A HAMPSHIRE round-the-world sailor is swapping the water for dry land to mentor youngsters taking part in one of the world’s most gruelling cycle challenges.

Adam Tuffnell is joining former England rugby star Lewis Moody to inspire a team of teenagers tackling Europe’s tallest mountain in the Tour Du Mont Blanc race.

With 350 kilometres of cycling, paths rising to 9,000 metres and the threat of driving sleet and snow, it is an exhausting attempt for even experienced professionals.

Adam is one of ten elite sportspeople and 20 young people setting off on the Fastest Classroom on Earth Challenge today on Mount Blanc in the French Alps.

The sailor and his team will serve as self-styled “Duracell batteries” mentoring and encouraging the teenagers, all of whom have complex behavioural and learning difficulties.

The challenge is part of the Extreme Classroom series, a programme of annual expeditions helping young people to overcome their difficulties by developing new strengths, resilience and teamwork in extreme environments.

The trek – which includes nine climbs, some of which have been included in the Tour De France – is expected to take them four days, compared to the normal one-day race.

They will cover 60 kilometres a day and each youngster – aged 14 to 16 from counties outside of Hampshire – will be supported by adults from their schools.

Adam, who normally competes in the Global Challenge, Fastnet and Cowes, has been training at the Virgin Active Gym in West End to prepare his body for the land-based trek.

The 38-year-old, from West End, who qualified as a skipper for the 2011 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race but had to pull out due to a cruciate ligament injury, said he is both nervous and excited. He said: “It’s a huge privilege to be part of the team, but it’s taken a while to grasp the gravitas of it all.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for everyone.

“Our job is to keep everyone going and to draw on our skills and experiences to give them the strength to dig deep.

“We think of ourselves as the Duracell batteries, giving them the determination to grit their teeth and keep going.”

The elite sports people will come from a range of backgrounds and they will pass through France, Spain and Italy on the route, which is due to be shown on Sky television.

He said: “I will be able to harness my determination and perseverance from sailing.

“It’s very much a case of mental as well as physical power to keep going. It’s about having a can-do and will-do attitude.”

Britain’s most successful Olympian Sir Chris Hoy has offered his own words of support for the team, and said: “It is going to be a life-changing experience for the young people undertaking this challenge.

“I wish them all good luck.”

Extreme Classroom was launched by Polar explorer Alan Chambers and previous series have included Arctic expeditions, trekking in the Himalayas and living with Massai Warriors in the Great Rift Valley.

He said: “Building resilience, confidence and a sense of self-worth in our next generation using adventure will have a lasting impact on each of them.”