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Row Like A Girl – Girls Atlantic Rowing Team Interview

A random twist of fate (very long story) led me to be introduced to the story of 4 inspirational young ladies who have just smashed 2 World Records whilst competing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC). The girls are (from L to R) Bella, Olivia, Gee and Lauren, and they are ‘Row Like A Girl’.

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The girls rowed over 3,000 miles (from La Gomera to Antigua) and are the youngest female team to have ever rowed the Atlantic, they are also the fastest all female crew to ever row the Atlantic. A challenge like this requires incredible mental and physical strength, facing a hurricane, and many other challenges on route, the Row Like A Girl team faced the elements in their small 4 person rowing boat.

Row Like A Girl were only 1 of 2 female teams out of 26 teams competing in TWAC and they came 2nd place in the race – an incredible feat, and a credit to their teamwork and persistence during the challenge.

I was lucky enough to get an interview with the girls, and here is what they have to say…

Why did you take on the TWAC?
Lauren had entered the TWAC race in 2013 and spent 96 days at sea trying to cross the Atlantic ocean but nearly everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong and they had to be rescued. So the race was unfinished business for Lauren and the rest of us came on board as part of the new team hoping to not only get her across but to smash two world records to become the fastest and youngest female crew to cross the Atlantic.
Before you started training for this, how much rowing experience did you have?
We had varying amounts of experience between us. Lauren and Olivia both rowed for a couple of years at their university in Bristol, UWE. I myself also rowed in my last year at University in Manchester and Bella actually had no rowing experience at all. The first time she got in to a rowing boat she started rowing it backwards! We’ve come a long way since then!
What was your best moment of the challenge? 
The best moment for me, aside from the arrival which was quite simply the best day of my life, was probably any day when the sun was shining, wind blowing and we were going quickly. I found I was happy and genuinely loved every moment of being out there when we were going fast and making good progress.

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What was your worst moment? 
My worst moment was probably the first couple of days after we were hit by hurricane Alex. We suffered a lot of breakages and equipment failure and had spent days working on fixes so we could get going again. But when we finally did we were making such slow progress which was so hard on the body. Pulling as hard as you could for so little speed and distance. It was also so hard to relax and not panic or worry about the equipment breaking on us again and I think thats the first time I ever considered what we would do if something happened that might prevent us from finishing the race. That was always my greatest fear, that we would not make it across.
How did you cope living in a confined space for such a long period of time?
Living in a tiny cabin certainly takes some getting used to. Certainly to start with when I felt really seasick and we were all wearing our big, bulky, offshore gear it made life very difficult. However it’s just something you get used to. You have to be very disciplined and make sure you keep your stuff tidy and packed away and always put things back as you found them. For such a tiny space you’d be amazed by how much stuff just disappears never to be found again!

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How did you deal with personal conflict on-board?
I can honestly say we never had a single conflict or argument onboard. Before we set of I was never in any doubt that that would be the case. Yes people get tired, grumpy and snappy but it happens to everyone and is to be expected, it’s a very high pressure situation- especially when things go wrong! But we were great friends before we started and these girls are like sisters to me now. They are without a doubt the most amazing women I know.

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Ocean rowers often row naked… because they can!

How did you physically prepare for the race?
Physically training for a race like this is hard in that it’s almost impossible. No training that we did compared to anything we went through out on the Atlantic. However we got our boat about 6 months before the race was due to start and spent a lot of weekends out on the water learning how the boat moves, how the equipment works and getting used to life onboard. We also did a lot of gym work, getting a workout in most mornings before work focusing on heavy weight training to make sure we were as strong as possible.
How did you mentally prepare for the race – and what are your top tips for future racers?
Mental preparation is probably even harder than physical preparation. You can’t prepare yourself mentally to be honest but the big thing for me was about feeling generally prepared and ready. Feeling capable that I could do it and having belief in my ability. That comes with learning the boat and the equipment, knowing that you would be able to fix things and how everything works. Also knowing that my body was strong and ready for the challenge and that I was doing everything I could to make sure that was the case.
How did you cope with the physical exhaustion and tiredness?
This is all about routine, breaking your normal routine and getting in to a new pattern. For the first week or two you feel groggy, tired and, for me, sea sick as well. During this time it’s just about looking after yourself and going through the motions in the knowledge that it will end and you will feel better soon. Once you are then in that new routine and feeling normal again it’s important to be disciplined and not break that pattern. Once I was in to the 2hours on/off pattern I never felt that bad, I got used to just functioning for 2 hours at time and then having a rest again.

Would you ever do it again? 
I don’t think I would do it again, no. Not because I didn’t enjoy it but because how could I beat that? It was the most amazing experience of my life and we exceeded even our own expectations. Some things are best left alone.

What’s next?!
I think we are all still riding on the high of this experience to think seriously about the next adventure. For most of us though it we be settling back in to normal life and getting a job or returning to work. Doing something like this certainly gives you a taste for adventure and so I’m sure there is more on the cards for us all but what I couldn’t say.

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