Archive for April, 2016

A week in the life……


Today’s blog is a (slightly late) round up of what the team got up to last week.  As ever, it was a busy week all round (except for me – I was on holiday!) and this is just a small taster of what we were up to…..

Megs gave a school talk as well as an after dinner talk at the Mayor of Broadstairs’ Spring Ball where the after dinner auction raised a whopping £1000+ for our charities, Breast Cancer Care and Walking With The Wounded.


Natalia headed to Character World to speak to the staff about strength and diversity within a team and positive mindset.  She said it was great to be presenting in their showroom and with some employees sitting on single beds – they got a very real sense of the size of our cabin space on Doris!

Character World

Ems went to the Dame Kelly Homes Trust team days (see her blog on this) and spoke at St Pirans School about the row and our values of SPIRIT.  She was also liaising with the team behind the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, who have kindly invited us to Buckingham Palace on 16 May to present Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards.  We’re really honoured to be asked and can’t wait to attend what will be a great event.

Over in South Africa, Lizanne spoke to the team at Tatis.  She enjoyed sharing stories of our journey with a group of people who were such great supporters and followers of our row while we were on the water.

This weekend a highlight for Laura was working hard supporting her athletes and friends at the London marathon.

For me, it was less work / Coxless Crew and more skiing, as I headed to the mountains of the Lyngen Alps in North Norway for a week of ski touring.  Lyngen is incredibly beautiful, and climbing up from the sea to summits and then skiing back down to the beach for a swim in the Fjords is an experience I will definitely never forget.





The power of music…

Prince’s death this week has had a huge impact on many people that we know.

His music has been playing on radio stations, TV programs, mobile phones, ipods and laptops countrywide. I had a personal hour-long Prince tribute over the weekend and we played a couple of his albums on the boat when we were out on the ocean. There are a few songs in particular (I wanna be your lover, 1999 and Kiss) that instantly transport me back to the 90’s, a time of no responsibilities, carefree fun with friends at school, my first boyfriend and days of dancing!


The power of music has always amazed me and its power during the row was invaluable. Amongst many other performance enhancing strategy techniques that we used, music was one of the most effective tools.

We used it to shift our mind quickly from one mindset to another. Waking up at 3am and knowing we had to get up and out on the oars to row yet again or unwinding after an adrenalin filled shift and calming the mind ready to sleep.

Music is a wonderful motivator – we all had our personal power songs that we used to help us through times of monotony, discomfort and frustration on the Pacific. Everyone loves a good power mix to workout to at the gym or on a run.

Music is an effective distracter – It was a great way to pass a 2-hour row shift

Music is one of the best memory joggers – I love how memories always come flooding back when you hear a song or the way you can remember lyrics to a song even if you haven’t heard it for 15 years!

Music inspires emotion – I think most people have been overcome with great happiness and joy, sadness or reflection when listening to certain music.

It moves you. It penetrates deep into your soul and stirs emotion.

Music makes you move – A great tune will make you tap your feet, nod your head, move your hips, shake your shoulders or generally move in whatever way you feel inspired to and dance until you can’t dance no more. Dancing to music makes my heart sing! It’s also one of the best socials we had on Doris – a random 15-minute dance session with no-one watching us except the Boobies and Oceania!


Although I was unofficially banned from singing on the boat – I loved a good sing-a-long, and any opportunity that came up – LP and I would get our groove on. Some of you may remember us mention our ‘row dance’ – well…here it is…

Laura and Nat doing a little ‘row dancing’ during our journey.
(We’re even in purple – just for Prince!)

Sometimes we forget the influence music has.

Make sure you have songs easily accessible that you know will quickly lift your spirits if you’re having a challenging moment or day, make you smile when you feel like crying, give you energy when you have none, relax you when you’re stressed and uptight, transport you back to a moment in time and make you remember that there are certain things in life that unite us all!! x




One Year Anniversary!

Laura Penhaul By

Launch3Launch SF

Can you believe that it’s exactly 1 year TODAY that we set off from San Francisco!! It brings back such a mix of emotions, from the apprehension of the unknown and heading straight out into a storm, to the excitement and relief of simple living and less stresses of everyday life that we are now back in to. I found myself in a yoga class this morning, trying to think about being in the moment but really having to focus on fighting back the tears of the memories of emotions of a year ago, the relief at now being in the position to be able to be reflective and not having to look forward to the finish line anymore, the realisation that we actually achieved what we set out to do.

On one hand it feels like we’ve been back for ages, like the row is a distant memory. Still seeing people, like I had today for the first time since being back, and answering the question of ‘so how was it?’, seems to get more and more diluted as an answer to what it really was like. I already feel like I tell the same stories and reminisce about the same things that people can relate to, but there was 9 months of ups and downs, laughter and tears, love and frustration, but some how it all gets blurred into one smaller and smaller experience, which is crazy that the 9 months now gets summarized in less than 5 mins!


Just 3 months ago we arrived into Cairns and we are now back in the swing of normal day life on land, enjoying the showers, the clean bed linen, fresh home cooked food. Work for some of us is back in full flow and for me Rio is just a mere 4 months away. Plus the best bit of all is being back with our loving friends and family. The hardest part of this time last year was thinking what we were putting our families through and what they must have been thinking, so thankfully, a year on, we can be celebrating with them the success of the journey and being home sweet home.

Thank you to all of you that supported us throughout, it was your loving support that gave us strength and kept us working towards our common goal of bringing Doris and the team home safe and sound. xx


Adventure and Inspiration

Emma Mitchell By
It’s been a busy few weeks filled with adventures and inspiration.  I spent two weeks after Easter out in Slovenia with a team of 13/14 yr olds with True Adventure. We went trekking, helped the rangers in the Trigalav National Park, went white water rafting and cycling and explored cities and castles. The students were in charge of organising the group, the budget and the food. This trip reminded me why I love working with young people. Over the 14 days I watched them learn to work together as a team. Some of them have cooked for the first time and while initially I might have missed the days of rehydrated beef curry, now I would (almost) happily be catered for by them every day. For a lot of them it was the first time they had to be independent and it’s great to see them have their first taste of adventure. They asked me about the row a lot and it’s fun to share stories and to show how the things they learned on this expedition will stand them in good stead whatever they choose to do in the future.

Over the last two days I have been lucky enough to have been inspired by the team, athletes and young people from the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust at their annual team days. The charity uses world class athletes to mentor and inspire young people through their programs to develop five key attributes, focus, resilience, motivation, confidence and determination. Their work enriches the lives of both the young people faced with disadvantage and the athletes. During the two days the different regions around the country celebrated the achievements of the last year and were pitted against each other in fiercely competitive outdoor and indoor activities. Workshops also enabled the athletes, young people and partners of the trust to brainstorm ways to improve on the incredible impact the Trust has. I will be joining the Giveback team of athletes and am looking forward to learning more about the programs themselves. Needless to say I felt a little bit of a fraud surrounded by so many elite athletes but despite arriving on Monday morning knowing nobody I was welcomed into the extended family who like our family out on the ocean all share key values and a vision of what they want to achieve.

On Thursday I am off to St Pirans School to speak to them about the row and our values of SPIRIT. I am passionate about passing on the lessons of the row to young people and have a number of schools talks lined up. If your school is interested in a motivational speaker then get in touch at


Meg Dyos By

This week has been a busy one. After returning from Slovenia after a great two weeks away as assistant leader on a personal development programme with children from Churches College, Petersfield, I have been bobbing between Kent and London. Two weeks with seventeen, fourteen year olds where I crossed paths with Ems only once who was also out there, was brilliant, but I’m also happy to be back doing Coxless Crew bits.

I’m back working one day a week doing some freelance sales, and stepping into an office after all of this time was hard, but something that was inevitable in order for me to keep more time free to share The Coxless Crews story.

Yesterday I met up with Nat, Ems and Izz at Izz’s work Powell Gilbert who have been a huge support to us, and we gave a talk to them in the office over lunch. It was quite informal, and I just love talking about the row with the girls, it really makes our talks come alive when we can relive the memory together.

Today I then went to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham and gave a talk to the Sixth Form. They have been raising money for our charities, and were such a brilliant audience. I never thought that we would be able to talk about losing sight of shore and continuously rowing to get to land in relation to revising for A Levels, but today that happened – it was so fantastic speaking to the sixth form after the talk and hearing them say that they were inspired.

In other news yesterday we were invited to Buckingham Palace to present the Duke of Edinburgh awards in May which is VERY exciting to say the least!


A diverse team

Isabel Burnham By

I think the quote below sums up our team perfectly.  The six of us are each different, with different outlooks, different backgrounds, different skill sets, different strengths and weaknesses, different likes and dislikes.  And that is what made us such a great team.  We used our diversity to make the team stronger than its individual parts.



Food Glorious Food!

Laura Penhaul By

Having arrived onto dryland weighing in at about 55kg’s (approx. 15kg’s less than when I started), I feel I have certainly been making up for the lack of calories consumed whilst away and find myself still using that as an excuse even 2 months on!

Over the last 2 months I have savored pretty much every mouthful of glorious, non-expedition food! From the textures, to the spices, the naughty calorific burgers to the freshly cooked foods, vegetables and fruits, the exotic to the plain and the sweet cakes or savoury cheeses- I have loved it all!

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Last Friday one of my truely great friends, Kirsten Samuel-Hubert, spoilt me rotten for the whole day to celebrate the success of the row. It started with brunch at Roast in Borough Market which consisted of Eggs Royale for me (delicious!), then some pampering at Aveda for our nails, then polished off with a Mad Hatters Afternoon tea and champagne at the Sanderson Hotel

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Kirsten knows me too well to make the perfect day based around food as the priority!


So morale of the story, when you’ve eaten nothing but mush for 9 months, you appreciate even the simple things of a piece of cheese on toast, so savor the flavour and take a second to be mindful of every mouthful you taste, because not everyone is as lucky to eat the way that we westerners do. xx




Reminiscing about food

Lizanne Van Vuuren By

This week we reminisce about food on the boat.

The most commonly asked question on the boat was “what are you having to eat?” In fact it was the first sentence I learned to say in Spanish when Nat taught me.

Even now it is one of the most commonly asked questions; “What did you eat on the boat??” Needless to say, it was an important part of our journey.

We ate well. Lots of food with many calories. Our freeze dried food supply worked amazingly well on a journey like ours. The only thing we regret is not taking more Shepherds pie.

Writing this blog takes me back to a particular memory.
Towards the end of the middle leg the Shepherds pie became gold dust. We treasured every meal.
Needless to say it’s a meal that ran out before many of the others….

When the last shepherds pie was eaten, Nats and I wrote a song about it. Every time I hear the American Pie song I still sing it with our lyrics!

So I’ll leave you with this…
Bye bye Shepherds Pie
I’m gonna miss having you on the menu tonight
And as I look at my options I sigh
It’s gonna have to be beef curry and rice
Any other option would have been nice


How do we control our frustration??

What exactly is frustration?

It’s how we react to situations that make us angry, sad or disappointed. It’s OUR emotional response and so surely we should be able to control it?

We all experience frustration in one shape or form – often! I may even go as far as saying that it’s an emotion we most probably feel on a daily basis. Work, relationships, getting stuck in traffic or being delayed on the tube, when something doesn’t live up to your expectation, trying to master a new skill, forgetting to do something, having to rely on other people, the weather, bad time management…there are many elements of everyday life that can provoke this feeling of disgruntlement if not managed well enough.

There are many ways to deal with frustration and many reasons for it to surface in our thoughts.

For us, when we were out in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, I would say that frustration was an emotion we felt on more than a few occasions!

We had good reason. Our expedition was filled with challenges. We were sleep deprived, hot, continuously damp and uncomfortable. There were days where we rowed hard against current and wind but travelled negative miles or in the wrong direction. There were days where we battled to keep the 1-tonne Doris facing the right way and when she kept swinging round the waves would crash continuously across her deck. There were moments where the pain or discomfort of our salt sores and pressure wounds were so distracting that we needed to wait for 10 minutes of a rowing shift before our backsides or hands became numb and we could push through the 2 hours. Our ipods broke, we lost our favourite bikini top, flannels or tupperware overboard or we just simply got bored of eating the same food over and over again!
It was understandable that we felt discouraged.

How did we control those feelings of being annoyed when we couldn’t achieve what we wanted? How did we rise above the frustration and how did we deal with it?

I’d like to share three of the techniques that seemed to work.

  1. Control the controllable

One of the most important questions to ask in any situation is ‘can you control it?’ We can only control the controllable, so if something is truly outside your control, then surely you are wasting valuable time and energy on something that you will never be able to change. It’s amazing how often we forget this simple fact.

So, on Doris, we would remind each other that we could only control the controllable when we saw someone get frustrated.

  1. YOU control your thoughts and how you react to situations / You are in charge of how you feel so choose a different emotion!

Understanding that we are all in charge of how we react to situations and how we choose to behave to them is in our control, makes you a lot more self-aware. Feeling frustrated is not a good, uplifting or positive feeling, so ideally we want to choose not to think in a way that will lead us to the emotion of frustration.

During the 9 months of the expedition, when I started to let my thoughts run away with themselves, I would bring myself back to the moment and find something different to concentrate my energies on. Watching the ever-changing movement and colours of the ocean or the shifting shapes of the clouds in the sky, telling each other life stories or listening to music were all great ways to transform our thoughts and shift our mindset to a more positive one.


  1. Breathe

It is always beneficial to stop, check in with yourself and breathe!

This is an invaluable tool that can be used in almost every situation you find yourself in when you feel as if your emotions or sensations are taking over.
Just breathe slowly and deeply – in for 5 and out for 5.

It has been said that it is better to view frustration as ‘delayed success’ not as ‘failure’ and then at least you know that you can overcome it, while others say that frustration is an essential part of success…so who really knows!??

All I know that is that through all the peaks and troughs of life out on the ocean, the challenges and the frustrations, the magical moments and beauty, we did our best, as a team, to fully embrace all the emotions that came our way and learn from every situation. We must have done something right as we were not only successful, but we achieved what we set out to do… in style.
We did it with honesty, humility, SPIRIT and laughter!!

Now…let’s see if we can continue dealing with life’s challenges in the same way on dry land!!! x