Three Exeter women are to tackle one of the world’s toughest rowing events, the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, a 3,400-plus mile crossing from the Canary isle of La Gomera to Antigua, West Indies.
The three, Kirsty Barker, Kate Salmon and Rosalind West, met at Exeter Rowing Club and are aiming to capture the women’s record for the fastest crossing, currently 40 days.
However, in adverse conditions, the route could take as long as 70+ days. The team will face blisters, salt rash, sharks, sea sickness, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, and inevitably large waves caused by mid-ocean storms. They will operate a regime of two hours rowing and two hours rest, round the clock, until they reach their target of Antigua. Most rowers need to be helped ashore after their exertions and can take many days to recover. During the crossing, the four will be a minimum of 24 hours away from any help.
Departure from La Gomera is set for December 2018. Before then, they will undertake a grueling regime of training to build strength and stamina and eat a diet designed to put weight on to combat losing up to 10 kilos that each will face during their time at sea.
Under the banner ‘Row for the Ocean’, the three are rowing to raise £60,000 for the Plastic-Free Coastlines campaign run by Surfers Against Sewage. Plastic waste is polluting every ocean on Earth, crippling sea wildlife and ruining beaches and water quality.
You can contribute towards their cause at https://www.rowfortheocean.co.uk
The three are also faced with finding £40 000 to acquire the specialist ocean-going rowboat, with its open seats and tiny sleep pod, as well as GPS navigational kit and other equipment necessary to make the crossing.
“Having trained and raced together for over a year, we know each other well. We all enjoy a challenge, and they don’t come any bigger for us than this one. We’re up for it and we’re looking to people and businesses in the area to sponsor us”, said Rosalind, who instigated the idea.
The only crew member with significant seawater rowing experience is Kate Salmon, who was one of team of eight women who broke a cross-Channel rowing record in 2013.
The three have built a track record of success for Exeter Rowing Club. They won a string of events at races around the country last year and this, and recorded excellent times in a coxed four at the country’s top event, Henley Regatta, in June.
Meet the Crew:
ROSALIND WEST, Physiotherapist, NHS, Exeter
As a physio living in Devon, sports and adventure have always been a part of my life. I have rowed competitively at university, run marathons, triathlons, scuba dived all over the world, been a horse riding safari tour guide, and interned at the European Space Agency. All these experiences have inspired me to challenge myself, and for the past five years I've set myself one big new challenge per year. I saw a team beat the world record for the fastest female Atlantic crossing and I decided, there and then, that was my new challenge. Being outdoors a lot I see the effects of plastic on our coastline and in our seas. It's everywhere and the oceans are dying. So what better way to complete a row across the Atlantic than to do it supporting Surfers Against Sewage, who fights to save our oceans and coastlines every day.
Landscape Architect, LDA Design, Exeter
Having grown up in Somerset, we escaped to the sea at every chance we got - spending weeks at a time in our little beach hut in Mudeford. These early summers have stayed with me, giving me the bug for being on and around water.
Although sports have always been important to me, I’ve previously stuck to the muddier versions of football and rugby (albeit not necessarily drier!). After graduating from the University of Gloucestershire, I settled in Exeter and found rowing - being 6"1 I thought I’d better use my height to my advantage! Luckily my work and family have been very understanding of the constant training and my incessant rowing talk.
When Ros came to me with her idea for rowing the Atlantic I thought it’s hard enough to do 2000 meters let alone 3000 miles!
I don’t think I’ve changed my mind on that, but i can’t wait to see what the challenge will bring!
Scientific Consultant, Met Office, Exeter
I grew up in rural Shropshire, with the nearest beach 2.5 hours away. Nevertheless, the distance to the sea never put me off being a water baby and I made the most of diving into the nearest river or mountain lake at the earliest opportunity.
My love affair with the oceans truly started when I studied oceanography in California and Southampton. Since then I have been fascinated with how the oceans and climate interact, which led me to working at the Met Office. After 7 years of studying the ocean, I realise it is one of the least understood environments on earth and needs our protection and respect which is why I am proud to support Surfers Against Sewage and their plastics campaign.
I am always keen to start new adventures and this will be my biggest yet- I have had a bit of experience at sea since breaking the women’s record for rowing the English Channel in a Cornish gig boat alongside 7 other crewmates in 2013. I know that the Atlantic is a bit of an upgrade from the channel but I am excited to embark on it with 3 other fantastic crew members.
For interviews, photocalls etc., please phone 07846184244 to speak to Kate.