Doris Makes History With Her Coxless Crew

On Monday 25th January 2016 a six-women team of British rowers became the first female crew and the first crew rowing four at a time, to cross the Pacific Ocean unsupported, from San Francisco to Queensland. Their epic journey of over 9,600 miles took them 257 days (3 months longer than expected), during which time they were smashed by huge waves at night, battered from a tropical storm, circled by sharks, approached by a humpback whale and spent most of the trip sleeping 2 hours at a time and only stopping on land twice during their journey.

Their 29-foot boat Doris had one cabin the size of a 2-man tent in which the crew washed and slept. They reported that when they had to close the hatches because of big waves it became very hot and sweaty – like a sauna. On deck they faced temperatures so hot they felt they were cooking like pancakes, but they also had to endure frequent drenching by rain and seawater as well as enduring painful sores.  Each girl consumed 5,000 calories a day, made up of freeze-dried meals, protein bars, chocolate, fruit and nuts, washed down with desalinated sea water. One of their few treats was a slice of Christmas cake for December 25th – spent at sea of course.

The crew were made up of three permanent members and three others each rowing a leg. The permanent crew consisted of:

  • Laura Penhaul, 32, the founder and leader; the lead physiotherapist for British Paralympics Athletics and a keen marathon runner, cyclist and triathlete.
  • Natalie Cohen, 40, an adventure tour leader who has worked in 50 countries in the last 15 years and completed the Inca Trail in Peru 10 times.
  • Emma Mitchell, 30, an expedition manager who has rowed for England, is an ex-Cambridge Blue and has competed in the Boat Race.

The three leggers were:

  • Isabel Burnham, 31, who joined for the first leg, having previously rowed for Cambridge University.
  • Lizanne van Vuuren, 27, a South African who grew up in Newbury, UK and joined for the second leg.
  • Meg Dyos, 25, an English graduate who joined for the final leg.

Their vision was to generate awareness for women who face extreme adversity, in particular those battling with breast cancer (Breast Cancer Care) and wounded servicewomen (Walking With The Wounded). The funds raised by their sponsored epic row will support the journey of these women towards long-term health and wellbeing. The girls were also keen to inspire others to reach their own potential and to meet the challenges that life throws at them. The expedition has been filmed for a documentary called Losing Sight Of Shore. I, for one, can’t wait to see it!

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