Before writing this blog, I googled what ‘Diversity’ actually means in definition terms, and one of the sources I looked at said ‘it means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences’ – and it truly resonated with me and what our team is all about.
Within our team we vary in so many ways – age; interests; experience of rowing; where we live – the list could honestly go on and on. But what brought us together is this incredible experience that we all had together. An adventure that forced us to face our fears, challenged us, more than we have ever been challenged, and as a team, when we are together we somehow manage to bring out the best in each other. I still wonder how, and even why this was possible on Doris. Was it because we had to? No, I don’t think that that was the whole reason, as now back on land despite having this shared experience we really are a close knit group of friends. WhatsApp helps when we are all dotted around UK, and with Lizanne in South Africa, but even still we have this shared passion for what we have done, and the message that we are portraying when we do our talks. I love that moment during a talk when you chat about a particular memory, or a shift and you have a shared smile with that particular person in the team who experienced that moment with you. This photo below is one of those moments:
Right now i’m in Slovenia with a team of fourteen year olds with a brilliant company called True Adventure. Seeing these children outside of their comfort zones whilst trekking is bringing back so many memories. This team is diverse, and yet the way they are working together and using their different strengths is so awesome to see!
This week’s blog theme is frustration. There was plenty of this on our journey, both on the way to the start line and on the water.
One particular example was our struggle to get off the Californian coast and on our way to Hawaii. We spent 10 days battling through strong winds and large swells pushing us South towards Mexico. Everything was new to us, and the sea sickness wasn’t helping! But then it happened, we finally started to make progress West. Unfortunately, just as we did, some water damage meant that we lost the ability to charge our Victron batteries using our Solbian solar panels and we had to make the difficult decision to row 6 days back into shore to Santa Barbara to repair the damage. To say it was frustrating was an understatement. We had started our journey after years of preparation and were finally feeling that we had started to get to grips with the challenging conditions, and then we had to turn around, row back in and do a re-start.
I am really proud of the way that we dealt with this situation as a team. We accepted the decision and decided to put the frustration behind us, re-focuss and make the most of the opportunity. We took advantage of the time on land to repair the damage to Doris and make other tweaks to her and our kit. By staying focussed on the bigger picture, we transformed the frustration into a positive and left Santa Barbara feeling prepared and re-energised, ready to make it to Hawaii.
During the Night of Adventure evening which we spoke at a couple of weeks ago Al Hunphries gave everyone some advice about taking on their own adventures. He also gave his answer as to whether you should travel alone or as a team and concluded that if you wanted more of a challenge you should take on a solo adventure whereas to make it easier you should go as part of a team. Having been a part of the Coxless crew for 3 years now I don’t agree. I believe that our biggest challenges whilst rowing the Pacific where not the challenges which the ocean could throw at us but how we pulled together to deal with them. It was not the isolation from the outside world which was such a challenge as living in such close proximity with each other. Fortunately we didn’t underestimate these challenges and with the help of Keith formed a strong team who could work together drawing on each persons strengths and getting the best out of each other. I believe that one of the greatest successes of the row is that we have stepped off the boat as friends having achieved what we set out to do.
So as the African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
It’s safe to say that (amongst other things) the success of the row was largely due to incredible perseverance and team work. We had a whole network of people who worked so hard behind the scenes to help us reach our goal.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The row was by far the strongest team that I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of. It changed my view on ‘Teamwork’ knowing that we can achieve so much more by working together. Since being back from the row I have looked around me to find that all our relationships are little networks of teams. Our families, friendships, relationships and our working environments. It’s a gift to be able to surround yourself with people who join forces for the greater good.
Even though the six of us set out to conquer new grounds; it would not have been possible without the help of so many people including Ella (who posted our blogs while we were at sea, as well as lead our social media), Kirsten (who monitored or emails), Keith (our sport psychologist), Tony (our onshore support) and of course our friends, families and amazing supporters.
Due to the stressful environments we faced on the boat we all had our own tasks to fulfill, and we helped each other through difficulties. We divided and conquered; even if your task was to simply make lunch for your rowing buddy during that shift.
I would encourage everyone to look at your relationships and realize that if you work together as a team you should be able to encourage each other to bring out the best in your abilities.
What an amazing week we have had as a team with talks for ‘Night of Adventure’, the Rotary District Conference in Marlow, iSportconnect, the Cambridge University Women’s Boatclub crew, to name a few. It’s been diverse and exciting and reminded me how different we all are as a team yet how well we always pull together!
The idea for the coming months is to have different topics to discuss on a weekly basis in our blogs if there are no events to share with you.
This week is about mindfulness.
Whoever we are and whatever we do, I think that there is this undeniable feeling of disharmony in the world at the moment. Nature is giving us signs all the time and I think we have all become a little more aware of the importance to look after not only our physical health but also our mental wellbeing. Finding that time to forget the stresses of everyday life, try to quiet the mind and find the perfect work/personal life balance!
One of the best things about being in the middle of the ocean for me, was all the time we had to be mindful. No mobile phone distraction, societal pressures to consider and to be able to connect fully to the surroundings and to each other as a team. Everything we did was worthy of our undivided attention. We truly listened to one another, we tasted what we ate, we really saw what we looked at and sound and emotion was heightened. I’ve promised myself that I will always bring myself back to that mindful state and carry those oceanic moments with me wherever I find myself – even in the middle of the chaotic city of London!
For us collectively as a team, some of the most special memories from the journey are the silent star-strewn nights, the magnificent sunsets, getting to know each other’s life stories and those hysterical moments when something in that instant made us laugh uncontrollably. For me, there was something very mindful about all of these situations – as we were fully present.
Have a great weekend everyone and remember:
“ In this moment, there is plenty of time. In this moment, you are precisely as you should be. In this moment, there is infinite possibility ”
This week has been a busy one for sharing our story at a lot of exciting places. First up was Saturday when Laura and I attended the Rotary District 1090 conference. The Marlow Rotary clubs have been incredibly supportive of the row and it was nice to share our journey with their wider family. The spirit of Rotary where people come together to have a positive impact on their communities as well as across the world shone through the day and we were also lucky enough to hear from some other inspiring speakers. The collection for the event was in aid of our charities Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded and thanks to the generosity of the 700 delegates we raised a huge £1600.
Next up was Tuesday’s ‘Night of Adventure’ hosted by Al Humphries and with a host of adventurous speakers. With only 400 seconds and 20 slides allowed for each presentation it was a challenge for everyone. For us it meant that the 5 of us only got 80 seconds each and teamwork was essential. Next time we need Lizanne here for a minute each! It was an inspiring and entertaining night and we were so glad to have been invited to be a part of it.
Finally tonight, 10 years after I won my boat race Izzy and I headed to London to speak to the Cambridge University Women’s Boatclub crews who are into the last 10 days before their big race. We met some of them before we left last year and it was great to share our success and stories with them and reminisce about our days training in Ely. I am really excited to watch them race in Easter Sunday against Oxford.
If you, your company or your school are interested in having us speak then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday Natalia, Emma, Laura, Izzy and Lizanne (via Skype) headed to near Bradford upon Avon to spend the day with Keith, our team psychologist (of Zeus Performance Psychology). We were hosted by Keith at his beautiful home and spent the day looking ahead at “stage 3″ of the row project. Among other things, we considered what we want to achieve as a team in the coming months, our team dynamics now that we are back on dry land, and what we each want to take from the row individually going forward.
At lunch time, we got the chance to catch up with Keith’s wife Helen and daughter Eloise (nearly 3 now) and Pam, Helen’s mother. As is always the case when we meet as a team and meet with Keith, we talked all day and could have kept going long after we had to leave! Thanks to Keith, we left the session with more clarity and focus.
Tomorrow we have another team catch up. Among other things, we will be polishing our presentation for the Night of Adventure that we are speaking at tomorrow night. It’s a great line up of speakers and we are really excited to be among them.
What a great day me, LP and Ems have had at the National London Youth Rowing Championships. LP and Ems arrived at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre by car, whereas Meg ended up confused at Tottenham Hale train station with the Cambridge Boys rowing team searching for the shuttle bus!
Once we all arrived we were set to stand and encourage the rowers and wow, we were shocked by how strong some of them were! We also presented medals on the podium to the very deserving 1st, 2nd and 3rd places of a few races which was brilliant and generally just chatted to people.
It was really great to speak with both Cambridge boys and girls teams ready for the up and coming Oxford/Cambridge Boat race in 2 weeks time, as well as chatting with Mark Hunter, rowing Olympic gold medalist .
A massive thank you to the Organisers! What a great event to attend!
As an all female team, who have just set 2 world records, achieving world firsts ahead of the boys, International Womens Day certainly seemed more poignant to us this year!
We are a team of ordinary women that went beyond having just a dream, we made that dream a reality and achieved what many thought would be impossible, what many thought we would fail at. It didn’t come without a few waves of ups and downs and set backs, but collectively, as a team, we stuck to our values, remained resilient in situations we faced and drew on perseverance when it mattered, which proved many people wrong about us. We weren’t just a bunch of girls in a pink boat that would fall out with each other or turn back and quit at the slightest difficulty, we were a team of women that had prepared and planned our row over 3 years previously, had tested ourselves mentally and physically in our preparations and left no stone unturned that we could have planned for. We drew strength from one another, cared for each other when someone was down, drew on humour to keep us going and allowed emotions to be shared and free flowing so that vulnerabilities were not hidden. We coped well with change and adapted quickly through the process as each leg we had a new team member. These are qualities that most women share, these are qualities that are fundamental to a dynamic and functional team, these are qualities that resonate effectiveness in any team setting, whether that’s business or sport. With equality in business still far from showing parity and in sport the exposure for women in sport is still lagging behind, hopefully days like International Womens Day, can express and share the amazing work women out there do and what great benefits a female angle can bring to a team to create diversity.
We have been and still are in ‘oar’ (sorry couldn’t help it!) of so many women that have helped and inspired us to achieve our goal, so here’s just a few, that on this International Womens Day (IWD)we wanted to celebrate…..
Our very own Sarah Moshman. The queen behind the camera who has already won an Emmy for a previous documentary, who led the Empowerment Project to celebrate women who are making waves in science, the military, media etc. https://indieflix.com/indie-films/the-empowerment-project-ordinary-women-doing-extra-36648/ and who is showing how it’s done as a female Director in an industry dominated by males.
Kate Philp, who was a Royal Artillary Officer who became a below knee amputee when she was injured in Afghanistan in 2008. Kate would have fought in the minority to be a female on the frontline, she would have fought to rehabilitate mentally and physically after she was injured and she has continued to fight in making sure she has a new life journey to success, which is reflected in her achievement when she reached the South Pole with Walking With The Wounded. She’s a true inspiration that whenever I started to moan about pain when I was out in the ocean, she made me stop and push on.
Patricia Elouahabi, loving wife to Rashid and mother to Yasin, who died just 6 months after Yasin was born in her fight against Breast Cancer.
Chrissie Wellington, one of my heroes who I am now fortunate enough to call a friend. Chrissie is a 4 times World Ironman Champion, her timings would come in the top 5 of the mens, she has set up Park Run and campaigned for the Womens Tour Du France. Chrissie fights for what she believes in, she’s dedicated and passionate and does everything with a smile!
Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment, on the board of 30% club, has 9 children and is a loving wife. This is a woman that epitomizes ‘you CAN’.
Sarah Outen, has just completed her around the world London 2 London challenge via, kayak, bike and rowing boat, all whilst sharing her journey, inspiring school kids along the way and continuing to look forwards to see how she can create environments for people to say yes to more opportunities outside the norm.
Julia Immonen, a beautiful woman inside and out, who has stirred change through her campaigns to stop human trafficking. Her efforts have fed through the channels of sport by setting up Sport For Freedom and Julia herself has completed rowing the Atlantic as a team and numerous cycling multi-day events.
England Womens Rugby team, having won the World Cup in 2014 for the first time in 20 years, this is one of many all female teams in sport that showed us how it’s done.
There are many more women that I could continue to talk about that inspired us as a team (my mum being one of them for me personally!), but there isn’t enough room on this page! A day like IWD gives us a chance to celebrate all those women that are stepping out their comfort zones to facilitate change, to help improve equality in the work place and inspire the next generation to believe they CAN. Thank you to all those women that inspired us and helped us to believe that we can.