UWE students about to set-off on Atlantic rowing challenge

Issue date: 30 October 2013

VIDEO: Hannah Lawton prepares for the biggest challenge of her life.

IMAGES: A selection of images from Hannah's preparation.

On 17 November two UWE Bristol students Hannah Lawton and Lauren Morton are taking on the biggest challenge of their lives as they depart the UK for La Gomera in the Canary Islands to take part in the Tallisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.

The race starts on 2 December and will see the students set out to row 3,000 nautical miles in Sedulous a carbon fibre boat just seven metres long rammed full with over 2,000 packets of energy rich food, a solar powered water maker and state of the art communications kit.

The challenge is widely considered to be the world's toughest rowing race with 20 teams from around the globe taking part. The UWE team are called 'Inspirational Friends' and they hope to beat the world record for the youngest female pair ever to complete the gruelling ordeal that could see them facing waves as high as houses and two months without setting sight on land.

Spurred on to raise funds in memory of fellow UWE Bristol student rower Eleanor Rose Ellis, who sadly died of cervical cancer over a year ago, Hannah and Lauren will row across the Atlantic to Antigua in around 65 to 70 days to raise money for two charities supporting people with cervical cancer - Jo's cervical cancer trust and also Myton Hospice.

The challenge has taken over 18 months to organise and the majority of the work has been carried out by Hannah who is currently studying for an MSc in Coaching Science. Not only has Hannah had to spend the past year training hard, she has campaigned to raise funds to purchase the boat, the supplies and sponsorship, find a new rowing partner and generated publicity. Lauren Morton a student nurse stepped up to the challenge at short notice and has needed to get up to peak fitness in a remarkably short time.

Hannah shares her thoughts and hopes prior to taking on the challenge:

“Eleanor was such an inspiration to us in the way that she dealt with her illness and I felt quite a big push when she passed away to go out there and do something to celebrate her bravery.

“We have raised quite a few thousand already but we are hoping that as we set off on our journey that more people will feel inspired to support our efforts.

“The journey so far really has been an inspiration – not just the amount of support we have got from UWE Bristol as our main sponsor but also friends and family and the general public as well. It has been quite eye opening actually seeing how many people we have spoken to have had family members with cervical cancer or who are going through it at the moment.

“UWE Bristol gave us a large donation and with that we decided to buy the boat because it's the best way to attract attention. Sedulous was made in Christchurch by a company called Rossiters. She is a carbon fibre and kevlar boat weighing in at about 450 kilos which is about 300 kilos less than a plywood boat. She is seven metres long by 1.9 wide and we will sleep in shifts in a tiny a cabin at the stern. It looks quite spacious but by the time we get all of our kit in there won't be that much room. You can just about lie straight in the cabin. It will be quite a weird experience bobbing up and down inside.

Sedulous is a name that replicates the kind of person Elle was – it means studious, hardworking and perseverance so it also represents a lot of the things that UWE Bristol aspires to achieve with their students and we think it is fitting name.

“As Lauren and I only got together to do this a few weeks ago it's been pretty manic sorting out the boat amongst other things. We have been doing sea training at Christchurch which has been quite difficult because we got stuck in the tidal flow a few times but at least we won't have to deal with tides in the Atlantic.

“We are aiming for between 60 and 65 days to try and beat the record for a GB female pair and also get in before my 25th birthday. It is certainly doable; when we were with the tide in Christchurch we were rowing at about 3 knots. If we can average 3 knots out in the Atlantic we will be doing well.

“I have no idea how we will cope with being out at sea for 65 days but I imagine the hardest thing will be losing sight of land and then having nothing around you but water. I've been trying to imagine how it might feel but I just can't.

“We are realistic about the dangers. A lot of it comes down getting used to and knowing what could happen and knowing what to do in certain situations so that you are already kind of mentally prepared for it.

“The worst thing that could happen in terms of the physical row would be something like an equipment failure or injury that impeded us from continuing. I think mentally having put in so much preparation for the last 18 months; to have something completely out of our control go wrong would be devastating. There is a support boat out there they are not out there as a safety boat because the competition is classed as an unassisted row.

“We are very determined, we have put in the work and now we need some good weather and some good luck as we prepare ourselves

To follow the progress of the team follow @insfriends on Twitter, Facebook.com/inspirationalfriends or on their website.

To show support for the team, sponsor the charities at www.insfriends.org.uk

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