Chris HuntBASE Editor and Bristol-based adventure writer with a penchant for travel by bike, interesting coastlines and adventures that end in the pub.
2,700 miles. That’s the distance of Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. In May, four British women known as the Ocean Sheroes set off to row this gap with an aim of doing so in less than 50 days as they compete in The Great Pacific Rowing Race. At the time this interview was published, the team are about 48 hours into the race. Weather conditions have been tough and they’re exhausted but they’ve past the notoriously choppy waters known as ‘the shelf’. You can follow their race on Instagram @oceansheroes.
A couple days ahead of their departure I caught up with ‘boat mum’, Purusha Gordon to hear how the team have been preparing for the challenge, what they’re looking forward to, what their biggest challenges are likely to be as they make the final adjustments in San Francisco before heading out on to the water.
So just a couple of days before you start the race – how are you feeling?
The last month has been a whirlwind. Just over a month ago we still thought the US borders would open to British citizens and we could fly directly in to San Francisco in mid-May. However, as we’ve learnt this year, nothing ever goes to plan. So here we are now, at the start-line after two weeks in Antigua, a few stressful runs through airports and a night in Miami!
And how’s the mood in the team?
To be honest, we’re all absolutely shattered. They say ‘the hardest part of rowing an ocean is getting to the start line’ and that feels very true at the moment – fingers crossed that is the case!
Since we arrived here in California it has been non-stop. Up early for phone calls to campaign partners and family before the UK goes to bed, then on to the boat for a full day’s work of DIY and admin along with race briefings and trips to the shops before finally stumbling into bed around 11pm.
How long has the preparations spanned and what has that looked like?
We have been planning this for over 18 months and the last 12 months have been super tough with every curveball thrown at us, mainly due to covid but we have always maintained a positive attitude and a view that together we can tackle anything. Three of us have had covid, we have not been able to train together since October last year and we have been so limited in our training due to gym closures etc.
What’s the team’s previous experience for anything like this?
I have no rowing experience prior to this. I got inspired having met someone on a flight that did ocean rowing. But I’m in good hands. Mary and Bella have both rowed the Atlantic and Mary has three world records. Lily started sailing at the age of 8, has competed in three RORC Fastnet Races and a transatlantic race but not rowed an ocean before.
How are you training physically?
We’ve all have our individual training regimes but have also had help from PT instructors including Gus Barton who specialising in training ocean rowers. I’ve also been doing hypnotherapy to train my body against sea sickness.
What’s the most daunting aspect of this task – what do you think your biggest challenges are likely to be and how can you prepare for them?
Rowing 2 hours on 2 hours off 24/7 for the entire 45 + days and dealing with seasickness, bum sores on top of sleep deprivation. Bella has learnt a lot from her Atlantic crossing in dealing with bad bum sore so is prepped better with seat cushions and medical supplies specific for this.
So tell me about the crew you have with you – how did you all meet and how is it going to be living in such close quarters in such challenging conditions?
I was introduced to Bella by her brother Angus and Uncle Charlie who are both huge ocean rowers. Bella then recruited both Lily and Mary to the team having grown up sailing with them both in Burnham on Crouch.
What are you most looking forward to as part of the challenge?
I’ve got to say, being away from the noise and fast pace of every day life in terms of emails, social media, the constant to-do list. I can’t wait to see what the night sky really looks like without light pollution and the sunrises and sunsets. Then of course reaching the finishing line, seeing my family and reflecting on the experience and learnings.
Why this journey in particular?
To be able to share our story, for others to believe they can do those things they have always wanted to, no matter how big or small would be incredible to witness. For me with two young children, preserving the planet for future generations is so important and why we’ve teamed up with Seabin.
We want to raise the conversation around living consciously and encourage others to do so which collectively has a big impact on our planet. I want to see if it really was possible for an ordinary person without any experience of rowing or oceans, but with heaps of determination, to take on this challenge, to learn a whole bunch of new skills and to see it through. Taking on this challenge was about being brave, saying yes and working hard to achieve this goal.
Tell us about the cause then – why is this important?
We are raising awareness and aiming to donate 60k to the Seabin Project because we all love the ocean and know that change needs to happen now for us to preserve our planet. The work that the Seabin Project are doing to not only educate people about the impact of plastic consumption but also the seabins they have installed around the world to collect over 3,500kg of waste every day. In raising this money we will install a further 6 Seabins in the UK with an education programme and coordinator attached to this to actively engage local communities, volunteers and schools.
You can follow Ocean Sheroes on Instagram @oceansheroes. To find out more about their race and to help support their fundraising project for the Seabin Project, visit www.oceansheroes.com.
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