Week -24 and -23: Boat, T-shirts and a big push forward

As I look forward to the year ahead, and think about the resolutions I’m making and the things I want to achieve, the Pacific looms pretty large. I had a lovely few days at home, seeing relatives and friends over Christmas; we played games, ate chocolate, went on walks, and I tried to put rowing and fundraising out of my mind for a short time. Of course it didn’t stay out of my head entirely, but Christmas did give me some breathing space, and I’m now ready to hit the ground running.

Even with the holidays it has been a busy couple of weeks, though.

BOAT – I have signed for a boat! It is going to be built by Justin Adkin of SeaSabre – an experienced ocean rowing boat builder who has rowed the Atlantic Ocean himself, and is therefore in an excellent position to give advice and make decisions on the boat. It is hugely exciting to have Justin on the team, and I’m looking forward to seeing the boat grow and develop over the next 6-8 weeks, to become my companion for the Pacific. Photos and more details to follow in due course.

I’ve also paid the first instalment towards the build of the boat, which means that this has just got very real! I owe another instalment by the end of January, and then need to pay the rest by the end of February. If at any point you’ve thought that you might like to support this endeavour, now is the time!

The colour of the boat will be decided on by early February, so any big company or donor hoping to gain title sponsorship has a month to stake their claim and choose the colour and name of the boat (as well as splash their branding all over it). Now is the time to sponsor.

In other sponsorship news, these last few weeks have brought a number of generous anonymous donors to the challenge, as well as WP Engine, who are hosting my flashy new site. I also have the talented students of Clifton Hill House in Bristol to thank, who organised two fundraising concerts in the run-up to Christmas. Both concerts were of a really high standard, and the collection boxes felt nice and heavy afterwards. Those weeks in December were overwhelmingly busy, so I’m only now able to sit back and appreciate how much time and effort everyone put in. Thank you again to all sponsors and supporters – this is a tough challenge (even just the fundraising bit), and having you behind me makes all the difference.

There is one winging its way to him that will fit a little better!
There is one winging its way to him that will fit a little better!

Finally – T-shirts! We have fantastic orange or blue T-shirts available to buy, and there are even kids sizes available. You can look fashionably unique AND tell the world about this crazy woman who will spend three months splashing across the big blue ocean. What’s not to love?!

New supporter: WP Engine

WP-Engine-Logo_CenteredWhat’s that? The site loaded in a flash? Well we have some news…

We’re very pleased to announce that WP Engine have agreed to support Elsa by hosting her site! WP Engine offer a fantastic fully-managed WordPress hosting solution, that should speed up the site considerably, and make our poor overworked Campaign Manager’s life a great deal easier.

Here’s Steve’s take on the move and on WP Engine’s provision:

I was a little apprehensive about moving Elsa’s site to another host – I’ve had nightmare experiences in the past trying to shift personal sites and had long periods of downtime, which wouldn’t be great at this time in Elsa’s campaign. But WP Engine’s clear and straightforward migration guidelines and tools worked perfectly.


Now we’re here, the difference is astonishing. The work that WP Engine does behind the scenes means that pages are loading in about a fifth of the time they were before, and the effort I had to spend on securing and optimising the site has vanished! I’d recommend WP Engine to anyone hosting a serious site who wants slick performance with minimal effort.

Thank you to WP Engine for supporting Elsa – we’re really appreciative! Check out their site for more info about hosting your WordPress with them.

Week -25: A new sponsor and a theoretical master of yachts…

This week’s blog post will be brief, as Steve already blogged earlier in the week about Blockchain.info coming on board. This was the most exciting event, and such prominent support from a Bitcoin company can only be a good thing. Thank you again to Blockchain.info – I’m so happy to be working with you!

Second only to that was passing the last two parts of my Yachtmaster Offshore Theory qualification. I’ve said before that I wanted to complete it before Christmas, so it’s really good to have done that, despite things being very busy at the moment. The last paper, which focused on meteorology, was particularly interesting, and I feel almost like a whole new language has been opened up to me. I’m really looking forward to carrying on the learning – just now without the pressure of an exam to pass I can focus on the areas that will be most useful for the row.

Getting my Yachtmaster certificate - looking tired from all the revision!
Getting my Yachtmaster certificate – looking tired from all the revision!

Until next week…

New sponsor! Blockchain.info jumps on board


We’re extremely pleased to announce that Blockchain.info is Elsa’s newest sponsor, and the first to have their logo featured on the boat!

Our visit to and presentation at the London Bitcoin Expo not only bore fruit in the generous private donations from individuals, but also gave us the chance to meet a variety of Bitcoin-related entrepreneurs, one in the form of Blockchain’s CEO Nicolas Cary. He was very enthusiastic about the Row, and took the time to speak to Elsa despite having an imminent flight to catch!

Blockchain.info is Bitcoin’s most popular bitcoin wallet and block explorer – a place to keep your Bitcoins and to investigate the transactions and processes that go on behind the scenes of the newest and fastest-growing currency. Haven’t heard of Bitcoin? Check out this brief intro.

About the row, Nicolas says:

“The team at Blockchain.info proudly supports Elsa’s historic journey. We wish her calm waters and safe passage.”


Elsa is still searching for supporters and sponsors, in Bitcoin and the rest of the world, and we have an exciting boat-related announcement in the near future!

Week -26: SIX months to go!

As I began writing this post I realised that today marks exactly six months until I row out of Monterey Bay to spend three months pulling through the energy of the Pacific Ocean by myself.  I’m torn between huge excitement and sheer panic at the amount there is still to do in terms of preparation. I know that logistics and funding will all get there in the end, and that things are moving faster and faster in the right direction recently, but I also know the length of the ‘to do’ list… The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Rowing Race started on Wednesday, and as well as wishing all the crews the very best of luck, I’m following their progress closely, imagining myself in their position in half a year.

This week is also notable in that I’ve done more public speaking in the last eight days than in the last eight months. The past few days have been a jumble of meetings, emails and training sessions, but the most constant feature has been presentations. Following the London Bitcoin Expo last week, I spent Tuesday morning at a presentation session, led by public speaking expert Dr. Margarida Dolan. Everyone who was there was filmed whilst doing a presentation and we were then able to critique our performances as a group. For someone who finds speaking in public a nerve-racking experience, this session was extremely helpful and I hope to do more work with Margarida in the future.


1311BIT-41-2 - Copy
Photo courtesy http://ph0t0.co.uk/


On Friday I was able to put my presentation skills to the test at the University of Bristol’s Annual Meeting of Court. I’d been invited to give a small presentation on my experience as a student at Bristol (of course also taking about the row) to a room of a couple of hundred of the major decision-makers of the university, including the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. I was pretty nervous beforehand, but it was a brilliant experience. I had so much positive feedback and some really interesting conversations at the lunch afterwards. Hopefully there will be some photos from the day to follow.

I had my Health MOT and first personal training session at Nuffield Health this week too, and am really looking forward to getting stuck in to my new training routine! Because of my club foot I’ve always struggled with finding ways to train my legs equally. I have limited flexibility in my right ankle and muscle wastage in the calf, so am unable to do regular squats and similar training exercises. It can be incredibly frustrating, as I know how useful these exercises would be for my training. The good news this week is that I may have found a way around this with the help of Tom, my personal trainer. We tried a number of single-leg exercises using a TRX Suspension Trainer, and this is looking like it will be a good compromise as it doesn’t require me to flex my ankle as much. I’ll monitor how this goes in the coming weeks, but am pretty excited about it, and feeling really lucky to be able to work with Tom for my physical training.

I’m really looking forward to a short break at Christmas as I’ve been feeling absolutely exhausted and still have a couple of really busy weeks ahead. I’m also feeling really positive though, and happy with how things are moving. As ever, Steve is proving absolutely fantastic as my Campaign Manager. He is currently working wonders with a redesign of the website – have a look at it this week and see what you think.

Week -27: Bitcoin and First Aid

Another really busy week has flown by, and the Pacific is beginning to feel closer than ever.

One of the big moves forward this week is that we are now also accepting Bitcoin as sponsorship/donation towards the row (see Steve’s blog post from last week). We had our first donation within a few hours of opening up to Bitcoin, which is really encouraging – a big thank you to the generous mystery donor! Thanks also for all the other Bitcoin donations that have been coming in over the past couple of days. It’s really good to see this move forward being embraced. On Saturday Steve and I exhibited and spoke at the London Bitcoin Expo, which was quite an experience. We spent all day talking to people, and gave presentations on each of the two stages as well. It was a long and exhausting day, but really interesting talking to so many different people, and has hopefully made more people in the Bitcoin community aware of the challenge. We are also really grateful to Alex for fitting us in so late in the day.

On Sunday I took my RYA First Aid course, which is one more ticked off the list and that bit closer to being qualified to do the row. Discussion of hypothermia, concussion and seasickness was mixed with learning how to perform CPR and the right way to bandage up different injuries. On course, a lot of what is covered in the everyday First Aid course isn’t quite relevant to the solo ocean rower! I won’t have anyone with me who can be saved by CPR, and I won’t be able just to phone the hospital if I have an injury! It was good to remind myself of the basics, but I think I’m going to look into doing a more directly relevant course as well, such as first aid in a remote environment, or for the solo adventurer.

IMG_0181 - CopyIn sponsorship news, I have joined Team Buff UK, and have just received a brilliant selection of products from Buff. I used a Buff throughout my jungle expedition in Borneo, and know how multifunctional they are. I’m looking forward to testing these ones out on training trips over the coming months!

Funded by Bitcoin?

BitcoinHi all,

I’ve been supporting the Row from behind the scenes so far, and Elsa’s mentioned me in a couple of posts, but today I’m venturing out from behind the curtain with an interesting development.

I’m not sure how many readers of this blog will have heard of Bitcoin, but it’s becoming increasingly established and is on track to shake up the finance and commerce world in a big way. The introduction at WeUseCoins sums things up in a much clearer and more concise way than I could.

I am fortunate enough to have converted a few pounds into Bitcoins a few years ago, and the value of these is enough to fund a small but not insignificant portion of Elsa’s campaign. In looking further into how to go about this, I realised that there could be some mutually beneficial aspects that could both support Elsa and raise the profile of Bitcoin even further.

Today we’re launching a Bitcoin-focused facet to Elsa’s fundraising campaign. We’re actively seeking out sponsors willing to donate BTC, and to support our utilisation of these funds – some suppliers may be amenable to accepting the currency, others may not quite be there yet, and wish it to be converted to local denominations.

***UPDATE: our first Bitcoin has been donated!!! Thank you so much to our kind donor! Check out the donate page for a running total!***

London Bitcoin Expo logoWe’re going to be speaking and exhibiting at the London Bitcoin Expo this Saturday, thanks to fantastic organiser Alex – come along, or if you know any organisations or people that will be there please point them in our direction!

I’ve put together an open letter to the Bitcoin community, which I’m going to be tailoring and sending out to organisations in the coming weeks. If any individuals or organisations are interested in discussing this further, please email me at btc@elsahammond.com.

Thanks for reading,
Steve – Campaign Manager