Friday, 24 September 2021

World beater (five times over)

AN Olympian from Henley has skippered an all-female crew across the North Atlantic Ocean, setting five world firsts in the process

AN Olympian from Henley has skippered an all-female crew across the North Atlantic Ocean, setting five world firsts in the process.

Guin Batten, of Luker Avenue, was part of a team of five who rowed from New York to Bishop Rock in the Isles of Scilly in 48 days, 13 hours, 49 minutes and nine seconds.

The crew battled sea sickness, extreme weather conditions and numerous technical faults to finish their challenge last week.

They are now part of a group of only 30 people who have rowed the Atlantic 3,000 nautical miles west to east.

Miss Batten, 49, said: “This route is harder, which is why many people don’t do it.

“It’s cold and the weather is really unpredictable. Only 11 boats have ever completed it.”

The crew of Liberty are the first women’s crew and the first British women as well as the first five-person crew to cross the Atlantic Ocean from west to east.

They are also the first women’s crew to cross the Atlantic using the New York to Bishop Rock route and to cross using the America to Britain route.

The women also broke five world speed records.

Miss Batten, who won a silver medal in the quadruple sculls at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, said it could not have been further from elite rowing.

She said: “When you’re an Olympic rower you are going from A to B as fast as possible. You know what the weather is going to be and you are in control.

“With ocean rowing nothing is in your control other than your adaptations and reaction to the ocean.

“We did it in an 8m boat. It was scary — really, really scary.”

Miss Batten, who already held the record for the fastest row across the Channel, was approached to skipper Liberty by Charlie Pitcher, who oversaw the challenge having completed two solo Atlantic crossings himself.

She readily agreed, explaining: “Before I started rowing, right at the beginning of my career, I thought it would be amazing to be the first woman to row the Atlantic.

“Since then three women have done it, all three solo.”

There was a seven-month selection process for the crew who were selected after responding to adverts.


They included 20-year-old Molly Brown, an oceanography student with a sailing background, Alex Holt, an outdoor enthusiast who coached water-skiing, Gilly Mara, an ultramarathon kayaker and former Great Britain dragonboat racer, and Mary Sutherland, a sailor with Atlantic crossing experience.

Miss Batten said: “There were different personalities but I have never met a group of women who were so task focused.”

After months of preparation, the women flew to New York for the start of the challenge and they departed from the Statue of Liberty on June 7.

The boat, built by main sponsors Rannoch Adventure, was 8.64m long, 1.74m wide and weighed 940kg fully loaded.

The women rowed in two-hour stints and would sleep in cabins during their breaks despite water getting in and mould forming.


All five experienced sea sickness. At times they struggled for electrical power for their navigational equipment as it was solar-powered and only one in 10 days was sunny.

The boat’s live tracker, where family and friends were updated with the boat’s location minute-by-minute online, also broke in a storm.

This meant Miss Batten had to radio in their location every four hours.

The women were forced to use their para-anchor, a parachute on a 100m piece of rope, multiple times.


Miss Batten explained: “It keeps the boat from heading into the wind and stopped us from being trashed.

“Our lives depended on that anchor when there were storms. If we had failed to tie it properly we would have had a very serious problem. The waves were 30m high at some points.

“Every time the waves would break over the boat it would smash into the cabin and the window was 10cm from my face.” She said there were also some amazing sights along the way.

“At one point 1,000 dolphins went past us and we were in the middle of them — it was phenomenal,” said Miss Batten.

“There was also a young sperm whale and hundreds of jellyfish.”


The crew had aimed to break the world record of 43 days but the weather slowed them down.

They arrived in Falmouth on Wednesday last week, having gone past Bishop Rock — the western-most point of Cornish peninsula — the previous day.

Miss Batten’s sister Miriam Luke, who also lives in Henley and was part of the same silver medal winning crew, and their father David, who lives in Shiplake, were there to see the Liberty arrive displaying a Union flag.

The crew let off a flare as they rowed into in the harbour.


Miss Batten, a steward of Henley Royal Regatta, said: “When we got there I could not stop crying.

“We had kept all the emotions in a box. We had just been going two hours at a time and did not think about the big picture.

“But as we came closer to the end I let my guard down and could not stop crying. We had been going so hard for so long.”

After landing, Miss Batten went for a meal with her family and stayed in a hotel in Falmouth where she slept in a bed for the first time in 50 days.

Since returning to Henley she has enjoyed lunches with friends and caught up with work.

She said: “We just smashed it and we’re so proud as a crew. Women can go out and mix it just as much as the guys.

“There has been support from the rowing community and people in Henley but without Rannoch we would not have been able to do it.”

Miss Batten hopes that Liberty, which is still in full working order, will be used to race across the Atlantic again.

“The boat was built to break records,” she said. “She is in fantastic condition and is already available for hire for the winter. I would like to see her race the Talisker Atlantic Challenge.

“The boat has been made specifically for women and we as a crew would love if a women’s crew could race the Talisker and break more records.”

The women were raising money for the Youth Sport Trust, where Miss Batten works.

To make a donation, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/rannochwomenschallenge




AN Olympian from Henley has skippered an all-female crew across the North Atlantic Ocean, setting five world firsts in the process.

Guin Batten, of Luker Avenue, was part of a team of five who rowed from New York to Bishop Rock in the Isles of Scilly in 48 days, 13 hours, 49 minutes and nine seconds.

The crew battled sea sickness, extreme weather conditions and numerous technical faults to finish their challenge last week.

They are now part of a group of only 30 people who have rowed the Atlantic 3,000 nautical miles west to east.

Miss Batten, 49, said: “This route is harder, which is why many people don’t do it.

“It’s cold and the weather is really unpredictable. Only 11 boats have ever completed it.”

The crew of Liberty are the first women’s crew and the first British women as well as the first five-person crew to cross the Atlantic Ocean from west to east.

They are also the first women’s crew to cross the Atlantic using the New York to Bishop Rock route and to cross using the America to Britain route.

The women also broke five world speed records.

Miss Batten, who won a silver medal in the quadruple sculls at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, said it could not have been further from elite rowing.

She said: “When you’re an Olympic rower you are going from A to B as fast as possible. You know what the weather is going to be and you are in control.

“With ocean rowing nothing is in your control other than your adaptations and reaction to the ocean.

“We did it in an 8m boat. It was scary — really, really scary.”

Miss Batten, who already held the record for the fastest row across the Channel, was approached to skipper Liberty by Charlie Pitcher, who oversaw the challenge having completed two solo Atlantic crossings himself.

She readily agreed, explaining: “Before I started rowing, right at the beginning of my career, I thought it would be amazing to be the first woman to row the Atlantic.

“Since then three women have done it, all three solo.”

There was a seven-month selection process for the crew who were selected after responding to adverts.


They included 20-year-old Molly Brown, an oceanography student with a sailing background, Alex Holt, an outdoor enthusiast who coached water-skiing, Gilly Mara, an ultramarathon kayaker and former Great Britain dragonboat racer, and Mary Sutherland, a sailor with Atlantic crossing experience.

Miss Batten said: “There were different personalities but I have never met a group of women who were so task focused.”

After months of preparation, the women flew to New York for the start of the challenge and they departed from the Statue of Liberty on June 7.

The boat, built by main sponsors Rannoch Adventure, was 8.64m long, 1.74m wide and weighed 940kg fully loaded.

The women rowed in two-hour stints and would sleep in cabins during their breaks despite water getting in and mould forming.


All five experienced sea sickness. At times they struggled for electrical power for their navigational equipment as it was solar-powered and only one in 10 days was sunny.

The boat’s live tracker, where family and friends were updated with the boat’s location minute-by-minute online, also broke in a storm.

This meant Miss Batten had to radio in their location every four hours.

The women were forced to use their para-anchor, a parachute on a 100m piece of rope, multiple times.


Miss Batten explained: “It keeps the boat from heading into the wind and stopped us from being trashed.

“Our lives depended on that anchor when there were storms. If we had failed to tie it properly we would have had a very serious problem. The waves were 30m high at some points.

“Every time the waves would break over the boat it would smash into the cabin and the window was 10cm from my face.” She said there were also some amazing sights along the way.

“At one point 1,000 dolphins went past us and we were in the middle of them — it was phenomenal,” said Miss Batten.

“There was also a young sperm whale and hundreds of jellyfish.”


The crew had aimed to break the world record of 43 days but the weather slowed them down.

They arrived in Falmouth on Wednesday last week, having gone past Bishop Rock — the western-most point of Cornish peninsula — the previous day.

Miss Batten’s sister Miriam Luke, who also lives in Henley and was part of the same silver medal winning crew, and their father David, who lives in Shiplake, were there to see the Liberty arrive displaying a Union flag.

The crew let off a flare as they rowed into in the harbour.


Miss Batten, a steward of Henley Royal Regatta, said: “When we got there I could not stop crying.

“We had kept all the emotions in a box. We had just been going two hours at a time and did not think about the big picture.

“But as we came closer to the end I let my guard down and could not stop crying. We had been going so hard for so long.”

After landing, Miss Batten went for a meal with her family and stayed in a hotel in Falmouth where she slept in a bed for the first time in 50 days.

Since returning to Henley she has enjoyed lunches with friends and caught up with work.

She said: “We just smashed it and we’re so proud as a crew. Women can go out and mix it just as much as the guys.

“There has been support from the rowing community and people in Henley but without Rannoch we would not have been able to do it.”

Miss Batten hopes that Liberty, which is still in full working order, will be used to race across the Atlantic again.

“The boat was built to break records,” she said. “She is in fantastic condition and is already available for hire for the winter. I would like to see her race the Talisker Atlantic Challenge.

“The boat has been made specifically for women and we as a crew would love if a women’s crew could race the Talisker and break more records.”

The women were raising money for the Youth Sport Trust, where Miss Batten works.

To make a donation, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/rannochwomenschallenge




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