A WAR veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder has set sail to battle the Aussies in the 'Ashes on the Water'.

Ashley Bowes, from Abingdon, will be part of a UK veterans team taking on the Australians in the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day and hopes it can land him a place in next year's Invictus Games.

After two tours of Iraq he left the Royal Logistics Corps in 2007 but battled with depression before being diagnosed with PTSD.

During his treatment he was introduced to the charity Turn to Starboard - which helps injured veterans take up sailing.

Earlier this year he completed the gruelling 2,000-mile Round Britain Challenge with 16 other veterans who had little or no experience of the sport.

The 31-year-old said after his maiden voyage he felt at home on the water and was ready to take on the Australians.

Mr Bowes said: "I'm hooked on sailing for life now.

"Sydney Hobart is notoriously difficult and challenging but when I am on the water, the true me comes out.

"I feel no pain and there are no devils out on the oceans - it is a truly magical place to be."

With selection on the horizon for the fourth Invictus Games - founded by Prince Harry for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women - next year, success later this month could ensure he can compete in the event in October.

The Australian team for the games will be one of the other crews taking part later this month.

The 630-nautical mile event will begin in Sydney and see the crews race to Hobart in Tasmania.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world in 1969, will be joining the UK crew as their on-board navigator.

He said: "I have a huge respect for our veterans for dedicating their lives to the protection of others.

"So I feel very proud to be joining the UK team in their challenge, and of course I'm looking forward to helping them get an edge on our Australian competition."

Head of sports recovery at Help for Heroes, Martin Colclough, said events such as the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race were enabling veterans to find a new focus.

He said: "We want to empower our veterans to regain their purpose despite life changing injuries or illnesses so we are delighted to be able to support this initiative.

"We are driven by the belief that those who put their lives on the line for us deserve a second chance at life and taking part in an event such as the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race will enable our veterans to find a new direction to focus on while inspiring the nation."