So...3 office workers that have never rowed before- how did this mad idea come to be?
I should never be left alone to watch Netflix! I watched a documentary about the Coxless Crew - a team of women that rowed across the Pacific and I was so inspired by their achievements that I told the girls about them at our next indoor climbing session. Me coming along with ideas of grand adventures was quite a regular occurrence, but usually, they were quickly batted down with a swift “No Caroline, we’re not going to cycle to Russia”. This time, however, Susan said “yes”. The next hurdle was to convince Jess this was a good idea. With a few more trips to the pub, we got her onboard eventually!
We questioned whether or not three ordinary women with no prior rowing experience and no big network to tap into for sponsorship could really take on a challenge as great as this? That's when we realised that we had to - we're determined to prove that anyone can achieve their dreams, no matter how big.
We're setting out to become the second ever female trio to row 3,000 miles unsupported across the Atlantic. This December, we're taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - known as the world's toughest row. Leaving from the Canaries, we'll be rowing as a team 24/7, carrying all of our supplies with us, and living totally alone aboard our 7m x 2m ocean rowing boat for 50+ days, until we reach the shores of Antigua.
This is our story of what happens when you say yes, set yourself a goal, and go for it.
Tell us, what are the greatest contributors to plastic pollution in the ocean?
We manufacture over 300 million tonnes of plastic a year. Half of that we use just one, sometimes only for a few seconds, and then we throw it away. And while plastic is an amazingly versatile and useful product, it is virtually indestructible.
Single-use plastic water bottles, carrier bags, coffee cups and plastic straws are some of the biggest contributors. These items will live forever but are designed to be used for an average time of fewer than 10 minutes.
Best tips for how to reduce our individual contribution to plastic in the ocean?
A big part of why we decided to take on this challenge was to give us a global platform that can be used for good. We're big believers in adventure with a purpose and are using the row to help raise awareness of the global plastic pollution situation, and help individuals bridge the gap between awareness and action.
Each of us has the power to make a difference, and when we act together, the results are incredible. The easiest place to start is to stop using plastic straws, switch to a reusable bottle/drinks cup and carry a reusable bag to avoid single-use plastic carrier bags.
Once you start making small changes like this, you begin to realise other areas in your life that you’re using single-use plastic. Figure out your plastic habits and where you can cut back.
What have you found are the best platforms and ways in which to spread the word of your mission?
We’ve found that Twitter has been a great way to reach people on a global level. More locally, we’ve done a documentary screening as well as speaking events in offices and at conferences, which have been a great way to get people more invested in the cause and our mission at a deeper level.
What are some good films to watch to learn more about plastic pollution?
Blue Planet II did a good job of bringing the issue to the forefront of the general public’s mind, but the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ dives deeper into the problem, the global scale of it, and the impacts on human health.
A trip like this takes a lot of training and preparation! How have you found balancing training with work?
In short, hard! We've been on this journey for well over a year now, and there’s a surprising amount that goes into running a campaign to row across an ocean. But we love a challenge, and fortunately for us, our companies have been understanding of the challenge that we’re undertaking. We have our 9am - 6pm jobs but once we walk out of the door at 6, we start our 6pm - 9am jobs! It’s a balancing act.
We train in the gym at least 5 times a week, in sessions that range from 30 mins to over 2 hours. Most weekends are spent out on the boat, putting our skills into practice. This challenge is so much more than just physical though. We've had to learn PR and social media, become public speakers, event organisers, first aiders, VHF radio operators, navigators and so much more! We push each other outside of our comfort zones in new ways on a daily basis.
We’re also raising money to support the Marine Conservation Society and their 'Clean Seas' programme. But, the costs involved in participating in this event are significant - around £100,000, which we’re working towards through a combination of our life savings, corporate sponsorship, and donations from friends, family and new friends. You can find out more about this on our website www.statusrow.com/support
Your boat ‘Poppy’ was given to you by the current record-holding rowers The Atlantic Girls- have they given you any interesting tips for the row and is there any sense of competition?!
"Given" would have been nice! Ocean rowing boats are surprisingly expensive but yes, we bought our boat, Poppy, from the Atlantic Ladies who were the first female trio to row across the Atlantic, so it’s only fitting that we’re setting out to break their record in the same boat! Their first piece of advice to us was “Choose you wet wipes carefully!”
It’s really interesting, everyone in the ocean rowing community is so supportive of anyone that’s mad enough to take on the challenge. It’s wonderful to be a part of such a welcoming community, but yeah, as soon as we cross that start line our competitive sides will be in full swing until we reach the end as world record holders ;)
What’s the biggest challenge you think you’re going to face in your row?
Whatever we think our biggest challenge will be, probably won’t be! But right now, I think learning how to live with 2 other people in such a small space where emotions are running high will be a real challenge. Resolving conflict quickly and ensuring that we reach Antigua as even better friends than when we started is a top priority for us. That and the 40ft waves, salt sores, sleep deprivation, isolation and sharks ;)
How will you manage sleeping and eating between the three of you for the duration of the trip?
The plan is to work in 2 hours shifts. So you’ll row for 2 hours then rest for 2 hours. In your resting time, you’ll need to do body maintenance (baby wipe showers!), eat, sleep, clean the boat and any other chores that need doing around the boat. Extreme sleep deprivation is one of the things I’m looking forward to the least! Hallucinations are common we’re told, as is falling asleep whilst rowing.
You’re going to be spending 7 weeks together in a pretty confined space- the ultimate test of friendship! What would you say were each of your individual strengths?
Ooh, good question. Each of us brings such different strengths to this challenge which all come into their own at different times. Jess has an insatiable appetite for knowledge; she’s our researcher and will be our go-to for how to fix things on the boat. Susan’s drive and positive outlook are unrivalled; she’s there keeping us on track and focused, no matter how tough things get. And me, I’ll just keep at it. I might not be the fastest or the strongest, but I’ll be there the longest, and that comes in handy in an endurance event ;)
You have a long and testing journey ahead of you come December! Any plans to pimp out the boat for optimum comfort? Some cushions, subwoofers and a shag carpet maybe?
Ha, Jess has a few plans up her sleeve no doubt! The first addition she made to her cabin was a fan with disco lights!! Fortunately, our boat came with speakers built in so Jess can blast her Disney tunes as loud as she wants (provided I’m not on shift/can’t hear them)!
You are going to be burning a whopping 8,000 calories day- what are you planning to eat? We are assuming vegan burgers aren’t on the menu…
I wish! Unfortunately, it’ll be a combination of dehydrated expedition meals, protein shakes and as many snacks as we can fit on board! The sheer volume of food we need to consume is going to be quite a challenge and we might not be able to eat enough. To prepare for this, we need to gain about 1.5 stone in weight before we start - which is surprisingly hard when you’re working out 5+ times per week!! If anyone has any good vegan snack recommendations, feel free to send them my way!
Any pieces of advice to anyone wanting to embark on a challenge of magnitude for a cause that they feel passionately about?
Anything is possible if you want it enough - so be sure you do! Taking part in a challenge of this size is epic, exciting and life-changing, but it comes with sacrifices and compromises along the way.
Whatever your challenge is, commit to it. Turn “I’d like to...” into “I’m going to...” and you’ll be surprised how quickly that mental shift leads you down the most amazing roads you never thought you’d travel down. Just say YES, and be open to anything! Oh, and enjoy it!
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us Caroline, your story is seriously inspiring! We wish the three of you the best of luck with it all!
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