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Row, row, row your boat: Back to everyday life after my Pacific adventure – Izzy Burnham, Team Member of Coxless Crew Pacific Row stage one

Coxless Crew

Izzy Burnham is a member of the Coxless Crew, who rowed on the first leg of the team’s ongoing three stage attempt to become the first crew of women to row unsupported across the Pacific Ocean. They set off from San Francisco on 21st April 2015 in a pink boat called Doris to raise £250,000 for Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded (WWTW) and Izzy is now back home after having successfully completed the first stage of the row, arriving in Hawaii on 20th July 2015. Outside of the team, Izzy is a solicitor, specialising in intellectual property litigation.

Izzy Burnham
Izzy Burnham

“…I am currently working on arranging the arrival in Cairns. We would like the girls to have a big welcome with lots of family, friends, supporters and media present to celebrate their incredible achievement. It is a challenge though, as it is extremely hard to predict with any accuracy the date of arrival, which makes party planning a little tricky!..”

What is it like to be back on dry land?

I arrived home at the start of August, so I have been home for a few months now. It was wonderful to see family and friends again after my time away, but after catching up with everyone, it was straight back to everyday life. While I am still supporting the team on the water with administrative, logistics and communications support (along with other members of our incredible support team) and continuing the fundraising effort, I am also back at work.

Please can you explain about the alternating fourth seat on the team and why you decided to manage it like this?

The idea to have the fourth seat in the boat as a ‘relay’ seat, with three different people rotating through it for the different legs of the row was something that we considered very early on in the project. However, for a period of the planning stages, we were a team of four and we moved towards the idea of making the whole journey as a team of only four.

Coxless Crew
Preparing for departure on stage one

For personal reasons, I then made the difficult decision that I did not have the time to commit to the whole journey and could only row as far as Hawaii. At that point, we were extremely lucky to have Lizanne and Meg join the team and we reverted to the original plan of being a team of six, with people rotating through the fourth seat in the boat.

This approach has been a great success. Having different people joining the crew for different stages injects new personality into the crew and makes it easier for those making the whole journey to get back on the boat after each stopover, as they have a new crew member with them raring to go.

You’ve got a really interesting perspective as you’ve been part of the build up to the trip, but now you’re back home as an ambassador for the team. What is this like and is there anything you miss?

I loved my time aboard Doris and I miss the team and the routine on the boat. However, we have an incredible group of people back in the UK providing support to the project (Tony, Keith, Ella, Alex, Kirsten and more) and it is great to be back home and to be able to help them. My main focus points at the moment are making arrangements for the team’s arrival in Cairns and, of course, fundraising.

What is it like as a team ambassador, what sort of media and events have you done, and how do you handle getting asked the same questions over and over again? (We’re trying to avoid this..!)

Coxless Crew on The One Show
Izzy appearing on the BBC’s The One Show with Alex Jones, fellow crew member Meg Dyos, Caroline Flack and Matt Baker

I have been involved in a number of events since getting back. Meg and I did a 24-hour row on rowing machines to help with her training and as a fundraiser. I have spoken about our journey to corporates, in schools and at fundraising events. It is great to be able to share our story, to encourage the fundraising and to see the reactions to the row, particularly from children. However, I am looking forward to having the whole team back together once the row is finished, so that we can share the complete story together.

How is the fundraising going and please can you tell us about how the money raised will be spent?

The fundraising is making steady progress in the right direction, but we still have a long way to meet our target as we want to raise lots of money for Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care.

The fundraising effort will continue once the girls have returned too. We have always looked at the project in three parts: getting to the start line; the row; and post-row fundraising. Our challenge will by no means be over on the finish line in Cairns!

The money that we are raising will go to two charities which support women facing adversity. Walking With The Wounded will use our funds to support women who have sustained physical and mental injuries in war. The money that we raise for Breast Cancer Care will be put towards funding their Younger Women Together programmes. Laura and Emma wrote some lovely blogs from the Pacific explaining why we are supporting these charities:

Day 89 – Walking With The Wounded blog

Day 90 – Breast Cancer Care blog

You’ve spend a lot of time attending events with Meg (Dyos), crew member for the final leg, who’s now rowing from Samoa to Cairns. Was there anything you were reluctant to share about the harsh realities of life at sea?!

No. Being ruthlessly well prepared was the only way to make this project as safe and successful as it could be. Preparation includes knowing everything that you can about the conditions and life on the boat and preparing the best you can to meet them.

I wouldn’t have wanted to keep something from Meg and deny her the chance to adequately prepare herself. Having said that, there was genuinely nothing that I felt that I didn’t want to tell Meg about life aboard. All I kept telling her was how incredible it is out there on the Pacific and how much fun she would have with the team!

What is the plan for when Doris arrives in Cairns?

Coxless Crew hatchI am currently working on arranging the arrival in Cairns. We would like the girls to have a big welcome with lots of family, friends, supporters and media present to celebrate their incredible achievement. It is a challenge though, as it is extremely hard to predict with any accuracy the date of arrival, which makes party planning a little tricky!

What does the future have in store for you and how will you reflect upon your Coxless Crew experience in years to come?

For the moment, I’m focussing on the team arriving safely in Cairns. There will then be a lot more fundraising and work on the project to be done once the rest of the team are back in the UK. After that, I have my own work plans, as well as future adventures (not rowing related!) in mind. I will look back on the row as a fantastic experience. I learnt a lot of new skills, saw things that very few people ever see and made great friends.

Please text DORIS to 70300 to donate £3. Every little helps and if 83,334 people donate they will hit their target!





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