All-women hockey crew to row Atlantic in aid of Devon Air Ambulance
30th July 2018
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The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge is a 3000 mile ocean race and endurance test. Devon’s Astro to Atlantic team takes on that challenge for charity.

 Four Devon women are battling the elements to row, unaided and unsupported, over rough seas, on board a 28-foot rowing boat for up to 60 days across the Atlantic. 

Before the team can reap the rewards of this incredible charitable effort, they must first endure sleep deprivation, dehydration, huge calorie deficits, hallucinations, salt sores, 60 ft waves and almost total physical and mental exhaustion as they navigate their way across the vast stretch of inhospitable water.

 Helen Symons, who will turn 33 while at sea, and her hockey team buddy, Louise Read who will celebrate her fiftieth mid-row, were undertaking a gruelling cycling challenge from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 2015 when they joked that it would probably be easier to row the Atlantic because at least it was flat. 

That idea gently took hold, and soon the two were joined by fellow Kingsbridge and Salcombe Hockey Team members, Chloe Harvey, aged 27, and Lou’s daughter, Emily Read, who will celebrate her 21st during the race. 

Together the four have been training for what could be a 60-day test, during which they will face significant mental and physical challenges. 

‘We intend to become the fastest all-women crew to cross the Atlantic. The current record stands at 34 days; it’s a tough ask, but we like a challenge,’ says Helen. 

It may have been upon the more familiar terrain of the astroturf where the women forged their connection, but thousands of miles of water is a very different element to negotiate, with its formidable weather and currents. 

The team departs from San Sebastian in the Canary Islands and the challenge concludes at Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua. Once they leave the harbour they are on their own. 

Each rower is pursuing a punishing training programme in anticipation of the launch, though none are sailors or ocean rowers. Chloe is a paralegal, Lou and Emily both administrators, and Helen a driving instructor, each fitting their disciplined programme of training around fairly normal working lives. 

‘’We’re all very excited,’ says Lou. ‘But there’s so much planning and work to do behind the scenes even before we get the the start line. We’ve been putting in a great deal of energy into raising the funds we need to make the challenge possible. Our corporate sponsors and partners have been fantastic, but to meet our December launch date we need just one more push by welcoming new partners aboard.” 

The team departs on December 12th but have been fundraising and gathering support steadily since 2016 with the aim of reaching the £100,000 needed to make the feat possible, which includes the cost of the boat, their equipment, and the training they need to successfully navigate the ocean. 

“To date we’ve run fundraisers from gin parties to bingo nights,’ says Chloe. ‘It’s been great fun and we have more planned too. We’ve invited our supporters to take on our 500m and 200m sprints for just £2 per entry, which is a really fun way for individuals to get involved.” 

Once the team has met their ambition to hit the water, they will switch their focus to fundraising for Devon Air Ambulance. The charity is very close to the women’s hearts as a sporting club and as people involved in dynamic physical activities. 

Following the race, the team also plans to donate money raised from the sale of the boat and the equipment to Devon Air Ambulance. 

“We’re bowled over by the incredible feat the Astro to Atlantic team is undertaking,” says Caroline Creer, Fundraising and Communications Director for the charity. “They are four very courageous people who have committed to a real test of their strength, endurance and themselves and we feel very honoured to have been selected as their charity to support.” 

If you would like to support the Astro to Atlantic team then visit their website


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Colin S

Member since: 27th February 2014

Hi, I am Colin Slade, I am the New Business Manager here at thebestof Exeter and I handle lots of the PR and News stories for our clients

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