The four working mums from Yorkshire are one of 26 teams taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which could see them become the oldest all female crew to row across any ocean.
The team – Janette Benaddi, Frances Davies, Niki Doeg and Helen Butters – are now around 1,400 nautical miles into their journey from La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, to the Caribbean island of Antigua and, despite a number of setbacks, they remain in good spirits.
Around three weeks into their journey, the quartet encountered a rare Atlantic hurricane – Hurricane Alex – and were forced to ride out the storm from the safety of their cramped cabins while they deployed their para anchor to stabilise the boat and stop them from being blown off course.
They have also had to contend with power failure, which has affected their autopilot, GPS tracking systems, and water maker, leaving them steering by hand using a compass and manually converting sea water into drinking water.
Helen Butters, whose daughter Lucy celebrated her 16th birthday yesterday (Wednesday, January 20) said:
“We are all really happy to have passed the half way mark and we are all still in really high spirits. We are basically just rowing, eating and sleeping. It is hard, especially not seeing our families, but we knew it was going to be tough.
“The scariest bit was during the hurricane when the rain was lashing down, there were really high winds and thunder and lightning. For three to four days we didn’t move and were confined to the cabins – with two people in each one you really can’t move in them.
“But we have also been visited by a whale which stayed with us for two hours, and have rowed with a pod of 15 to 20 dolphins which was absolutely amazing.
“I suffered with really bad seasickness during the first week, and Niki has a bad infection in her fingernail and bruised coccyx after falling over, but we haven’t missed a shift and are still in good spirits.
“We have all been inspired by each other, and are so much closer than we were before. We really can’t wait to see our families in Antigua and are really going to appreciate things a bit more – I think in that sense it will change our lives.
“We have been blown away by the support we have had from our families and friends, and complete strangers, so we want to say thank you to everyone.
“We really want to raise as much money as possible for our two charities – Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Maggie’s.”
Paul Gowland, Yorkshire Air Ambulance Director of Fundraising, said:
“We are absolutely in awe of the Yorkshire Rows ladies and are eagerly following their fantastic progress!
"They have done so well already to have made it to the half way point and we wish them all the luck in the world for the final half of their challenge.
"It’s a real honour for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance to have been chosen as one of two charities to benefit from the Yorkshire Rows challenge and not only are we are grateful to Janette, Helen, Niki and Frances but we are grateful to everyone that has donated to our cause through the ladies challenge.”
Laura Lee, Maggie’s Chief Executive, added:
“I’d like to say huge congratulations to the Yorkshire Rows team for reaching half way, a real milestone and achievement in itself!
“I’d also like to thank them for choosing to support Maggie’s Yorkshire through this incredible challenge.
“The team’s fundraising efforts will make a huge difference in helping us to build the new Maggie’s Centre at St James’s University Hospital which will bring vital support to people with cancer and their family and friends across the region. We wish them the best of luck for the final stretch of their challenge.”
To view the team’s blog visit blog.mailasail.com/yr
To follow the race live, visit www.taliskerwhiskyatlanticchallenge.com/race-tracker
To donate to Maggie’s text ROWS88 with the amount to 70070, or for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance text ROWS91 to the same number.