Thank You at Duncan Lawrie

What a lovely evening this was!

A small event with lots of friendly faces, a beautiful space, and delicious canapés and drinks provided by Duncan Lawrie Private Banking. I gave my first talk since the row – it proved quite difficult to choose what to talk about, and which bits to focus on. Before I went, there were clear limits to what I might talk about; now I’m reflecting on two months’ worth of vivid experience, plus over a year of training and preparation. On Wednesday I picked just a few of the most vivid memories and moments from the row, and then answered questions at the end. There was talk of big waves, starlit nights, dolphins, soldering, microplastics, the unknown creature of the night, and broken oars.

Thank you so much to everyone who was there – sponsors, charities, supporters, friends and family – it felt like a very special event. Special thank you to Duncan Lawrie for their fantastic hosting.

Before my talk I also showed the rough cut of a video about my row. This is currently being tidied up for everyone to see, so keep an eye out for it on YouTube in the coming weeks…

Dry land

The last few weeks have been about getting safely to land, recovering, sorting Darien out, and enjoying some much-needed relaxation in the sun!

It’s been an interesting experience writing this blog. I’ve had something half-written for the past week and a half, but I’ve found it a lot harder to focus on it than I did during the row. Out there I was exhausted, and was constantly concerned about the implications of taking time out of rowing, but writing was always a highlight of my day. It was a chance to communicate with people, to share what I was experiencing, and to reflect on how things were going. On land there have been so many more stimuli – even just sitting down at the computer to write I feel distracted by email, social media and the internet all jostling for attention. When I was rowing all of this was limited, and suddenly I have to make an effort to focus again. I’m once again experiencing everyday life with other people, and writing is one of the many things that happens in a day. Now I’ve given myself the space to sit down properly and write, however, I’m really enjoying it and appreciate the space to reflect on the experiences of the last few weeks.

The difficult decision to ask for a tow has proved to be a good one. Shortly after I arrived in San Diego, news of Hurricanes Julio and Iselle started coming in. Julio sped right over where I’d been headed towards, and Iselle crossed the path that I would have been on had I not changed course to head for Mexico. Watching the 140 mph winds swirl over the ocean on the news, I felt very lucky to be safe and sound on land, with Darien snug in a quiet marina (thankfully everyone else in the Great Pacific Race is also safe).

Lots of people have asked me what it was like stepping onto dry land again after two months in an ocean rowing boat. I actually had the strange experience of getting used to the completely different motion of the yacht for three days before I made land, meaning that the experience was probably a bit less dramatic than it might have been. There was some wobbling, and my legs are still weaker than they were, but I think my body was just enjoying being somewhere that wasn’t moving for a while.


Making myself useful on Cloud Nine
Making myself useful on Cloud Nine (Darien in background)


As we sailed into San Diego, I spied a little group of people on the end point of Shelter Island waving banners and balloons. I could hear them shouting from the shore, and could see Steve in his bright orange ‘Pacific Solo Row’ t-shirt. After the faff of setting Darien free from Cloud Nine, I rowed the last bit to shore to be greeted by the big smiles of the welcoming gang. Within minutes of landing, we were soaked by a sudden downpour, leading to an extremely bedraggled group making their way into the Silver Gate Yacht Club for lunch (I remain only partially convinced that this was unusual weather for San Diego…). Silver Gate is an historic yacht club with a swanky new clubhouse, and they very kindly made me a guest member for the time I was in San Diego. I feel privileged to have been hosted by two such welcoming yacht clubs, one at each end of the row.


First hug in two months!
First hug in two months!


As well as being over the moon to see Steve again, it was also pretty special to be reunited with Mary and Jim in San Diego, two of the other solos who left Monterey with me back in June. We missed Daryl (fourth solo, now back in England), but raised a glass to him from the comfort of the Silver Gate bar. Jim lives in San Diego, and Mary has been continuing her row down the coast, so we were all able to share stories and experiences from the ocean.


Me, Mary and Jim with the Silver Gate crew (check out the awesome hats and pennants!)
Me, Mary and Jim with the Silver Gate crew (check out the awesome hats and pennants that we were given by the club)


Due to the difficulty of changing flights again, Steve and I have a bit of time to explore California before heading back to the UK. We’re off to Yosemite National Park for some camping and hiking, which will be the first real test of my weakened land legs. Darien is on her way back to the UK, thanks to Wallenius Wilhelmsen and the amazing efforts of the Brock family, our wonderful, constantly-generous hosts from Monterey.


Darien says goodbye to the USA
Darien says goodbye to the USA


Thank you so much for all the lovely comments welcoming me back to land – I’ll be back in proper contact once I’m home and able to internet more regularly. 🙂


Over and out

Now that Elsa is safely back in the world, she'll be posting directly rather than via satphone/campaign manager linkup. It's wonderful to have her here in person, and I'll be gradually transitioning out of my support role and back to the day job.

Elsa's got lots to share, so keep reading if you'd like to hear more about her ocean adventures! I may make the occasional guest post but she'll be the boss going forward (same as always, actually!) Sign up to the newsletter via the box at the bottom of the front page to have things delivered directly.

If you're interested in booking Elsa for talks, articles or anything else, please get in touch.



PS: I know 'over and out' is a bit of a radio faux-pas, but it works in this context!

Elsa safe and dry in San Diego

After nearly two months at sea, Elsa Hammond arrived safely in San Diego this morning, Saturday 2nd August.

Elsa left Monterey Bay on June 9th, bound for Hawaii as one of only four solos in the Great Pacific Race. After battling 30ft waves and fierce winds, the final solo remaining in the race by over a month, she made a considered decision to alter course towards Mexico, and was assisted up the coast by a race support yacht.

Elsa covered almost 1,000 miles solo and unsupported in her self-righting custom built ocean rowing boat, Darien.

The video below shows Darien on tow by the support yacht, Elsa rowing to land, and her being reunited with her fiancée (Campaign Manager Steve), to whom she was engaged three weeks before she set out to sea.

Please contact us with messages of support or interview and talk requests.

Another twist to the tale… (or No, I don’t have an engine)

Another important update regarding Elsa’s journey home:

The more diligent YellowBrick watchers amongst you will have noticed that I’ve started moving rather speedily in a north-easterly direction. No, I didn’t smuggle an engine aboard, nor am I hooked to a giant fish, as in ‘The Old Man and the Sea‘… I am safe and well aboard Cloud Nine, one of the Great Pacific Race support yachts, and Darien is chugging along happily on the tow rope behind us.

This has been a far harder decision for me to make than the change of direction, and one that I would never have imagined making when the row began. As you know, I have been struggling with adverse winds and difficult conditions since the start, and although these have altered with my change of course, they have not abated. Since turning east there has been the odd day of light or more helpful winds, but overall rowing conditions have still been frustratingly challenging. I was able to row about sixty miles past Isla Guadalupe to the south, but the likelihood of reaching mainland under my own power has been receding with each weather forecast.

For the past ten days I’ve been feeling like I’m on a roller coaster headed to Antarctica, and however much I struggle to get off it and row towards mainland I continue to be hustled south by the wind, waves and current. Once again I have found that I have had to make a decision based on progress, current weather, forecasts, and position. Any further south and the mainland peels away even further to the east, tropical cyclones grow in threat, and I would need more than a miracle to see a complete reversal of prevailing conditions.

Whilst weighing up the slim possibility of a miracle against the reality of my speedy progress south, I was told that Cloud Nine would be able to offer their assistance in reaching land if I didn’t delay much further. One thing I’ve learned from this adventure is how to make difficult decisions on my own. Although this is not a decision I would have taken if I had control over the elements, it was the only sensible option based on my southerly position, the weather, and the forecasts of weather to come.

I’m now looking back at Darien rather than looking out from her deck, but the adventure is still not over for me. With several hundred miles and some days left before we reach land, I’m looking forward to experiencing the ocean from a different angle and to resting my aching hands.


Some quotes from experienced supporters:

Every ocean row has it’s dangers and risks, and it should never be taken for granted that a rower will complete the challenge.  Elsa has faced some extremely difficult choices and it’s testament to her resolve and courage that she has decided to change course. I’m very proud of her continued resilience, especially when she must be struggling with fears of failure – she has not failed! But whatever happens, she stepped aboard the boat when very many wouldn’t. Mexico awaits a heroine and she’s on her way!

Sally Kettle FRGS: first woman to row the Atlantic twice E-W; 5,000 miles at sea; raised over £500k for charities


I am full of admiration for Elsa, not only for the tenacity and determination that she has exhibited over the last five weeks as she battled persistent headwinds, but even more for her wisdom and maturity in deciding to change course. I applaud her decision, and look forward to congratulating her in person when she returns to Britain.

Roz Savage MBE FRGS: first woman to row solo across three oceans; 15,000 miles and 500 days at sea; National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2010 (Roz’s successful Pacific attempt was her second try!)


And a request for Elsa’s keen supporters from Campaign Manager Steve:

Elsa’s perseverance both in pushing toward Hawaii for a month and a half, and then back toward Mexico for the last few weeks, has been immense. The Pacific is an unforgiving ocean and her row has been particularly harsh. Broken oars and the highest miles per rower, are testament to Elsa’s incredible effort.

Elsa is understandably upset about having to change plans, despite her knowledge that these decisions were the right ones to make in the circumstances. What she has achieved has been incredible: 950 miles over almost two months under her own efforts; highest miles per rower to this point; intense perseverance under difficult conditions and having to make such challenging decisions balancing complex factors. Even so, she’s experiencing a wide range of emotions.

Elsa loves receiving letters. She will be returning to the UK at the start of September, and coming home to a pile of supportive written messages would be just fantastic. If you think that Elsa deserves a boost, please help her recognise that what she’s done is amazing, and send a postcard or a letter to:

Elsa Hammond
Clifton Hill House
Lower Clifton Hill
Bristol BS8 1BX
United Kingdom

Please also consider further supporting Elsa’s three charities: Global Ocean, the GREAT Initiative, and Plastic Oceans. Follow the links on her Causes page.