FIVE women are to attempt to become the first all-female crew to row across the Zero Degree Channel in the Indian Ocean.
Guin Batten, Alison Gill, Elise Cope and Louise Wymer, who are all members of Upper Thames Rowing Club in Henley, and Rachel Woolf, of Thames Rowing Club in London, are taking on the challenge as part of a five-year plan to develop rowing in the Maldives.
Rowing on the islands dates back thousands of years but has been dying out with the introduction of motor boats. In March, Ms Batten, 43, an Olympic silver medallist, became the first person to scull solo across the 60km channel in a time of seven hours and 16 minutes.
In this latest bid for a record, the women will row for three hours at a time with female Maldivian rowers taking over for half-hour slots in-between.
Miss Cope, 37, of Ancastle Green, Henley, said: “We are so lucky that it’s relatively easy for us in Britain to go rowing. For women out there the only way to get off an island is if they learn to row. It increases their independence if they can row to other islands.
“The Maldives looks likes a wonderful place to go on holiday but people don’t really think about the way of life for the locals.”
The women hope to raise enough money to buy a boat for local women and fund a coach for a year as well as encourage Britons to view the Maldives as a sports tourist destination.
Two regattas will be held to develop competitive rowing on the islands and the ultimate aim is to hold an international regatta in 2015.
Miss Cope, who works for babyboomboom in Hart Street, Henley, which promotes foreign language education for children, said the hardest aspects of next month’s challenge would be the heat and intensity.
She said: “Guin’s the only person who has experience of coastal rowing. It’s very demanding physically. We’re used to racing 2km and for a maximum of 20 minutes but this is 60km in the heat and rowing hard for three hours.”
The women have rowed together as a crew but due to work commitments have had little opportunity to train for next month’s challenge.
Mrs Wymer, 42, is a founder director of contract caterer Catering Academy and lives in Brightwell-Cum-Sotwell with husband Mark and 14-month-old daughter Amelie.
Ms Gill, 44, is chief executive of consultants Crelos, based in Station Road, Henley, and lives in Fair Mile with partner Steve Bicknell.
Ms Batten, lives in Luker Avenue, Henley, and Miss Woolf lives in London.The women will fly to the Maldives on November 2 and plan to attempt the crossing a couple of days later.
The Standard will feature a video diary of the crew’s training and record attempt on our website.
To see the women’s first coastal training session in Exmouth, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=-imgwclqrke
If you want to make a donation, email Miss Cope at email@example.com