Everyone should row the Atlantic

Helen having her hair de-dreadlocked. Photo: Yorkshire Rows

Sixty-seven days at sea, rowing every wave of the 3000 nautical miles across the Atlantic and our Helen looked like she’d just come back from a health spa. Her skin glowed, her hair was shiny and her eyes twinkled.

“I’d recommend it to anyone. In fact everyone should have a go, it was an amazing adventure,” she said, and she meant it. Four women, all friends, one boat, three sets of oars and no toilet. And now, four women, still friends, and one fantastic world record, and what’s more, they’re from Yorkshire.

Helen and her three friends are Yorkshire Rows, the team who have just become the oldest women to row the Atlantic after setting off from Tenerife just before Christmas. She confessed they would have been back earlier if they’d have scraped the barnacles and assorted molluscs off the bottom of the boat more often. Who’d have thought the shelly little blighters could act like a handbrake?

As soon as she stepped into the office, colleagues flocked to give her a good listening to. We’d tracked them every splash of the way, we’d worn pedometers to try beat them to Antigua (we did). We’d sent messages of support via social media and even raised a few bob for their charities. We all wanted to know the good bits, the bad bits and when she was coming back to work.

She told us of the terrifying first week when she battled with seasickness, the next-to-useless electrics that left them having to hand-pump the desalinator and steer manually (or is that womanually?). Eat, row, sleep, repeat, two hours on, two hours off. Waves higher than a building pushing them all over the ocean, massive storms, and worse of all (well, it would have been top of my list), there was no toilet.

But as the days turned to weeks and the ocean became their home, their lives became simpler, easier in a way, no distractions, eat, row, sleep, repeat. Pleasures were simple, the clear night skies full of stars, the International Space Station passing overhead, Tim Peake tweeting good wishes to them. They were joined by a whale and her calf, a pod of dolphins and a few sharks, though Helen assured us they were friendly sharks. She also admitted she hallucinated a bit.

When they reached dry land, they could hardly stand up, in fact it took them five days to find their land legs. Though they they were quick to gobble up the burgers chips and salad set out for them, and then head for a shower and big, soft, comfortable, unmovable beds. All that remained was for Helen’s lovely long hair to be de-dreadlocked, which took nine hours. But nine hours in a comfortable chair chatting with friends on dry land is time well spent after 67 days on the ocean.

She’ll be back at work next month, though is planning for their next big adventure, which will definitely not be rowing. Not yet, anyway, though they’ll be back in training in 20 years of so to maybe do it all again. Just to make sure they keep that world record.




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