Hello and welcome to our very first blog post! I first came acquainted to blogging during my 1st attempt to cross the Atlantic, and found it a welcome break from the waves and constant bum chaffage. Bear with me whilst I take you back to April 2014, after spending 4 months at sea.
The Atlantic crossing should have taken between 40-60 days, a 3000-mile journey from La Gomera in the Canaries to Antigua the Caribbean. Along with my teammate Hannah we were to become the youngest female pair to ever make the crossing, and our soul purpose was to raise awareness and money for Cervical cancer, after our friend Eleanor Ellis had lost her life to the disease just a year before at only 23 years old. In reality, the crossing was jinxed from the start, and what lay ahead was 96 days on that rowing boat, a snapped rudder, broken auto helm, battery fire, and capsize before being rescued by an Indian container ship and deported 14 days later 4000 miles north in Becancour, Canada.
For the purpose of the reader, I have condensed that adventure into a mere 4 sentences, which truthfully doesn’t do it justice. But what was left was an over powering sense of disappointment and loss, and many sleepless nights for the months after our arrival back to Heathrow. Of course initially the excitement and relief of seeing loved ones, friends and pets hid my disappointment and resentment, but as the weeks drew on, and reality kicked in, It was something I could not drop. I would lie awake at night thinking ‘What if’ and ‘if only’, a torturous experience, which can only cause harm. I didn’t fear my Atlantic crossing, and hate every moment, nor did I ever wish it to be over- in fact I loved it. I felt the most alive out there being at one with the ocean. I dreamt of memories, past relationships, future relationships, what I wanted and where I wanted to go with my life, and truthfully, I felt like ‘THIS IS ME.’ Take away the bum sores, chaffed genitals, blisters and back pain and what your left with is a life affirming, breathtaking experience. The sunsets and rises are just unbelievable, the wildlife and weather, but most of all the sense of achievement- that feeling of pushing your mind and body to the absolute edge, yet somehow still feeling happy and content.
So here I go again (If at first you don’t succeed….etc), and this time with three amazing women. Choosing a crew is never going to be an easy task, finding 3 women that actually want to row across the ocean is one thing, but 3 women who are individually strong yet together make a great team is almost impossible (almost). Life has a funny way of putting people into your path, and whatever circumstances I met Olivia, Gee and Bella, well to me it must have been for a reason. In the recent months I have often reflected on how life twists and turns, how sometimes it doesn’t make sense but after some years it slots into place, and somehow we are all connected. 5 years ago if I never took up rowing at university on that one dismal Sunday, I would never have met Olivia. If I hadn’t attended all my lectures and seminars at university I would never have been allowed to take absence and finish my degree course 4 weeks early to row across the Atlantic. If I hadn’t rowed across the Atlantic, I would never have met my boyfriend Jamie on the start line in La Gomera, and if it weren’t for Jamie and his Indian Ocean row team, I would never have met Bella and Gee, family members of Jamie’s crewmates. Its all linked, and in someway this scares me, is it really all mapped out? But in another way I just cant wait to see how these bonds develop and where it will take me in life.
So why ROW LIKEA GIRL? Last summer I was sent a youtube video of the Always #likeagirl campaign, it blew me away. I sat in floods of tears for at least ten minutes after I first watched it. My hands felt all tingly and everything about the video, its message, the way it is filmed, connected with me. Since hitting puberty I have always struggled with the way I look, the size of my thighs, whether my hair is the right length, or my clothes the ‘right’ look. It’s a shame, and for quite a few years I doubted myself, would shy away from sports incase I got to red in the face, and my hair would be a mess. But why did I care? Its sad that for a few years the fear of looking differently or acting ‘too interested’ in sport held me back. Since taking up rowing the way I view myself has changed massively, and its been through sport that I have found a passion and balance for pushing my boundaries mentally and physically yet still making time for the hair rollers and Bobbi Brown makeup. If we can inspire and support young females to get stuck in, grab life with whatever opportunities it throws at them and learn to love themselves regardless of thigh gaps- then we will have done our job correctly.
We are incredibly fortunate and lucky to have these opportunities if we so choose, for us, we have the choice whether we want to row across the Atlantic Ocean, how lucky we are. Like I said earlier, life has a way of making things slot into place. About three days after watching the Always advert, I stumbled across PLAN UK’s ‘Because I am a girl’ campaign, I researched it, got hooked on their youtube video and it was one of those ‘AHA’ moments. This had to be our charity; there really was no other choice.
We have a busy 11 months ahead, it will no doubt be full of challenges, and many people say getting to the start line is the hardest challenge of all. But if I know one thing, then Row Like A Girl will absolutely not give in.