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.

Elsa’s new route: Q&A

“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, holder of four ocean rowing world records.

 

Elsa will continue to post updates on her blog – please check it out for the most up-to-date information. You can view her current position on the race tracker.

Some information about Elsa’s amended plans, in response to the questions and coverage that have been coming in:

  • What have conditions been like for Elsa?
    • Heading out of Monterey Bay, Elsa experienced strong onshore winds that blew her back into the bay every time she stopped rowing. She countered these by resting on sea anchor in the day and rowing at night when the winds dropped.
    • As she started to head out to sea, strong winds pushed her south east down the Californian coast. She experienced waves up to 20ft breaking over her boat.
    • Later on conditions improved slightly, but persistent winds meant making headway westwards was challenging. Elsa headed further south to seek more favourable wind and wave direction.
  • Why has Elsa chosen to change her route?
    • Elsa has experienced unexpectedly challenging wind and wave conditions right from the start of the row. These pushed her far south of her intended course, into areas with increased risk of hurricanes, with unpredictable promise of improved weather. This, and the fact that the further she headed from land, the more dangerous an emergency recovery would be (for Elsa and any rescuers), tipped the balance of risk. Read Elsa’s statement here.
  • How far off her intended course did she reach? How long is her new route?
    • Elsa ended up around 100-150nm east of her ideal route. By the time she completes her journey she will have rowed the best part of 1,000nm.
  • Why do the courses of all of the boats in the race differ from the direct route?
    • With the prevailing winds and currents in the Pacific, following the direct line (visible on the race tracker) is effectively impossible – even for the four-man crews. Rowers aim to push through the Californian coastal stream and make it to the trade winds, at around 125 degrees west. The ‘ideal’ track sweeps south and west.
  • Could Elsa not just row longer/harder?
    • Elsa has trained for years for this challenge. Out of the four solo rowers in the race (two men and two women) she was the last remaining by over a month. Her three broken oars (unheard of before) indicate how tough the weather was for her, and the statistics showing that she has rowed the furthest ‘miles per rower’ of any of the classic-class boats – even compared with the four-man crews – are testament to her efforts.
  • How long will it take her to reach land?
    • This is variable depending on weather, but we estimate around two to three weeks.
  • How is Elsa feeling about the diversion?
    • Elsa is in good spirits. She is confident that this was the correct decision to make, and to continue further would be dangerous to her and irresponsible to any rescue crews she would also be putting at risk. Please see her statement.
  • How are supporters responding?
    • Since she announced her diversion, Elsa has received many hundreds of messages of support from sponsors, supporters and fans – overwhelmingly positive. Many have said that they admire the courage and discipline that Elsa showed in making this decision.
  • Will Elsa re-attempt this challenge?
    • Elsa and her team have not discussed this yet, they are focusing on a safe and effective return to shore for her.
  • What do other experienced rowers think?
    • Roz Savage, world-record holding ocean rower says: “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.”

Media resources

What a challenge – a four and two pairs retire

From Campaign Manager, Steve Bullock:

Elsa reports that conditions are still challenging. Her  oars are holding up, and she’s added tethers to the spoons in case of breakages, that way they won’t get swept away and she stands a chance of being able to repair them. Contingency plans are in place in case she does need a resupply, but this will be a last resort as it will mean she will not class as ‘unsupported’, affecting her eligibility for world records and a position in the race.

Just how challenging is demonstrated in New Ocean Wave’s race reports – several crews have had a range of breakages from daggerboards to more oars. Elsa and her team’s thoughts are with the four-man team Pacific Rowers (race report) and male solos Jim Bauer (race report) and Daryl Farmer (race report), all of whom have had to retire from the race for different reasons. It must have been an incredibly tough call to make to ask for a rescue – all six men are incredibly brave.

This leaves Elsa as the only solo currently rowing – Mary Rose awaits a weather window after experiencing similar trouble to Elsa in getting out of Monterey Bay.

Check out the race reports and tracker for updates on positions, conditions and crews, and please send words of support to any and all crews, both those retired and those still rowing for challenge, adventure and a wide range of causes.

Please continue to send messages of support. Also like and share Elsa’s row on Facebookfollow her on Twittersubscribe to the newsletter – and dedicate miles and sponsor oar strokes!!

Elsa still has a way to go to reach her fundraising goals – please share as far and wide as you can.

147/2400

2400 miles: 2400 women.  We’re getting some amazing nominations pouring in.  Nearly 150 miles have already been dedicated to inspirational women across the world, across time, and even across the boundaries of fiction and reality. Steve has been doing an absolutely heroic job of getting them up on the website – have a look here.

As I’d hoped, we’re seeing people nominate many different women for all sorts of reasons. Some are well-known, others not. Many are close to home – mothers, especially. Some are not known personally to those who dedicated the mile, but may have touched millions of people throughout their lives. I can’t wait to see who else is nominated, and what other stories lie behind each name.

As the dedications keep coming in, I’m thinking more about what it’s actually going to mean to me when I’m out there. Each day I will have different names, people, and stories to focus on. They will be sharing my journey, and I expect they will affect it profoundly. I know that thinking about them will really help me to keep going when things get tough.

We still have over 2,200 miles waiting to be dedicated and I’m so excited to see who they will be for. Time is starting to run short though – I’m heading out to California in less than five weeks’ time, and will be rowing away from land shortly after that.

Thank you all so much for everything you have done for the row so far. Your support, advice, sponsorship, suggestions and contacts all make a world of difference. Please keep supporting and help me reach 2,400 fully dedicated miles, ready to start the row in June. If each person who has dedicated a mile finds just five more people who will dedicate one as well, we’ll soon be on the way to making the most of every mile.

Thank you 🙂

Week -21: The London Boat Show and Other Adventures

Steve and I went to the London Boat Show last week to meet suppliers, discuss sponsorships and even catch up with other ocean rowers. I met some of the lovely girls from the Coxless Crew, who are busy preparing for their own big adventure this summer (although unfortunately I missed some other rowers who were there). It was a whirlwind time at the Boat Show and I still haven’t gathered my thoughts and my business cards together enough to catch up with everyone that I met. We saw a lot of very big, shiny boats, met a lot of really fascinating and friendly people, and I’m looking forward to seeing what grows from the seeds we planted there.

 

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With a bit of time to spend in London after the Boat Show, we went to have a look around the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. They were both really interesting, with some highlights being the Environment Gallery at the NMM, and the display and talk about John Harrison and the longitude problem at the RO. The ability I will have to navigate and communicate while I’m out on the Pacific is so different to what was on offer just 300 years ago, when longitude could not yet be calculated accurately, and there were no satellites to aid communication.

“For every 15° that one travels eastward, the local time moves one hour ahead. Similarly, travelling West, the local time moves back one hour for every 15° of longitude.

Therefore, if we know the local times at two points on Earth, we can use the difference between them to calculate how far apart those places are in longitude, east or west.

This idea was very important to sailors and navigators in the 17th century. They could measure the local time, wherever they were by observing the Sun, but navigation required that they also know the time at some reference point, e.g. Greenwich, in order to calculate their longitude. Although accurate pendulum clocks existed in the 17th century, the motions of a ship and changes in humidity and temperature would prevent such a clock from keeping accurate time at sea.” (Royal Observatory)

Something evidently needed to be done, and the story of longitude is far more interesting than it might sound. I’m amazed every time I think about how relatively recent this problem was. Have a look here for the rest of it.

 

In the middle of the NMM is a huge floor map of the world – perfect if you are planning adventures of any kind on a large scale. We had lots of fun recreating the journey I’m going to make – in record time!

 

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After I’d written my blog last week, I found myself on the phone to Australia recording a radio interview – at 11pm on a Sunday! It was a really friendly interview, despite a bad line, and I look forward to another one from the middle of the Pacific. Have a look at the article about it, and listen to the interview.