Nine months in the Pacific

Nine months in the Pacific

Supporting women to overcome life changing events

In April 2015, four British women, the Coxless Crew team, got into a boat under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to start a nine-month journey across the Pacific Ocean. Before arriving in in Cairns in north-east Australia, they covered 8,446 miles to support women who have had to face adversity and overcome life changing events.

PanARMENIAN.Net - Natalia Cohen, 40, Laura Penhaul, 32, Emma Mitchell, 30, and Meg Dyos, 25, had no support crew on the journey, and they only stopped twice (for one week at a time) in Hawaii and Samoa for supplies and repairs.

After encountering heavy storms and humpback whales during the record-breaking journey, they hugged each other just before joining hands to take their first steps on land for more than three months.

Natalia Cohen is a travel professional. “One thing that has always been constant is that I’ve always been fascinated by people, the mind, its capabilities and the strength of the human spirit. This wonderful will of spirit, this triumph over adversity, particularly prevalent in the destinations that I have explored, never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s a woman fighting with breast cancer, an injured servicewoman battling to find a way back into society, a woman struggling in a male dominated business world, communities in the developing world dealing with daily existence or any human stressed by their own personal demons, it’s the power of peoples spirit that drives them forward.”

The women have raised over £65,000 for two charities, to support those who show true resilience, Walking With the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care survivors. The money they raised for Walking With the Wounded set up the first ever fund for injured servicewomen to support their re-education and re-training pathway and to create a new journey and focus for them after injury. Breast Cancer Care is the second charity, where the money they raise should continue to support the carers and services that BCC provide to those fighting breast cancer and their families.

Laura Penhaul is the Lead Physiotherapist for Paralympic Athletics. “Having worked in Paralympic sport for a number of years, I have worked with a lot of people that have faced and overcome life changing situations, and they work on a daily basis to maximize their abilities. I’m passionate about supporting and helping people to work to their best abilities, with or without a disability, especially when you can see true potential and you can help them to believe it’s possible.”

The Coxless Crew team described their expedition as an “overwhelming experience”.

“It’s fair to say that with physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation and a lack of savory food we are being tested to our limits. However, this is where we draw on our SPIRIT, row hard, row strong, row together,” they wrote on their blog.

The values of the team are: Strength, Perseverance, Integrity, Resilience, Inspiration, Trust (SPIRIT).

Emma Mitchell is Expedition Manager for True Adventure – managing the personal development program for School teams, running their training and preparing them for the expedition. “When the opportunity to do the row came up it was something that I couldn’t turn down. I have always liked to challenge myself and love the sense of achievement gained from doing something that scares me. Our two inspirational charities support women overcoming adversity and this row will give us a small taste of how these women draw on their inner strength to get through the challenges life has thrown at them. The support of the other girls on the team will be invaluable and hopefully we will also be able to encourage people to face their own challenges, whatever these might be and take advantage of all the opportunities available to them.”

Despite taking three months longer than planned the expedition has set two world records, with the women becoming the first all-female team and the first team of four to row the Pacific.

They rowed continuously as pairs in two-hour shifts, sleeping 90 minutes at a time. Each consumed 5,000 calories a day, eating freeze-dried meals and protein bars.

Drenched in rain and seawater they endured painful sores and also faced fiercely hot temperatures. During the final days of their journey the team negotiated the Great Barrier Reef and were faced with dwindling supplies in the last few miles.

Meg Dyos has most recently worked as Estate Agent. “There are many reasons for doing the row. Firstly I’m absolutely honored to be given this opportunity and I truly believe in the charities that we are raising funds for. Empowering women is another reason, and something that I feel passionately about. However I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say I’m also doing the row because it massively excites me adventuring into the unknown!”

The rowers were videotaping their journey, and that footage became part of a documentary "Losing Sight of Shore" by Emmy Award winning filmmaker Sarah Moshman, who said: “The beauty and the core of Losing Sight of Shore is that the Coxless Crew are truly telling their own story from the middle of the Pacific. I gave them the tools - cameras, microphones, hard drives, etc. and taught them how to use those tools. I empowered them to think of themselves as storytellers and bring the audience into life on Doris, their boat. It was a huge leap of faith for me as a filmmaker, not knowing if they’d film at all, or if they’d drop the cameras over the side of the boat (which has happened!). But what has evolved is 9 months of real, vulnerable, first person accounts of what it’s like to row an ocean with no way out.”

Less than 400 rows have been successfully completed across the world's oceans, according to the Ocean Rowing Society International.

Lusine Mkrtumova / PanARMENIAN.Net Photo: Coxless Crew
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