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Conquering the Atlantic

by Guin Batten, Head of Youth Sport Award, Youth Sport Trust

Conquering the AtlanticIt’s been two weeks since the five crew members of the Rannoch Women’s Challenge completed their 48 day marathon across the North Atlantic Ocean, and for 48-year-old skipper Guin Batten life is starting to return to normal – sleeping in a bed, walking on land, and catching up on emails!

“It feels great to have pushed out the edge of possibility. Captaining the ‘Liberty of Essex’ boat to multiple world firsts and records, despite battling sea sickness, extreme weather conditions and numerous technical faults, was a huge honour. My crew became the first all women’s crew, the first British women, and the first five-person crew to cross the Atlantic Ocean from west to east, as well as the first women of any nationality to complete the hardest possible route.

“My team, which was completed by oceanography student Molly Brown (20), sports marketer Alex Holt (26), graphic designer and veteran sailor Mary Sutherland (36), and former Team GB wild water racer Gilly Mara (34), have etched their names into sporting history after becoming only the eleventh boat to complete the daunting 3,000 mile challenge from New York to Bishop Rock in the Isles of Scilly – finishing in a time of 48 days, 13 hours, 49 minutes and nine seconds.

“It was brutal living in such hard conditions for so many days and I am continuing to readjust to normal life. As you can imagine we lost a lot of weight and I am still recovering. With time the physical damage will repair but the achievements will remain forever. The Ocean is such a big place and so changeable you have to have a healthy degree of doubt and respect always at the back of your mind. Even in the final hours of the row we were watching the wind direction, mindful that we didn’t risk getting caught in the tidal race off the Lizard [stream].

“We were packed inside the 8.64m long Liberty for just shy of seven weeks, rowing in two-hour stints and sleeping in cabins during their breaks despite the deteriorating damage of water and mould. But a challenge is a question to be answered, and answer it we did – with only the poor weather conditions preventing us from breaking the record for the fastest ever crossing on our route and adding another footnote to our growing list of accolades.

“The crew and I did break the records for the fastest female crossing of Atlantic Ocean West to East, the fastest crossing of Atlantic Ocean West to East USA to UK (male or female), and the fastest female boat speed during a 24 hour period; while at just 20 my teammate teammate, Molly, became the youngest crew member to ever make the treacherous journey.

“From sunsets to sunrises, to the amazing wildlife and the raw wildness of the ocean, there were so many special moments. But perhaps my proudest achievement will be raising a four figure donation for Youth Sport Trust International, a cause I care passionately about. Helping young people from outside of the UK to have access to the amazing things the YST does is very close to my heart. If we had enough funds it would be amazing to go to some of the toughest parts of the world and empower young people to grow as leaders through sport. It would help make the world a better place.”

“Many have asked me to compare this experience to winning an Olympic silver medal in Sydney, but they are so totally different. The Olympics is about taking on the rest of the world, to be the best on one particular day in one particular location, the North Atlantic Ocean is about taking on the challenge of what nature has to throw at you every moment of everyday; 24/7 for as many days as it takes.

“In many ways it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. To operate in such an uncontrollable environment is something I will never forget. Would I ever do it again? I am sure my feet will get itchy again in the future – it will be a different challenge with a different group of amazing people in a different part of the world. I just don’t know what yet.”

It is still possible to make a donation to support the crew’s amazing efforts. If you would like to do so please click here.

Guin was speaking to Glen Harrington

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