Laura Penhaul is Team Lead for the Coxless Crew rowers, a team of women who are currently making plans to row unsupported across the Pacific Ocean in 2015 to raise £250,000 for charity. Alongside this project, Laura is Paralympic Lead Physiotherapist for British Athletics.
“…it’s almost inevitable that we will fall out, make up and be better friends and teammates for it…”
About the team and the challenge
We are the Coxless Crew, four women who will be achieving a world first by rowing 8,446 miles unsupported across the Pacific Ocean, from America to Australia. In the process we aim to raise £250,000 for our two charities – Walking with the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care. We are aiming to break three world records with our row:
- First all female team to row the Pacific Ocean
- First ever team of four to row the Pacific Ocean
- Fastest ever Pacific Ocean row
Our row across the Pacific will be an unsupported three-stage row starting in Long Beach, California and finishing in Cairns, Australia. Stops will be made in Hawaii and Samoa to develop our relationships with the local schools projects and communities. The entire expedition will cover 8,446 miles and take five to six months (weather dependent)! This route has never been completed by a team of four and never has it been done as a continuous three stage row.
What inspired the team
The strong and brave women supported by both of our charities who fight against adversity will be a constant inspiration to us during the row. Since we are an all-female crew, Walking with the Wounded has agreed to place all money raised for the charity during the row into a dedicated fund to help injured servicewomen.
However, in order to even get our exciting project to the start line we need to raise over £200k to cover the costs of the boat, logistical and medical support, food, water and the other essential kit, which will keep us safe and in touch when we are on the ocean. To that end we are still looking for sponsors to join us on this expedition and help us to raise half a million pounds for our two inspirational charities.
What the rowers can expect
In January we were lucky enough to be invited to take our 29ft bright pink ocean rowing boat called Doris to the London Boat Show, where we spent 10 days raising awareness of our project and sharing our story with a seemingly endless stream of people. In this article, I have decided to answer the top 10 questions that we were asked in order to share with you a small insight into life as one of the Coxless Crew.
Where’s the toilet?
Bucket and chuck it! It’s not going to be a glamorous trip and we are going to get to know each other VERY well!
You don’t look big enough to be a rower?
Contrary to most of the female population we will be spending the next year trying to put on weight – around 10-15kgs each! We will be burning around 6000kcals per day during the row and need to remain strong and healthy enough to row for 12hrs a day for six months.
This may sound like everyone’s dream situation but unfortunately it’s not as easy as eating chocolate for breakfast every day. We have a heavy weights program to put on muscle, which will help us stay protected from injury. Protein shakes and lots of healthy meals will help (along with the odd slice of cake).
What will you eat on the boat and how will you cook it?
Gourmet freeze dried dinner for four! We will boil water using a jet boil camping stove and use the hot water to rehydrate our sachets of freeze dried food. We will also have snacks such as nuts, biltong, dried fruit and chocolate.
Will you get seasick?
Yes probably! We have specifically induced sea sickness whilst out sailing under sleep deprived conditions, which helped us to understand how to support each other as a team and find out what our comfort foods can be when being sea sick, as it’s imperative that we keep ourselves hydrated and trying to keep food down. However we will also be able to treat this using anti seasickness medication when doing the row.
What about blisters?
Our training will help with this. We have already started to develop protective callouses, especially on our hands and seat. However we will need to keep our skin clean to prevent infection (another bucket). Sudocreme will become our new best friend! We will also all be trained in first aid so that we can treat each others blisters and other injuries. A lot of suncream will also be used to prevent sunburn.
Won’t you all kill each other?
We are really lucky to be working with an endlessly patient sports psychologist, who is helping us to work effectively as a team and develop coping strategies for when we are out in the Pacific.
There will be times when you run out of thoughts/ memories after five months at sea and enter into the boredom, so an argument may become an excitement. So yes it’s almost inevitable that we will fall out, make up and be better friends and teammates for it.
What about if you wear contact lenses?
For hygiene reasons, contact lenses will not be a good option while we are on the Pacific. The options to help us see at sea will be prescription sunglasses or to go for laser eye surgery before we leave.
Do you have a support boat?
No, our row is unsupported. We will however be in contact with our support team on a daily basis using a satellite phone and will be carrying EPIRBS (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon), which we can set off in an emergency to transmit a signal to tell people where we are and that we need rescuing. We also have a life raft in case anything happens to the boat.
What do you do in bad weather?
If the conditions are too bad to row then we can get into the cabins with the hatches securely closed and wait it out with a sea para-anchor out to steady the boats position. Even if it gets bad enough that the boat capsizes it will self-right itself and we will be safe and dry (if a little uncomfortable) in the cabins.
Are you crazy?
Maybe a little bit!
If you are interested in sponsoring us on our world first adventure and helping us to raise a quarter of a million pounds for charity, then please get in touch.