Sea Trials – Cornwall (with awesome aerial footage!)

This weekend was boat boat boat!

On Saturday we headed down to see Justin at the SeaSabre workshop to get some of the final things fitted on the boat. Liferaft straps, Jetboil holder, new (longer) seat rails, and various other straps and attachments all went in. Only a couple more bits and pieces to go on in Monterey (plus a lot of food and kit), and she’ll be ready to go!

Sunday was a water day. Battling an unusually low tide near Padstow, we made it out with both boats and everyone still intact, though rather wet. I got some rowing training in while some super clever friends in the other boat managed to do some aerial filming of the boat using a GoPro attached to a hexacopter. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page for the video.

It’s really great to be starting to get a feel for the boat now – I can’t wait to get out there!

Walking the boat out to deeper water...
Walking the boat out to deeper water…
Hexacopter visible in the distance above me
Hexacopter visible in the distance
Disappearing into the distance
Disappearing onto the horizon

Capsize tests

It was scarier than I thought it would be to be stuck hanging upside-down inside the cabin, with green water lapping at the hatches, creaks and groans coming from the boat, simply waiting for it to self-right again.

With BBC Points West looking on, we capsized the boat three times in Bristol Harbour with the help of Andy and his wonderful team of volunteers on MShed’s crane, as well as the Harbourmaster’s boat.

The first attempt was just to see what would happen if we capsized the empty, unballasted boat in flat water. She lay very comfortably upside-down, making no attempt to self-right.

Credit: Gerry Gill

Secondly, I got into the cabin and strapped into my harness to be capsized – again unballasted. The boat was more unstable, but still wouldn’t self-right, even after a good four minutes of struggling.

Credit: Gerry Gill

Third time lucky – we put 50kg of coal into the boat as ballast (the only thing we had to hand that was heavy enough), strapped me inside again, and capsized her. Almost immediately, she came round again.

Credit: Gerry Gill

Conclusion: ballast is very important if you don’t want to be trapped upside-down in your cabin in the middle of the Pacific!

BBC Points West coverage of the tests (with apologies to every other European crew at the end there!)

Civic Lunch

When I was speaking at the Winter School Games, I met Councillor Alan McMurray of North Somerset Council. He was really interested in my row, and invited me to speak at a Civic Lunch celebrating community sport in North Somerset. I was pretty chuffed to be speaking alongside an Olympian and a Great Britain gymnastics champion.

It was a lovely event – despite feeling exhausted from being out training with the boat the night before – and there were some great questions from the audience.

I had the boat with me, so we positioned it outside the hotel so that people could have a look at it afterwards. It made quite an impression!

TEDx

What an honour to get to give a TEDx talk! This was a really exciting event, and particularly as it also fell on International Women’s Day (it was a busy day – Downside in the morning and TEDx in the afternoon).

I was hugely nervous before it. I think I’d built up the idea of ‘TED’ and how the talk needed to be in my head, after watching ‘classic’ polished TED talks. I fretted and worried in the lead up to it, but found I was able to relax into it on the day. I saw the variety of talks that people were giving, and realised that there is no ‘one’ way of giving a TEDx talk. Mine was just my version.

The title of my talk was ‘Why row 2,400 miles across the Pacific Ocean, alone?’ I’d decided to focus on that question that I get asked the most – why? – and this was a really fruitful way into attempting to convey why I am determined to do this slightly crazy thing.

Check out the video if you’d like to see what I said!

Downside School

International Women’s Day falls on the 8th March every year, and has been observed in some form for over 100 years.

I was invited to speak at Downside School to mark International Women’s Day. I was in the distinguished company of author Maria Farrer and academic Dr Bruna Gushurst-Moore – who both gave really thought-provoking talks.

Yet again, the questions at the end of my talk were what really made it for me, and I was pleased to have a real range of thoughtful questions.

I also ran into an old friend from university who is now working at Downside, which was a lovely surprise in a very busy day!

Oxford and Cambridge Explorer’s Evening

The inaugural Oxford and Cambridge Explorer’s Evening was held in an upstairs room at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, overlooking the river. I was lucky enough to be the warm-up act for renowned Arctic explorer Pen Hadow – it was amazing to be invited to speak alongside him.

Listening to Pen speak, I was able to reflect on my preparations for the challenge, particularly the aspects that are relevant to the solo adventurer. I spent a good long while chatting to him about it afterwards, and came away with more ideas about how to prepare my mind for the challenge to come. Next step – booking a couple of sessions with a sports psychologist.