Four heroic Yorkshire mums have taken the first strokes on their epic row across the Atlantic which could see them become the oldest female crew to row across any ocean.
After bad weather delayed their original start time by almost a week, Helen Butters, 45, Janette Benaddi, 51, Niki Doeg, 44, and Frances Davies, 47, finally waved goodbye to dry land on Sunday morning (20.DEC) as they set off on their 3,000 mile journey from the Canary Island of La Gomera to Antigua, in the Caribbean.
The quartet, known as Yorkshire Rows, are one of 26 teams from around the world who are taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
It is billed as the toughest rowing race on earth – more people have been into space than have rowed across the Atlantic – and will see them encounter 30ft waves, sharks, exhaustion, sleep deprivation and seasickness.
The four friends, from York and Selby, expect the journey to take between 42 and 50 days and will row, in pairs, for two hours on and two hours off.
For the past few weeks it has been all hands on deck as the team prepared their small boat named Rose, who is eight metres long and 1.7 metres wide, for the gruelling journey.
The quartet have packed enough food for 60 days at sea – including tinned sardines, pineapple chunks and mango gin for Christmas Day – and essential equipment, like a water maker to create fresh water from sea water, solar panels for power, a GPS tracker and a satellite phone.
They have also had refresher courses on how to keep themselves and the boat clean, how to ensure they are following the right course and what to do if their boat capsizes.
Helen Butters, a mother-of-two, said:
“After two years of planning and training it is quite scary that it is finally about to begin, but we really just want to get going and get stuck in. The last few weeks have been pretty hectic with prepping the boat and testing out all our systems.
“Every week we have to thoroughly clean the boat and the deck, and have to clean the salt off the solar panels every day so we have enough power for our electronics.
“We have been getting a lot of good tips from an Antiguan team who have been moored next to us and will be rowing home – between them they have 100 years of experience at sea.
“Holidaymakers getting the ferry to La Gomera have also been coming to see us to wish us good luck, which is fantastic.”
The team, who are being supported by Welcome to Yorkshire, are aiming to raise in excess of £100,000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Maggie’s, who will be opening a new cancer support centre at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds in 2017.
Paul Gowland, Director of Fundraising at The Yorkshire Air Ambulance said,
“We wish the Yorkshire Rows Team every success for what is an unbelievable challenge. It shows an amazing amount of strength that whilst these brave ladies are rowing across the Atlantic, they are thinking of others and helping to save lives across Yorkshire. Our very best wishes are with them and we are grateful they are supporting the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.”
They will be writing a regular blog documenting their journey. To follow their progress visit blog.mailasail.com/yr
To follow the race live, download the Yellow Brick Race Viewer app available for both iPhone and Android from www.ybtracking.com/race-app.php