These 4 British Women Just Completed An Epic Ocean Race & Made History While Doing It

row-like-a-girl

There’s one phrase we never tire of: “women making history”. It gives us goosebumps to know that yes, even in 2016, there are many gender barriers to break, but that there are women out there who aren’t going to stop until they are broken. For instance, these four women from the UK who have just made history in the most excellent way.

They have officially become the youngest and fastest all-female crew to row across the Atlantic ocean unaided. They were competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race, and they ended up coming in second place! It is said to be the “world’s toughest row”, where competitors battle up to 40 foot waves, hurricanes and physical challenges.

In fact, more people have climbed Mount Everest and landed on the moon, than have completed this challenge. So now with that kind of perspective in place, you start to get a sense of what an incredible achievement these women (and all other competitors) made.

Olivia Bolesworth, 27, Bella Collins, 23, Lauren Morton, 26, and Georgina Purdy, also 23, spent 40 days at sea, rowing in 2 hour shifts and having to rely only on themselves to push through the hard times. If they needed help, it was 2-3 days away. Giving up easily was not an option for these brave rowers who made the 3000 mile trip from San Sebastian in La Gomera to Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour, Antigua.

row-like-a-girl

Their team, Row Like A Girl was also raising money for charity, and chose Plan UK’s Because I Am A Girl Campaign, focusing on female empowerment as their cause. So far they have raised £20,000 of their £50,000 target but the donations are still rolling in. In an interview with Stylist.co.uk, the women said they had trained for a year and a half before setting out on December 20. It should also be noted that out of the four, only 2 had previous rowing experience, Olivia Bolesworth and Lauren Morton. They trained hard and made sure to leave shore with a strong mindset going into this challenge.

“You don’t have a lot of personal space, to put it mildly. I sat everyone down the night before we were leaving and went through some simple ground rules. To be kind to each other always and never ever badmouth anybody else in the team because that’s when problems start. And to realize that no matter how shit or low you’re feeling, someone else has felt the same way. We stuck to the rules and were incredibly strong the whole way across,” said Lauren.

Close quarters is an understatement. The cabins were tiny. The toilet was simply a bucket which forced the girls to overcome any shyness very quickly. And as the race continued, there were many days the girls rowed naked because the clothes they wore started chafing their bodies.

row-like-a-girl

Aside from the uncomfortable aspects of daily life onboard, the women battled seasickness, a fractured leg after the rudder fell on Lauren’s leg during a boat clean, getting thrown overboard by strong waves, and learning to row in the pitch black of the night. They were at the complete mercy of the ocean and they came out as conquerors.

There were also some amazing experiences during the race that made it worthwhile.

“Once we had four or five whales swimming round the boat for about six hours during the day: up and around and surfacing next to us, going underneath. We were also followed by a pod of 60 dolphins for a couple of days. They were diving out of the water and jumping, surfing the waves. They make the most lovely sounds: these squeaky happy noises. Other times when the sun was setting or rising, it would be calmer and peaceful, and I’d just think ‘My God, we’re so privileged to be doing this’,” said Georgina Purdy.

The women had plenty of time to get to know each other, discuss aspects of their lives and really think about the meaning of their team name – Row Like A Girl.

“We wanted to show we could do amazing things, and when we found ourselves in second position, that was hugely motivating – we knew we’d got a massive opportunity to show that girls can go ahead and almost win it. Coming second out of 26 teams, 24 of which were all-male – I’ll take that,” says Lauren about their huge achievement.

row-like-a-girl

Before they even set out to sea, they experienced criticism and condescension for the way they planned their race, which was the very tactic that got them into second place. It was great retribution for all the times they were told they couldn’t do this. The team decided to start off rowing further south than the outlined route because they knew a storm was coming.

“Everybody thought we were doing the wrong thing. Everybody was laughing at us, saying, ‘What are you girls doing? They don’t know where they’re going! They’re heading to Africa!’ They just thought it was a joke – until the storm hit. Everybody else had to stop for days and we carried on rowing, and that’s how we got into second position,” said Lauren.

All of a sudden, the comments they were receiving on their sat phone went from that of derision to “wow, how are you doing this?”

Despite their forward thinking and intelligent planning, they still had to battle stereotypes due to their gender.

“It was the fact we’re girls. Even now, the questions we get asked in interviews are all ‘Four girls, were you tearing each other’s hair out?’ No-one would ever ask a team of four guys, ‘Oh my God, four boys together, were you tearing each other’s hair out?!’” exclaimed Lauren.

row-like-a-girl

Her determination to finish this race was personal, as she had tried previously in 2013 and had to be rescued after 3 months. Now she and the other 3 women are using their second place and historical achievement to change the perception of what women are capable of.

“The amount of emails we got from young girls at primary school, the local Antiguan women at the finish line saying ‘Thank you for achieving this for girls’. No girls have ever finished top five before and we’ve smashed the record by days. I think I’ve got a real opportunity to show that women are very tough, that the adventure world is not just a male thing. I’m sick of seeing Bruce Parry, Bear Grylls, Ray Mears, all these men doing it and no-one showing that women can do that too,” she said.

That dream is more realistic than ever, because there is another awesome foursome who have achieved a similar feat on the ocean. The Coxless Crew, a team of 4 British women, just made history by becoming the first all-female team to row unaided across the Pacific Ocean. It took them over 9 months, and their journey will soon she shown around the world in an upcoming documentary called ‘Losing Sight of Shore’ by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sarah Moshman.

But it’s not just the ocean. Women are making history on Mount Everest, in the skies, and on dirt tracks. Everywhere you look you will find women who are ready to take on challenges and make history in a way that shows other generations who come after them, they too can break barriers and make it happen.

row-like-a-girl

 

 

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Thank For sharing your great information keep sharing . It was very helpful

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.