Epic Adventure - The World's Toughest Rowing Race

May 04, 2017

Atlantic Endeavour (above) is made up of four young women who share a common interest in conquering a huge challenge. United by a passion for adventure, and surviving in extreme conditions, they were the first womens’ crew to cross the finish line in the 2016/17 edition of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, arriving in English Harbour in early 2017.

"More people by far have climbed Everest or been into space than have successfully rowed the Atlantic, and it is considered to be one of the toughest challenges on the planet."

crossing the atlantic ocean

In 1966 Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgway became the first men to row the Atlantic. During their 92 day passage they faced hurricanes, 50ft waves and a near starvation diet. This trip laid the foundation for the 'Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge'.

Since 1997 races across the Atlantic have attracted the brave and intrepid to pit themselves against the elements. Once the crews leave the safety of the harbour they'll be on their own, on the vast ocean and at the mercy of the elements, until the race comes into its final stretch.

From the sunsets and sunrises to the wildlife that will be encountered first hand – the race offers different experiences to all of those involved. There is a constant battle of sleep deprivation, blisters, salt sores and the physical extremes that the row will inflict from two-hour shifts around the clock for weeks on end, facing all the raw elements of the Atlantic Ocean.

To inspire women to push their boundaries, Sarah, Kate, Becky and Charlie set off to cross the Atlantic, shoot for a world record, whilst raising awareness and funding for their chosen charities, and Tree Tribe was so proud to support them!

They are Atlantic Endeavour, This is their story:

You girls spent 55 days rowing across the Atlantic Ocean; what inspires a person to take on such a feat?

We are all adventure lovers at heart, with pastimes and hobbies that between us include; offshore sailing, swimming, marathon and ultramarathon running, hiking, mountaineering, climbing, triathlons, endurance events and of course travelling. Our mission was to inspire women to push their boundaries, and we had two fantastic charities (Mind - the UK mental health charity, and Women for Women International - supporting marginalized women in post-conflict countries) which we were supporting.

Did you have any fears before going in?

Of course! The fears ranged from the little things like would we like the snack packs, how sore would our bums get etc., to the larger things, like what would happen if we capsized, and how would we deal with it? We did as much as possible to relieve those fears before the row started - talking to crews that had done the race in the past was a great way of gaining an insight into how to deal with certain situations, and taking as much advice from them as possible.

What was it like training for this endeavour? Was it taxing on your bodies and your lifestyles?

The major part of the endeavour was the logistical preparation and the organisation of things. It was two years in the making to get to the start line, and when people say "the biggest challenge is getting to the start line", they really do mean it! The physical training was generally not too taxing, mostly switching up normal gym routines to those more suitable for training for an ocean row; a lot of endurance training, long ergos spent in front of the tv, and a lot of general conditioning to minimize the risk of injury. Sarah and Kate had the additional physical challenge of having to try and put on some body weight pre-row, to preempt the inevitable weight loss that would occur with that amount of physical activity.

Undertaking a campaign such as this one is undoubtedly taxing on lifestyle; it's tough on those people around you (partners, family and friends) as your spare time becomes dedicated to row admin and training, tough to maintain a good work/row/life balance, particularly when working full time up until the day before leaving the UK! It meant making sacrifices along the way, and the road to the start was definitely a tough one.

How did you all get into rowing and fall so in love with it?

I (Charlie) have rowed since I was 14, for my local town club as a junior, then for my university whilst I did my degrees. Kate learnt to row whilst at university, but Becky and Sarah had never been in a rowing boat before we started the campaign! They took to it pretty quickly though, and the majority of training we did on the water was in our actual ocean rowing boat (Ellida) which is very different to a fine river racing boat anyway.

Atlantic Endeavour women row team

Let's talk about the endeavour itself! What were some of the biggest challenges you came across?

We were fortunate to not have any major challenges that could have ended our endeavour whilst at sea, such a major damage to the boat, or any major injuries to the crew. Instead, we had a whole host of smaller challenges that needed constant attention; whether this was the Walter the watermaker (desalinator) playing up and needing monitoring and repeated resetting whilst making water, the batteries not charging properly whilst we made our way through a four-day Saharan dust cloud, trying to find food selections that people wanted to eat when tastebuds changed at sea, being surrounded by lightning storms in the middle of the night (when you are the highest thing on the ocean in the immediate area!) or dealing with the ever-changing weather.

We had thunderstorms, torrential rain, baking hot sun during the daytime that left you dehydrated and overheating, and some very strong wind. The strong wind often coincided with us ending up broadside to the wind and the waves, battling to turn the boat around again before a wave hit us from the side and threatened to capsize us (normally in the darkness of the middle of the night!).

What surprised you the most in those 55 days?

The stars - horizon to horizon of the most perfect skies you will ever see. We've all seen big night skies before, from mountains, deserts or at sea, but on this trip we really had the chance to drink in the sky during our night shifts. We also discovered that there were some fairly hilarious hallucinations caused by the buildup of physical fatigue and sleep deprivation! People's tastebuds were also very different when we were at sea - on land, Becky LOVED her Macaroni Cheese freeze-dried meals, but at sea she couldn't stomach eating it once.

If you could go back, what would you do differently?

Apparently we were one of the most organised teams arriving at the start line - I think in that respect, there's not much that we would have done differently. Having taken advice from as many previous teams as possible, we coped with most challenges pretty well - the only thing we might have changed had it been in our power was the weather! We would have loved for the easterly trade winds to appear in the first week, rather than the last week of the row, when we then had to slow down on our approach to Antigua to make sure our family and friends would be on the dock to welcome us in.

How do you feel now that you've completed your Atlantic Endeavour?

The idea of rowing the Atlantic became so normal to us during the preparation, as we were constantly surrounded by ocean rowing kit and doing admin, it just became part of our lives. Now that it's finished, it seems a little weird to think that we've finally rowed across the Atlantic. It's on to the next thing now, and back to the realities of normal life (work, houses, bills to pay!). It's been an absolute delight having the chance to catch up with friends and family after a long period of neglecting our loved ones and our social lives!

What was the first thing you did once you got home?

For me it was house-hunting. Trying to find a new place for myself and my fiance before I went back to work a week later. Some of us have our next challenges already lined up, and three of us are busy planning weddings, so there's plenty to keep us all busy now we're back on dry land.

Love your story girls! Truly an EPIC ADVENTURE!!!

Learn more about the Atlantic Endeavour: www.atlanticendeavour.com

Follow these rad girls on Instagram: instagram.com/atlanticendeavour

Author: Sage

Sage is a passionate natural health advocate and nature lover, you'll find her at the beach most days with a bottle of Kombucha.

Mission: to live a life of happiness whilst creating minimal harm and damage, and make the world a better place for our future people.



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