Monday, 23 October 2017

Five women put to the test for Pacific row challenge

FIVE women put their seafaring skills to the test in a bid to win a place on a charity row

FIVE women put their seafaring skills to the test in a bid to win a place on a charity row across the Pacific Ocean.

They attended a selection day organised by teacher Sarah Weldon, who is leading a women-only crew called Fourbirdsaboating on the 8,300-mile row from California to Australia next summer.

Miss Weldon, 37, of Makins Road, Henley, has organised the challenge to raise money for Oceans Project Georgia, the education charity that she set up in 2010.

A vacancy on the crew became available when Michelle Andrews, from Wetherby, pulled out in August. The trials took place on Sunday at the Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove, where another member of the crew, Lizzie Williams, 22, works as a barmaid.

Participants chatted with the team and support crew for an hour before taking part in exercises. They played team-building games and were shown how to tie knots and use first aid kits, lifejackets and distress flares.

The five-hour session was supervised by Peter May, of Bisham Abbey Sailing and Navigation School, who will be training the crew later this year.

Among the candidates was fitness instructor Tracy Benham, who flew from Florida to take part after reading about Fourbirdsaboating online. She spent 80 hours travelling here and back due to delays but afterwards tweeted: “100 per cent worth it.”

The other candidates were PhD student Susannah Cass, from Dublin, and Kate Collison, Kate Williams and Kate Dobinson, who all live in the UK.

All five women are experienced rowers — unlike Miss Weldon and Miss Williams, who are novices. The third crewwoman Kate Gibbs, 29, a Royal Navy instructor, rowed at university.

The two successful candidates will be announced at the end of this month. One will join the team for the whole race while the other will take over from Miss Gibbs after they have completed the first leg of the journey to Hawaii.

Miss Weldon said: “We had ideas about who we liked based on their applications but we made a point of chatting to them all. It will be a hard choice to make because they would all be fantastic team members.”

The new-look crew will begin training together for the first time next month.

The women’s £28,000 boat Mr Toad has been designed and construction will begin shortly. It will be displayed on several nights during this year’s Henley Living Advent Calendar.

For more information, visit www.fourbirdsaboating.com

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