Two friends from Gloucestershire and Hampshire have shattered a world record for rowing across the Atlantic, having had no previous ocean or rowing experience.
Team Wild Waves Jessica Oliver, from Dowdeswell and Charlotte Harris, from Fleet, who met at Cardiff University 10 years ago, rowed a gruelling 3000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to the English Harbour in the Caribbean island in just 45 days, 7 hours and 25 minutes, knocking five days off the previous female pairs record.
The friends, who took part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, arrived in Antigua followed into the harbour by dolphins, and greeted by rapturous applause and an emotional quayside welcome from friends and family who had flown out to celebrate their success.
Considered the world’s toughest row, Jessica and Charlotte were one of the first women pairs to complete the Challenge since 2012, racing against 35 other teams from around the world. As they stepped off their boat ‘Cosimo’ on to dry land, they said they felt exhausted but exhilarated, having rowed two hours on, two hours off continuously since 12 December.
Describing the overall experience as unreal, Jessica and Charlotte had to contend with 30ft waves, which capsized their boat at one point, sleep deprivation, bouts of hallucination, severe heat, blisters and callouses on their hands, sharks and birds flying into their faces.
“The race was long and absolutely brutal but well worth it. The support we got on social media from friends and family, and the generous donations being made, spurred us on,” said Jessica.
“Having had no rowing or ocean experience, we are amazed that we even completed the challenge, let alone set a new world record … and we are still friends at the end of it despite being at sea for months in a tiny boat,” laughed Charlotte. “It shows that you really can do anything you put your mind to, which has always been our motto as friends since University, and we hope it helps inspire others.”
The women are raising money for Shelter and Women’s Aid after cases of homelessness and domestic abuse rocketed during the pandemic, and have so far raised over £42000. They will also be holding a black tie Charity Ball on 13 May in London to continue to raise money for both charities.
When asked what their next challenge will be, Jessica and Charlotte added: “It would have to be something extreme like a trek through the desert. Our friendship has always been dotted with incredible challenges, from marathons to triathlons, but the Atlantic Challenge experience is going to be a tough one to beat.”
To make a donation or to find out more about the Charity Ball, visit www.teamwildwaves.com.