UWE Bristol Atlantic Challenge rowers return to UK on Saturday

Issue date: 27 March 2014

Inspirational Friends Lauren Morton (left) and Hannah Lawton

UWE Bristol students Hannah Lawton and Lauren Morton of Team Inspirational Friends will return to the UK at 07:30 on Saturday 29 March, after their incredible Atlantic Challenge adventure. The girls had hoped to row from La Gomera to Antigua as the youngest all female team ever to complete the challenge, but their attempt was scuppered through a series of unfortunate events, that led to them having to abandon their boat after 96 days.

The Atlantic Challenge is widely recognised as one of the most difficult competitive races on earth and the girls managed to complete 2,400 of the 3,000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic, but when their rudder broke they drifted for 44 days before finally giving up. They were picked up by a Belgian cargo ship bound for Canada. Since arriving on land the girls have told their story to the global media.

Speaking from her hotel room in Montreal today Hannah Lawton recalled the experience. “We had problems with components on the boat from the moment we set off. The auto helm wasn't working properly which meant the steering couldn't work and this kept trying to spin us back to land. We faced enormous storms and huge waves but this was actually not too bad. It's amazing how quickly you adapt to the environment and the space on the boat and pretty much from the off it became the norm for us. The weather would sometimes start off calm and then get rougher but after a while we became quite complacent about the waves.”

The girls lost radio contact with the rest of the rowers in the Challenge just two days into the trip. Hannah continues, “We didn't see any boats after just a few hours as everyone took slightly different routes and within two days we had no radio contact so it was just us and the horizon for the next 88 days. We got on very well, when there are just the two of you; you simply have to get on with the rowing. One thing that I noticed was that the rowing style we adopted was very different to rowing on rivers. The emphasis is entirely on the upper body and your legs are hardly used at all.

“It was surreal being picked up by a cargo ship but I've been amazed how quickly we have slipped back into daily life. We do plan to try for the Atlantic Challenge again next year. If we hadn't had the problems with the boat I am convinced that we would have completed the course. Since reaching land we have spoken to some of the other competitors and they say that everyone was watching in disbelief as we carried on once the rudder had broken.

“Since arriving in Canada we have had such a generous reception. Air Canada offered to fly us home business class and we are very grateful to the airline and to all of the people on the Belgian liner who rescued us. Our boat Sedulous is still adrift but we hope that she will be retrieved.

“Most important to us the fact that we have raised the profile of the two charities that we were inspired to support in memory of our friend who died of cervical cancer.”

A welcome home party is being held for the girls at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow at 15:00 on Saturday 29 August.

To support the charities go to the inspirational friend's website.

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