clic Sargent, RAF Benevolent Fund, The Thomas Ball Children’s Cancer Charity and Rosie’s Rainbow Fund.

He entered what is considered to be the world’s toughest race as a final challenge to mark the milestone of Isla’s cure.

He explained: "I wanted to take on a challenge of such proportions that it genuinely frightened me - a challenge where a successful outcome was far from certain as a fitting tribute to the warrior spirit of my daughter."

The race starts in La Gomera on 12th December 2021, and entrants will row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to Antigua.

With his team of Flight Lieutenant Chris Carrington-Smith, Flight Lieutenant Simon Berry and Wing Commander Sonny Roe they will not just be battling 40ft waves and 35C heat, but as experienced endurance athletes they will be trying to win the race in a world record time.

The team, who will be filmed for a documentary and will be beaming back photos and video mid-Atlantic, will be raising money for Starlight, a charity which supports seriously ill and terminally ill children.

In 2016, Starlight granted Isla a wish, taking her and the family on the trip of a lifetime to Lapland. "As a team, we want to help provide this same opportunity for life’s most deserving souls," said Phil.

He added: "Bonded by the RAF wings on our chest and the shared experience of frontline combat all four of us are fiercely competitive endurance athletes who want to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to test our mental and physical resilience on the world stage. Being able to use this incredible platform to make dreams come true is an absolute blessing, and one that we will pour our collective hearts and souls into."

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