A SWINDON man has been tackling giant waves and ocean storms to raise money for the Meningitis Trust.

Former Headlands pupil Ben Fouracre is nearing the end of the Shepherd Ocean Fours Rowing Race - a gruelling 3,118 course across the Atlantic from New York to Falmouth in Cornwall.

Royal Engineer, Ben, from Pinehurst, has been rowing with three teammates as part of Team Hesco since June 10, and by the finish they will have raised more than £100,000 for the charity.

Since leaving New York Ben has been sharing cramped living conditions with fellow Royal Engineer rowers Charlie Martell, 36, from Gloucestershire, Mark Waterson, 46, from Yorkshire and Pete Rowlands, 46, also from Yorkshire.

Along the way, the crew has faced many obstacles, including ocean swell the height of a house, winds reaching storm Force 10 and container ships the size of a block of flats.

Staff Sergeant Ben said that he was doing the race to avoid drill duty with the army.

"It's my weak point, I'm afraid, where I'm renowned for my lack of prowess," he joked.

Success in the event requires a combination of teamwork, navigation, immense strength and an element of luck.

But a quick glance at his army career shows that Ben is used to a challenge. He has qualified as an army diver, and skiing instructor, and in 1989 finished the All Arms Commando Course.

"It's my competitive streak," he said.

"Those who know me would say I also tend to have a relaxed attitude towards most things, to which I reply, Yes, but I get things done.'"

Ben left Headlands when he was 16 and joined the army immediately. His parents Anita and David have separated, and still live in Swindon. He has a brother Dean and a sister Marie.

Ben said he was honoured to be part of such an epic race.

"Taking part in the Shepherds Ocean Fours Rowing Race is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities," he said.

"At the heart of it is raising awareness and funds for the Meningitis Trust, a fantastically good cause."

Asked about difficulties during the race, Ben highlighted the bad weather and the strain of getting used to the tiny living space.

He said: "I've trained and worked in enough different weather conditions around the world to be able to shrug off most of what the planet can throw at me."

Looking forward to his arrival in Cornwall, he said: "Seeing the family, drinking a cold beer and sleeping in a large bed will be what I'll most look forward to.

"And if we're first to cross that line, then I might just make it two beers."

The team are now just a few hundred miles away from Cornwall. For detailed information about the race and Ben's progress visit www.oceanfoursrowingrace.comand www.commando-joe.co.uk