Adventure, Interviews, Rowing

Row For Freedom – The Girls who took on the Atlantic

Published in Beyond Limits Magazine 4th January 2012


Five Women

40 Days

3,000 miles

Two World Records

One Ocean”

They were strangers. Now, together they endure seasickness, peeing in a bucket on deck and traversing a boat while being permanently clipped on because at any time a wave could hit and toss their bodies into the ocean’s gaping jaws.

On 7th December these five ‘Row for Freedom’ women from all over the world set out to conquer an ocean. They are the first all female crew to attempt to row 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean unaided. They departed from the Canary Islands and will anchor in Barbados in mid January. Beyond Limits was able to speak with the crew on Day 23, half way through their quest to learn more about their journey so far.

The team consists of Julia Immonen, Debbie Beadle, Helen Leigh, Kate Richardson and Katie Pattison-Hart. This is a team in which bravery is a characteristic present in abundance.

“Sometimes there is an element of fear,” Debbie Beadle admits, “but you get over it.  We are doing this because we really believe in the strength of women.”

This mission required a six day week training schedule consisting of several 24 hour rows as well as individual work on both endurance and strength. Throughout the 40 days the crew will row two hours on, two hours off, trying to rest as much as possible when not rowing.

“It is tough,” Beadle said, “We are tired, but our bodies are adapting to it.”

Meanwhile their boat ‘The Guardian’ appears to be crumbling around them.

“We now have to hand-pump for twelve hours a day, use our feet to steer and ration our ever diminishing battery life.” Beadle said, “Then there is obviously the physical element of the row that is a challenge.”

Despite the many adversities, they endure as a team and the voice of Debbie  Beadle contains not a hint of fatigue.  Instead it is riddled with excitement as she giggles with pride in the knowledge that they will succeed in achieving this Guinness World Record attempt for the fastest Trans- Atlantic row.

Weather patterns will define their progress and ultimately their success. But the team has planned accordingly.

“December is just after hurricane season so it will be calmer and we can get the most benefit from the easterly trade winds and Atlantic currents,” Beadle said, “We expect to arrive in Barbados during its high season, where we will rest up for a week.”

Perfectly timed for a small holiday.

In an adventure marked by mishaps and hard work, the crew agrees that their greatest luxury onboard are the sun hats and soap they might take for granted at any other time in their lives. But, while the crew is grateful for these luxuries, the real beauty of the adventure lies in nature.

“The sky at night, seeing the ocean teeming with life,” Beadle said, “We have seen a turtle, loads of fish, and we are just waiting to see a whale. When I look around me right now, I can see the blue ocean, high waves, two of the girls are rowing and one pumping, the sun is beating down upon us.  It is like a sauna.”

Although the adventure alone would make the voyage a worthwhile trip, the crew is quick to remind us that, they row in aid of two charities; ECPAT UK and the A1 Campaign.  Both charities work to raise awareness of human trafficking. The public can help support the women by following them on Facebook, Twitter or signing up and donating online at their website.


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