All-female crew survive 20m waves and inquisitive whales to reach the UK and enter the record books
Five British women have rowed 24 hours a day, non-stop, for over 48 days, rowing the North Atlantic Ocean. On Wednesday 27th, with one of the crew holding a bright flare at the bow, glowing through the dawn gloom, they meandered their way through the sail boats and the welcoming paddle boarders to land at Falmouth Harbour.
The crew left New York on 7th June, with their boat, the ‘Liberty of Essex’ passing within metres of the iconic Statue of Liberty, and have now set at least two world records. They are the first all-female crew to row the Atlantic from West to East, one of the longest and most difficult routes, and one of them, university student Molly Brown, has become the youngest woman to have rowed the ocean at 20 years old.
“There maybe a couple of speed records too” explains skipper Guin Batten, 48, herself an Olympic silver medallist from the Sydney 2000 Games. “But we still need those authenticated before they can be confirmed.”
“These have been the toughest women I could have hoped for to accomplish this journey. They’ve stayed focused and strong throughout. You have to be. It’s not like getting on and off a bus, once you’re in the boat there is only one-way home, and that’s over 3000 miles of ocean in front of you.”
“The storm waves were huge, between 10 and 20 metres high. We put out the para anchor, like an underwater parachute, that just kept us steady whilst we bunkered down in our cabins to ride it out. The three girls in the bow were thrown up in the air a number of times, but it calmed down after 12 hours.”
They also met a whale who circled the boat and took a good look at the crew. “We closed the hatches and locked everything down, to be prepared in case the whale came up under us and capsized the boat.”
In addition to Guin Batten and Molly Brown, the other members of the crew were Alex Holt, 26, a water-ski and snow ski instructor, Dr Gilly Mara, 34, one of the fastest ultra-kayakers in the UK who came into the sport after breaking her neck in a climbing accident, and Mary Sutherland, 36, an accomplished offshore sailor and racer with several Fastnet and Atlantic crossings under her belt.
The Liberty of Essex is due to tour the coastline of the UK, giving opportunities to encourage others to take up rowing and experience being in a top class, ocean rowing vessel. It was built by Rannoch Adventure, run by Charlie Pitcher, the current world record holder for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, having rowed it in 35 days in 2013.