Shipping Doris!

Thursday was a big day for the Coxless Crew. I went down to Southampton docks to oversee putting Doris into a container to be shipped to San Francisco. She will travel across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of America before we see her again!

The drive down from London was under blue skies and it looked like it would be a beautiful day to see Doris off on her journey. Sadly, by the time we arrived at Rossiters boat yard in Christchurch some good old English rain had set in and was to last for the rest of the day. I met with the Cris and the team at Rossiters to make a few last minute adjustments to Doris. Our final Solbian solar panel was installed and some adjustments made to our Lewmar hatches and to the area on deck where we will be stowing our Crewsaver life raft.

Tony Humphreys, who will be our on-shore support during our row, was on hand to oversea the final packing of the hatches and cabins and to tow Doris on the trailer through the New Forest across to Southampton docks.

 

On arrival in a very very wet Southampton we had a warm welcome from the team at J&A Marshall Ltd and from Brian from PSP Logistics. Then the real fun started. I must admit, I had no idea how to go about getting a 29ft ocean rowing boat weighing nearly a tonne off a trailer and into a 40ft container! But, as ever, Tony had all the answers.

 

Step no.1: lift Doris off trailer using huge yellow container handler and long slings

 

 

Step no.2: lower Doris down until she is resting at one end on a small set of wheels (a dolly trolly)

 

 

Step no.3: with the stern end supported on the dolly, support the bow end by suspending it from a forklift truck and then remove the support of the slings

 

 

Step no.4: keeping Doris level, drive the forklift forward to slide her on the dolly into the container

 

 

Step no. 4: lower Doris using the forklift until she is resting on a row of tyres along the bottom of the container and then and strap her in

 

And it was easy as that! Thank you to everyone who helped out yesterday and along the way to get Doris ready for her journey.

 

Saying goodbye to Doris has made our departure suddenly feel just around the corner. It is exciting, but also a reminder of how much there is still to do before we head off to San Francisco ourselves. The next few weeks will be filled with training, press events, sponsorship meetings, fundraising and much much more, so watch this space!

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Capsize drills, team psych session and deploying the para anchor

This weekend was a busy one for the team.  It really all started on Friday when we had a super exciting meeting with a super exciting new supporter of the Coxless Crew.  Stay posted to find out what that was all about!

Early doors on Saturday morning we arrived at Rossiters in Christchurch to face one of our fears for the row – the capsize!  We got into the cabins, Nats and myself in the stern cabin and Laura in the bow cabin and strapped ourselves in.  The Rossiters team used the crane to tip us over manually.  Inside the cabin it felt like a slow tipping sideways and she sat for quite a while at 90 degrees before needing an extra tip to get her to go over.  This was actually quite comforting as we now know that she can be thrown around in the waves a lot before capsizing.  The roll from 90 degrees back up to upright was surprisingly quick and smooth and before we even had time to think about it we were back the right way up.  The exercise was really useful as we can now have total faith that Doris definitely does self-right and we can also reflect on the experience to help us imagine how it will feel when it happens for real in the middle of the Pacific.

Aft Cabin Capsize

Fore Cabin Capsize

The rest of Saturday was spent in a team session with our performance psychologist Keith.  We thought about how to recognise our warning signs that stress is getting to us before, during and after an event and shared this around the table to help us to recognise the signs in others in order to be able to support the other members of the team as much as possible.  We also completed a separate questionnaire which highlighted to us the importance of keeping social and task related activities separate when we are on the boat as well as making sure that we make time to socialise with each other in a non-row related way before we leave (easier said than done).

Our day ended in what is now becoming a bit of a habit – food and wine in front of The Voice which has replaced the X Factor as the Coxless Crew Saturday night entertainment of choice.

Sunday started windy and cold and after a good breakfast we headed off to visit Doris again.  Top of the list for the day was practising deployment of the para anchor.  After carefully reviewing the instructions (men take note this actually works) and our notes and photos from a previous session with Tony we had a go ourselves.  As it was so windy we just deployed it where we were moored up.  Seemed easy enough but our opinions might change in 40ft waves and high winds!

Para Anchor

The afternoon we spent running through our ‘what if’ scenarios.  This is a really important part of preparation ensuring that we have thought through all the possible problems and situations and know what to do.  As well as the obvious safety requirements of knowing what to do if one of us falls overboard or our water maker stops working it also brought home to us all how real this all is and got us thinking about what life will be like for us aboard the boat.  A useful exercise and the start of some interesting psych homework!

Next weekend we start packing Doris ready for shipping!  So exciting!  Stay posted to see how you fit 6 months of kit into a 29ft boat!

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Doris visits Marlow

On Saturday we brought Doris on a little road trip to Marlow to go for a row on the Thames and introduce her to the town.  She arrived on Friday evening and with a little help from Ella and the Knill family we got her on the water and over the river to the Compleat Angler hotel who had kindly offered her a safe home for the night.

Doris at the Compleat Angler

Sunday morning arrived with sunshine and blue skies.  Our beautiful pink Breast Cancer Care gazebo and the rowing machine were installed in Higginson Park and Doris was rowed over to join in the fun.  With the strong stream and Doris being so much heavier than my usual rowing boats it was the slowest I’ve ever rowed up this stretch of river but pretty special to be showing off Doris where I learnt to row.

Local star Ems

First up was the chance to take some prize winners out for a paddle and the chance to experience life in the aft cabin.  Martin was up first followed by Katie and Ewan and all three had a go at rowing the boat.  It was great to be able to show some of our supporters what life will be like for us when we are out on the ocean.

The Crew, the Mayor and Naomi

For the rest of the day we were inundated with visitors including Suzanne Brown, Mayor of Marlow, the local press and lots of friends, family and supporters.  We were also treated to a visit from Olympic and paralympic rowing stars Naomi Riches, Heather Stanning, Katherine Grainger, Beth Rodford and Sarah Winckless.  Heather kindly christened Doris with some champagne in an official naming ceremony and then came for a row with us.  It was so great to have so much support behind us and we had a really fantastic day talking to so many interested people.

Naming ceremony for Doris

The weekend finished off with a training session at Marlow Rowing Club on Sunday morning followed by the usual logistical fun involved in getting Doris back on the trailer and safely home to Christchurch.  The next few weekends will be spent in final preparations and packing before we put her into a shipping container ready to start the journey to San Francisco.  Stay posted for updates on next weekend’s capsize drills.

The next Coxless Crew event in Marlow will be a talk kindly sponsored by Court Gardens on Wednesday 11th February.  Tickets are £12 and include a buffet provided by Court Gardens and a presentation about the row, the training and preparation so far and the reasons why we are doing it.  To book a place contact Rotarian Sara Bowater on 07850 036236 or Sara@sbowater.co.uk.

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GSK testing day

GSK HPL logo

As a team we want to be as best prepared as possible in all aspects of the row and so being able to work with expert practitioners in human performance, is an amazing opportunity to understand how we can get the best out of ourselves from a physiological and neurological perspective.  We say that this row is 85% psychological in how we cope and 15% physical, but our psychological state will be affected by being dehydrated, calorie deficient, sleep deprived, hormone imbalanced etc. so if we can optimise these variables and recognise them, then this in turn will help our mental state.

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With a science background, we recognise that our row is also an opportunity to gain some valuable data on 4 healthy females, who will be going through 6 months of sleep deprivation, hormonal control, change in diet, exposure to high temperatures and hours in the sun, plus 6 months of not walking on solid ground. With next to no opportunities of looking at 4 women doing a 6 month endurance event, we didn’t want it to be a wasted opportunity for research and development ideas that could aid the production of something that can affect the wider female community after the row. We therefore approached GSK (GlaxoSmithKline group) who are a science led global healthcare company with one of the leading research and development centres, who’s mission is to focus on ‘helping people to do more, feel better and live longer.’

The GSK Human Performance Lab (http://www.gskhpl.com/ ) is a world-class science facility focused on applying current methods to optimise performance in the elite (such as Jenson Button in Formula 1, the Brownlee Brothers – Olympic and World Champions in Triathlon, Harlequins Premiership Rugby club etc.). Alongside the elite athletes, they also like to pioneer new research into understanding the limits of human performance through assessment of extreme endurance, such as their support with Rich Parks for the fastest crossing by foot across the South Pole in extreme cold temperatures(http://www.richardparks.co.uk/ ) and Schu Pillinger in her attempt in Ride Across America ( http://www.gskhpl.com/news/shusanah-pillinger-raam.shtml ).

So last Thursday saw the first day of our team testing. It started with having to come in fasted (not having eaten since the night before) which I must confess, does not sit too well with me as I love my breakfast!

The first part of the testing was our anthropometric data and body mass.

bodpod

This involved going into the BODPOD which gives an estimated resting metabolic rate (calories required at rest without movement).

Then we had the usual height and weight taken, along with our girths (measurements of circumference of thighs/ calf/ forearms/ upper arms/ waist/ bum) and then skin folds to measure the amount of subcutaneous fat we have in different areas of the body. Normally in sport, you want to stay lean with minimal body fat %, however for us, we need to try and increase our fat mass and put some more muscle mass on so that we have room incase of loss of weight. In the Atlantic races some have shown anywhere up to 2 stone loss and as we are nearly 3 times the distance of the Atlantic and currently only weigh around 65kg, we have some way to go to ensure we don’t waste away!

Then we did our cognitive testing which was tested throughout the afternoon. This is a quick 2 min reactive test on an iPad and is something that Barry the Neuro Scientist has a keen interest in developing. It tests your cognitive function and reactivity whilst also creating focus on a task in hand. An example is hitting a light as quick as you can when it flashes up. I can imagine that a fighter pilot or a Formula 1 driver like Jenson would show a lot quicker reaction times than us (experience of reactions when travelling at 150mph versus 2knots, ummmm I wonder who would be more reactive?!). It is something we are keen to use when we’re on the boat though, with the theory of it giving us focus and mental preparation particularly when waking on our night time shifts.

HRsetup

The afternoon was then the more physical testing. We got prepped with our heart rate monitors and then sweat patches placed on our thigh, chest and shoulder blade.

lactatetesting

The ear lobes were pricked to draw blood for lactate testing (by-product of anaerobic activity) and a card was passed around to show us what ‘rate of perceived exertion’ we felt (how hard do you feel you are working 6-15 scale). Weight was rechecked as we’d now had some food & our water bottles were weighed to get our starting point of hydration. Once all our baseline measures were collected, it was Nat and I up for the start of a 2 hour erg and then Izzy and Emma.

Training2 Training3

heatchamber

The first hour was in ambient room temperature and the second was in the heat chamber at 40degrees heat and 40% humidity.

izzcognitive&lactate

Tests were repeated every 30minutes, where we had blood lactate taken from the ear immediately, given an ipad to do our cognitive assessments, heart rate noted and perceived effort recorded. Then it was straight back on to continue rowing.

physiology setup

The sweat patches were to stay throughout the 2hours and later got removed at the very end after having soaked up our sweat (nice thought!). These patches can then be analysed after, to look at exactly what concentrations of salts/ nitrates etc. we sweat out, combined with weighing our bottles and weighing us at the end of the session, it can be calculated how much fluid we lost during a 2 hour row. Combine this with knowing the concentration of salt loss, the aim is for GSK HPL team to develop specific hydration strategies for each of us. So as an example, l might sweat more than say Nat, so we may need to account for me needing say 5 litres of fluid minimum compared to Nat may only need 3 litres as a minimum, also another example is that Emma may loose more salts in her sweat so she would need to drink a more concentrated rehydration salts drink for replenishment.

At the end of the testing, there was an opportunity to jump into a fresh 10deg plunge pool, seeing as I make the athletes I work with do this all the time, I figured I should practice what I preach…

plungepool

So that was our first day with GSK, for me it was the first time to being on the other side of testing and for the other girls it was the first time to experience a professional sports environment with a great team from GSK.

Over the coming months we will continue to collect further results in order for the GSK team to calculate things such as our calorie expenditure during the row so we can minimise our risk of weight loss, our bone density so we can monitor it during and immediately post the row to see the affect of 6 months at sea, along with our cognitive preparation/ readiness when we’re sleep deprived. Hopefully we will have some good data by the end of the row to help inform others of how to ‘do more, feel better and live longer’.

Huge thanks to the GSK HPL team who all put up with us for the day and the hours they’re putting in to research and gather the results; Mark Langley, Anna Anton, Tess Morris, Barry O’Neill, Matt Furber, Josh Jackman, Sarah Browne, Lee Eddens.

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Training with Cambridge University Women’s Team

On Sunday 23rd November the Coxless Crew spent the day with Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC). Rob Baker, CUWBC’s head coach, had kindly invited us up to meet the girls and watch them training and to get some expert advice on rowing technique and boat set up.

We arrived in at 7.15am in a very miserable and wet Ely to see the girls getting the boats out onto the water just after first light. The squad were rowing in 2 eights, 5 pairs and a single for the first outing of the day, which was a 24km row. The Coxless Crew team jumped onto the coaching launches with Rob and the other coaches Paddy and Nick and accompanied the girls down the river, observing them in action and getting tips on technique from the coaches. After the outing we had the chance to chat to the girls and gave them a short talk to introduce them to our row. We then left them heading back out onto the water for a second outing.

For Cambridge row blog

Emma and Izzy both rowed with CUWBC during their time in Cambridge and Emma rowed in the Cambridge v Oxford boat race in 2005, so it was great fun for them to reminisce and be back with CUWBC for the day. Watching the squad train and listening to the coaching team in action was a great opportunity for the whole crew to improve our understanding of how best to move a rowing boat. We were also truly inspired by the squad’s commitment and enthusiasm for their training and focus on the task in hand. We wish them enormous luck for the rest of the season and for their boat race against Oxford in April, which will be the first time that the women’s boat race takes place in London over the same course as the men’s race. We’ll be following their progress and supporting them from Doris out on the Pacific on boat race day!

After leaving Ely we headed to Goldie gym in central Cambridge where the girls do their strength and conditioning work and train on the rowing machines or ‘ergs’. We were joined by Dean from Time Code Pro who had kindly given up his Sunday to come along to film us. We did some training and then were joined by Rob, who gave us each some one on one coaching on the ergs. We will be doing a lot of our training in the run up to the row on the ergs so it is important that our technique is rock solid.

 

The Team Erging

 

At the end of the afternoon we had a really helpful brainstorming session with Rob about boat set up. It is absolutely critical that we make sure that our rowing positions on Doris are set up correctly. Rigger position, blade length, seat heat, position of the foot stretchers etc. all have to be finely tuned to ensure that we are moving the boat as efficiently as we can and that we are in strong rowing positions to help us stay comfortable and avoid injury.

Big thanks to Rob, Paddy, Nick, the CUWBC squad and Dean Alexander (photo credit above) for another great training day.

 

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Doris does London

There’s never a dull moment for us in the Coxless Crew and eventful weekends have become worryingly normal.  Doris’ visit to London was no different…

It all started on Friday when we headed to Poplar to launch Doris from the public slipway next to Poplar Blackwall and District Rowing Club.  This was challenge number one.  The ups and downs of the slipway meant that no matter what we tried (and we tried everything from setting up pulleys to chocking up the wheels to taking a diagonal route down the slip) we couldn’t get Doris down to the water without grounding her on the concrete.  We spent about an hour and a half trying this while Alan, the legend from Globe Rowing Club who had come out in his boat to be our support crew, bobbed around on the water waiting for us.  Finally we had to hitch the trailer back up and head to a new slipway just down the road.  Here we managed with a bit of manoeuvring and another pulley to get Doris down to the water and with a big shove from Laura we were out on the water.  By this time it was pretty dark and we were running a little short on time to make it to St Katherine’s Docks so the pressure was on.  Luckily we had Jacob on board.  Jacob had never met us before but had kindly come along to take some photos of us rowing Doris through London from the support boat.  He got a bit more than he bargained for, having to act as an extra pair of hands with the trailer and then having to travel with us on Doris since he couldn’t get to the support boat.  He’s now a pro at using the VHF radio, AIS and chartplotter and is definitely a new member of the team.  Plus his photos are beautiful so we hope we haven’t scared him off!  After a truly beautiful row through a lit up London we arrived at St Katherine’s Docks, our home for the weekend.  We settled Doris in, had a well-deserved dinner and headed home.

Photos below are by Jacob Perlmutter:

Doris and Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

On Saturday we woke up to a cold but beautiful sunny day which was perfect for a day spent introducing Doris to the public.  It was lovely to see all the interest in our project and to introduce some of our sponsors to the boat.  She was particularly popular with the kids who got to come aboard and see where we would row and get inside our cabin.  Along with our brilliant helpers for the day we spread the word about our row and added lots of names to our inspiration wall.

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Sunday we left St Katherine’s bright and early and had a lovely row down to Greenwich Yacht Club where we planned to get the boat out of the water.  We arrived and were met by the lovely Ian.  We were quite worried by exactly how we were going to get Doris out of the water as the tide was going out quickly and the slipway was also on two levels but were comforted by Ian who assured us that there’s always a way.  It turned out that the way was for him to get the slipmaster out to lift Doris out of the water on slings.  This ended up being a bit of a mad dash in the 5 minutes before the water would have been too low and meant that Laura arrived with the trailer to see Doris hanging in the air on slings.

Another eventful weekend over, which couldn’t have happened without all of the support we had from friends, families and people we had never met.  Recently we spoke at a Hero’s Night organised by Will aka Super Cycling Man.  All of the other speakers had completed their own expeditions and their heroes were the people they met along the way.  We won’t have that on our row as the only people we’ll see are each other on the boat.  However this weekend has highlighted again that our heroes are the people we are meeting along our journey to the start line.  So I wanted to give a special thank you to a few of Coxless Crew’s heroes from this weekend.

  • Jacob Perlmutter – came along to take some photos, ended up helping us get the boat on the water for 2 hours and then coming for an hours row down the river having to use the radio and help us navigate making him 2 hours late for his evening plans.
  • Alan from Globe Rowing Club who was our support boat on the row down to Tower Bridge and became our advisor on the ways of the Thames.
  • St Katherine’s Docks – not only gave Doris a berth for the weekend but also put us up in their beautiful floating marketing suite.
  • Sarah from Breast Cancer Care who spent the whole of Saturday with us helping to tell our story.
  • Claire and Harry from Raymarine who also came along to help us out.
  • Ian the legend from Greenwich Yacht Club who when we arrived to use their slipway on Sunday with not enough water to get Doris on the trailer winched us out using the slip master.
  • Everyone who brought a mile of our journey and who’s names on our inspiration wall will help us across the Pacific.

And last but not least my wonderful teammates who will be my heroes when we are out on the ocean with only each other to rely on.

  • Laura – who can drive a 29ft ocean rowing boat through central London and has got us all hooked on xfactor.
  • Izzy – rustled up a support boat last minute, who had written our weeks to do list before we even got home and is the only one of us who can sing in tune.
  • Nat – the only person I know who can accost a passing tour and get their guide to stop and translate our story into Dutch for his tour group

Doris&Tower

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Psych Blog 1

When people find out about the row, the common response is ‘are you crazy?!’. Now ask a crazy person if they think they’re crazy and I’m sure they’ll say no. So naturally of course, we would give it that same response, however, it was pretty apparent from the start, that this row was 90% about controlling the level of ‘crazy’ you become next to the 10% that’s physical strength.

 

The second question is usually then, ‘how’s the training?’ and the expected response is how much volume we’re doing on the ergo (rowing machine), what’s our weights programme, what cross training do we do etc.’
It is definitely more commonly accepted for someone to go to the gym and physically train for an hour a day & that to be part of a healthy well being lifestyle, no injury or illness necessary and it’s socially accepted. However, if you were to say you were heading off to see your psychologist for an hour a day – there is an immediate sense that it’s a taboo subject, people find it difficult to talk about and there is a preconceived idea, that you have an extreme mental health issue that needs attention.

 

What is interesting, is that generally people don’t tend to accept, that WE ALL experience mental health problems throughout our lives, but it doesn’t have to be extreme depression or Schizophrenia for it to be labelled as that, or highlighted that it’s not a ‘normal’ part of life.

Picture1

 

Think of it as a sliding scale, for instance, for physical illness, it’s like having a common cold at one end to terminal cancer the other. We wouldn’t wish that extreme illness on anyone, but we know it unfortunately exists and there is medical support out there to help, compared to the cold which we all now know how to minimise the risk with preventative measures such as vitamin C/ echinacea/ first defense/ adequate rest etc. & the effects (depending on if your male or female ;)!), you can cope with as you know it’ll be over with within a couple of days or a week.

Picture2

 

Mental health is no different, the one end of the scale that everyone associates with mental health or psychology, is being sectioned and whisked off to the Priory, however the common cold end is a day or two or week, of low mood, feeling stressed, being emotionally delicate etc. Now everyone experiences it, but there are very few that actively go out to seek how to cope with those situations/ understand them/ prevent them in a better way & this is where a psychologist can come in.

Keith Goddard is our team psychologist. He works with us on a 1:1 as well as helping us to optimise our team dynamic & understanding of each other as a team. Keith to us, is our rock! He is fundamental to the success of this row (no pressure Keith ;)!). Keith helps us to challenge our thoughts, to recognise that the inner script/ chitter chatter you have with yourself, is exactly that – just a thought. He has taught us how to differentiate between what’s rational or irrational thoughts, to tap into our feelings and emotional responses & recognise how they influence our thought process. He’s shown us how to recognise an emotional response will present itself in each of us; for example, if I’m upset about something, I used to keep it to myself and not want to share it because I wouldn’t want to be an emotional burden, but that emotion has to go somewhere – it’s like energy needing to expand and get out. So in me, I would feel it in my chest becoming tight, my shoulders elevating and feeling stiff & generally my posture would just become more tense. Naturally, you would possibly then go for a massage or see a Physio for acupuncture or ‘posture’ correction – but fundamentally, all that money is wasted unless you address the thought that’s driving that emotional response. The saying and feeling of ‘a weight being lifted off your shoulders’, is exactly that & a heck of a lot cheaper than seeing one of us Physio’s/Osteo’s/ chiropracters for regular treatment and the issue still coming back.

If you take anything away from reading this blog, the main thing is to tap into your mental health and awareness of your thoughts and feelings. There are times when you get an overwhelming feeling that day to day life becomes too much but you continue to try and be a superwoman (or man) and take it all on yourself, well there’s no stronger way than to seek a bit of advice which can be the nugget of information you needed to make life that little bit easier.

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Values and Ethos – S.P.I.R.I.T

S.P.I.R.I.T – Our Values define us

What are our values and how does their importance impact our lives?

I believe that our values define us as an individual and that some are instilled and others developed. They become the underlying essence of what you are, who you will become and affect every area of your personal and working life.
These core beliefs that we have, highlight why we automatically gravitate towards certain people (as they most probably have similar values) and possibly why we choose to follow a particular career path or lifestyle.

Every one of us has values, but maybe not everyone has ever sat down and worked out what their top 5 are. There are literally hundreds to choose from and some resonate stronger than others for each person.

As the COXLESS CREW have become a new team, we have also had to re-evaluate our team dynamic and make sure that everyone has identified their own values. Collectively we need to be aligned in the things we believe in and what will keep driving us forward in our challenge.

These core values will need to be prevalent throughout our process as we work together to get us to the start line, develop our group dynamic and then help us to cross an ocean.

Although we are from varying backgrounds and have slightly different motivations, Laura, Emma, Izzy and I have one very important thing that connects us in this project. S.P.I.R.I.T
We are determined to make this adventure happen.

This S.P.I.R.I.T is the thing that we hold special and represents our key values and ethos.

SPIRIT_blog

SPIRIT

STRENGTH
- Strength of character, purpose and mind.
- There is an inner strength and a physical strength that will be developed and fine-tuned through various training schedules and exercises.
- Strength to face our fears, enter the unknown and prove that anyone can overcome adversity and do anything they set their mind to with the right preparation, support and commitment.
- Strength to keep moving forward when most people around you fail to understand the reason.

PERSEVERANCE
- The determination to get the boat to the start line. To find the sponsors and make this challenge happen so that we can raise the awareness and the support for our charities. To find the media coverage to make this story as big as it can possibly be and thereby generate the excitement for this women’s first attempt and significance for women once it has been achieved.
- That mental resolve to keep pushing through when the body has all but given up hope and the perseverance to keep moving forward however challenging or impossible the task at hand may seem.

INTEGRITY
- Honesty is vital to the success of this project. There needs to be a transparency in what we are doing and how we are going to achieve it in order to capture the hearts of our followers and to ensure that we can maintain a working relationship on our boat.
- There cannot be any secrets now as they will only be exposed and highlighted in a detrimental way on the boat. We need to be truthful and authentic to whom each of us is as a person and how we are feeling at any one time through the process. We need to constantly reflect and share with each other.

RESILIENCE
- There are going to be moments on a daily basis where we will need to find the drive and will to push through.
- During the ‘getting to the start line’ phase, we need to keep pushing to find our sponsors, organise the logistics for the physical training, team meetings, events, media opportunities, mental training, fundraising, coordination of the shipping, food, sea survival skills, DIY courses, the list goes on.
- We will all have our personal fears and doubts that will surface and disappear during the next six months.
- The true test of resilience will come when we’re out on the ocean. This is when we will really have to fight out our demons and push ourselves to our physical, psychological and emotional limits.
- All the women fighting to overcome adversity from our chosen charities Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, also show this undeniable resilience. Whether it is a woman overcoming breast cancer or an ex-servicewoman who is learning to be re-introduced into a new life, they will need to bounce back from an extreme hardship.
- Equality and diversity within the workplace and also sport has begun a shift towards change but women still have to fight to be heard and to progress.

INSPIRATION
This is another key value for us.
Life is all about being inspired by amazing people and hoping in return to inspire others. This is a huge part of what our journey is about. We have been truly humbled and amazed by the number of people so far that have willingly donated their time and expertise to the project. We would not be where we are today without them all and they will definitely be a big source of our inspiration out in the Pacific. Our existing sponsors have been amazing and we so greatly appreciate their continual support.

Obviously our charities are our major source of inspiration. They are the very reason we are putting ourselves through the challenge and their stories and journey are the ones we are hoping to share and raise awareness of.
Our Ambassadors are also key. They are pioneers, athletes and great adventurers who we admire, respect and pull great inspiration from.

As will our followers, and through ‘BUY A MILE’ we are excited to have the names of everyone that has contributed to buying a mile for our adventure to actually be there in black and white (as well as in spirit) to travel the journey with us. The more miles you buy, the larger/bolder the name

BUY A MILE – Be Part of our Journey

TRUST

We need to put trust in ourselves, in others, in the ocean and in the universe!
We are going to have to trust each other implicitly as basically our lives will depend on it. If we don’t have this trust, within the immediate team, our support team and our followers, the project will not be a successful one.
We trust fully in this incredible yet long, challenging journey we have embarked upon and will learn from all challenges we will face every step of the way.

***

Your values are an amazing driving force in life, so don’t forget to recognise and follow them, then allow them to work their magic.

We wish everyone love and S.P.I.R.I.T x

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The journey of life…

Natalia – The journey of life…

Life is all about choice and having the courage to believe in yourself and follow your passions. At least that’s what I think.

I have never wanted normal, easy, and ordinary – My life has been a series of amazing experiences that have shaped me and inspired me. I believe in living, feeling and breathing all my moments and although ultimately I have no idea what this game of life is all about and where my next, let alone final destination will be, I’m going to make sure that I enjoy every step of the journey.

Cape Town

I am fascinated by people, how we respond to our world, the physical and emotional limits we can push ourselves to and most importantly the strength of the human spirit.

We have only one opportunity in this crazy world, so why not live an extraordinary life; learning from each other and giving love and compassion back in return.

Not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, but being fully present in the moment whenever possible.

Tanzania Coast line

I believe that the universe presents events in perfect order and that everything happens for a reason (or that every experience is a learning opportunity and there is always a positive to be taken from a situation). This way of thinking has allowed me to feel comfortable with a free-spirited lifestyle in over 50 countries, immersing myself in different cultures and continuously challenging myself by being outside my comfort zone and entering the unknown.

I have been fortunate enough to have lived all over the world. From walking the Camino de Santiago (800 km walk across Northern Spain), leading adventure tours in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to operational management, teaching, coordinating volunteer projects, monitoring plastic pollution in the Pacific and eco-lodge management in East Africa. In all of my eras, through the people that cross my path, there is always an underlying awe that I feel: people fighting to overcome their personal hardship on a daily basis.

This wonderful will of spirit, this triumph over adversity, particularly prevalent in the destinations that I have explored deeply, never ceases to amaze me.

It is possibly because I’m open to any opportunity that is thrown my way, and interested in unique experiences, that I have been led to this monumental expedition. Although it is like nothing else I have ever done or will most probably ever do again, the Row is certainly another incredible journey or era.

If the opportunity had presented itself at any other point in my life up until now, I almost certainly would not have been interested but some inexplicable desire draws me to it now.
They say timing is everything.

I have always had a love of water. I am a Pisces, an enthusiastic swimmer, find the sight and sound of the ocean deeply meditative and get a great sense of calm and peace when I am near or around water. It’s where I feel at home. I am intrigued how the Row will challenge me and excited to explore the depth and breadth of my own spirit and mind. I want to use the insight gained from the planning, execution and lessons learnt during this experience to inspire and motivate others after it.

Antarctica

This prevailing essence of human spirit is the same whether it’s a woman fighting with breast cancer, an injured servicewoman battling to find a way back into society, a woman struggling in a male dominated business world, communities in the developing world dealing with daily existence or any human stressed by their own personal demons.
We all have our own Pacific Ocean to cross in whatever form that comes.
My hope is for everyone to learn from and allow the magic of the varying journeys and lessons of life that they encounter to make a profound and positive impact on them and most importantly – to believe in the strength of human spirit that connects us all.

We all have the power to write our own story…so let’s make it an amazing one! x

Camino

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48 hour row out of Falmouth

Last Thursday we headed off for our first 48 hour stint aboard Doris. The original plan had been to row out across the channel but the weather was against us and with 50mph winds predicted we took the advice of Tony who will be our land support when we are out on the Pacific, and changed the plan to stay in more sheltered waters. Although we will deal with tougher conditions out in the Pacific we wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the coast to be safe out there this week.

Doris meets the BBC cameras

We were up early and headed down to Falmouth Haven to pack up Doris with our supplies for the two days. After a final interview with BBC Spotlight we rowed away from the marina with the legendary Guy in a RIB acting as our support boat. We had decided to head out to Pendennis Point to get a taste of some rough water and it was my first experience of rowing Doris in some proper waves. It was great fun battling the elements although very tough to keep her facing into the waves. It was slightly less fun once we swapped over on the oars and Izzy and I ended up in the cabin experiencing some seasickness symptoms. Stay posted for the BBC footage of us out on the water. After a few hours we headed back to the shelter of Falmouth and bid goodbye to Guy ready to spend the following 42 hours bouncing up and down (and up and down) the River Fal. We now know every twist, turn, mudbank and boat on that stretch of water!

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

Laura and Nat happy on the oars

We rowed 2 hours on, 2 hours off for the full 48 hours meaning that each of us was on the oars for 24 hours, never getting more than about an hour’s sleep at a time. However, we all seemed to manage it pretty well and in the most part it was really enjoyable. A noticeable exception to this was the 3.30am to 5.30am shift which was definitely the toughest. Especially on the first night where Izzy and I ended up battling against the tide for 2 hours, managing to move nowhere and sitting next to a green buoy for the entire shift. Being the intelligent individuals that we are we decided to keep ourselves awake by playing ‘I spy’. In the dark. Whilst not moving!

Izzy enjoying some sunshine

During the 48 hours we experienced, rain, wind, sunshine, lightning and fog, all of which we dealt with in good spirits, staying dry and warm in our Crewsaver outerwear. We also experienced the challenges of changing in and out of many layers of clothes in a very small cabin, cooking in the footwell, sleep deprivation and use of the bucket! Insight was gained into how careful we are going to have to be when trying to fit all of our kit onto our small boat and how important it is for everything to have a place. However the most important thing that we learnt was how well we have bonded as a team. We looked after each other, entertained each other, sang to each other and laughed a lot. So excited for our next adventure!

Nats getting a bit wet on the oars

Huge thanks need to go to Shaun Pascoe, Falmouth Haven, Guy and all of the other supporters who joined us in Falmouth or came over to say hello on the water.  The Cornish welcome was a huge morale booster and I’m sure we’ll be back!

Some well earned pasties from Laura's Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

Some well earned pasties from Laura’s Aunt Marie to celebrate a successful 48hrs training

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