Leg 2, Day 89- Walking With The Wounded

Laura Penhaul By

Day 89 – Walking With The Wounded

Many may wonder why we are raising money for two charities that seem to be completely different. Well, it’s because they have a common purpose; both charities support their personnel with an holistic approach, to support through the adversities that they’ve faced and help them to see beyond the illness or injury. The charities create opportunities for sufferers to be able to speak and learn from others who have gone through the same, they work towards re-education and re-training to show them what a fulfilling life they can achieve going forwards. I have seen a number of ex servicemen come through an expedition with Walking With The Wounded and it’s transformed their lives, re-ignited an inner confidence and belief in what they can achieve. There are so many amazing charities out there, but WWTW stood out to me because it aligns with my passion of Paralympic sport. They demonstrate through their expeditions, to focus on the abilities their wounded personnel have and not to wallow in the disability. At Headley Court, this is where the in-house rehabilitation process begins, to teach personnel how to walk again or adapt to use of prostheses etc. the attitude they demonstrate reflects the spirit of the military personality, if you have a below knee amputation well it’s deemed as a ‘mere scratch’, if you have lost one upper limb and a lower limb, again there is always someone else worse off than you. Having this approach hopefully helps them to accept their disability and make a smooth transition into society. However, leaving the military must be very hard for some who have only ever known military living. This is where WWTW come into their own, they have amazing experts around them to help support those finding it difficult and the aim of the charity is to prove to them what they can do and not focus on what they can’t.

WWTW’s mission is to support all veterans with physical, mental or social injury to gain the skills and qualifications necessary to develop new careers outside the military, re-integrate into society and provide long-term security for themselves and their families. The monies we raise are specifically going towards women that have been injured at war. Check out the website here

Hawaii

In addition to the services they provide, since the charity was founded in 2010 by Ed Parker, WWTW have organised and run ambitious expeditions to extreme parts of the world incorporating teams of wounded servicemen and women, both with physical and mental injuries.

The rationale behind their expeditions to the North Pole in 2011, Everest in 2012 and more recently to the South Pole in 2013 focus on both the wounded as well as wider society and include:

– To raise awareness of the work Walking With The Wounded undertakes.

– To provide inspiration to those coping daily with injury and disability.

– To demonstrate to ‘Our Wounded’ that they are able to achieve at the very highest level.

– To highlight to Corporate UK the extraordinary skill, determination, ability and courage that members of the wounded community possess despite injury.

All of their expeditions are sponsored in their entirety by corporate partners and their funding is separate from the generous donations they receive for the charity. This ensures monies they receive from fundraising activity are distributed solely into their re-education and re-training programs and not into funding any elements of the expeditions.

The latest expedition is the Walk of Britain, which has seen four British and two US wounded veterans walk 1,000 miles across mainland Britain, starting in Scotland on August 22nd and finishing at Buckingham Palace on November 1st (72 days in total). The team are Alec Robotham, Matt Fisher, Scott Ransley, Stewart Hill, Kirstie Ennis and Andrew Bement.

Find out more about The Walk Of Britain here.

Hopefully it will be timed that when the Walk of Britain team finish, we may well also be arriving into Samoa. So whilst we may moan about salt sores, I’m sure they’re enduring worse with irritation of their stumps, or back issues where a leg length may be putting them out. Whilst we do our wet:dry routine every 2 hours to get on or off the oars, it’s a reminder of how difficult it can be to simply put on a pair of dry socks when you only have one functional hand. It certainly acts as motivation for us, that no matter how much the weather and currents are against us, the Walk of Britain team and many other injured service personnel are inspiring us to draw on our abilities without complaint.

image1 (4)

Update:

Thanks to the lovely Johannes of Victron Energy and co-ordination of Tony, we have finally got ourselves back on track with being able to use and recharge our personal electronics. The power issue started when unbeknownst to us one of our eight solar panels failed and because of how the solar panels are wired together the failure resulted in us losing a big percentage of our battery charging ability. Over time, with the unknown reduced charge going to our two batteries, we noticed the batteries were gradually dropping and despite conserving as much power as we could we didn’t seem to be able to get one of the batteries to fully charge back up. The inability to fully charge one of the batteries concerned me as normally I ensure we recharge both our batteries to 100% at least once a week which allows the batteries to equalise and synchronise with the battery monitors. With the help of Tony remotely, I was able to fault find and discover one of the solar panels had indeed failed. Disconnecting the broken solar panel from the system meant that we regained the charge ability from the other working panels, however after several days of good solar charging conditions and continued power conservation one of the batteries still appeared to be at a much lower state of charge than the other. After lots of correspondence back and forth, Tony discussed things with Johannes and shared all the test meter results I had given them from the boat and it was felt that one of the battery monitors wasn’t giving a true reading of the battery’s actual state of charge. After manually synchronising the battery monitors to show both batteries were 100% full the batteries are now showing to be fully functioning, discharging and recharging equally again. So no more concerns over lack of power, which means we can have music again!!

As a side note, some of us can charge our iPods from Power Monkeys (portable solar chargers) we can have on deck, but unfortunately not all our iPods are compatible with the Power Monkeys, so music has been scarce for the last few weeks – I have no idea what I’ve been thinking about nor what we have talked about for that time, but some how we managed even when it was during the difficult conditions.

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 85 – Dreaming of dry land

Laura Penhaul By

Leg 2, Day 85 – Dreaming of dry land

Lizanne touched on it yesterday in her blog, that now we are finally discussing potential ETA into Samoa within the next 2 weeks, Tony and Meg have booked flights and Lizanne’s parents too, discussions on the oars have migrated to what we are looking forward to the most when we reach land. I thought I’d share with you some of the small things we have missed whilst out at sea for nearly 90days & certain things we are looking forward to …..

1) An ice cold glass of coke, with condensation running down the outside and large chunks of ice clunking in the glass.

2) seeing other people different to the 3 other faces we’ve seen on here for the last 84 days!

3) having the safety net of seeing Uncle Tone, knowing that everything will run like clock work whilst he’s around.

4) greeting Meggy Moo into the team

5) Seeing Sarah Moshman’s smiling face and finally getting to see the documentary trailer that we’ve heard so much about but not seen.

6) asking each other what cocktail we would choose at Sunset (this is a trait started by Nats on the boat) but actually then having that cocktail for real.

7) Having solid food that requires a knife to eat it, that’s not expedition food mush and also where there’s an endless supply that you don’t have to share. Foods of choice on the boat today are; Me – A medium rare steak with chips, salsa and avocado salad, Ems – a bbq, meat, salad and fresh bread, Nats- BBQ of local food with fresh salad and Lizanne- Fresh seafood platter with salad and Watermelon. 8) An endless supply of Fresh fruit and frozen yoghurt 9) A shower!! Followed by drying with a clean,soft towel. Plus an ice bath for me for recovery to help with aches and pains.

10) A clean, fresh linen, spacious bed with more than 2 hours sleep

It seems typical, that as soon as you start to think or look forward to the finish line, it gets further away! The same happened as we neared Hawaii that we got caught at the tail end of a hurricane. Well this time it’s just good old strong winds from the South East that seem to be hampering our progress. Today the swell is reaching around 20ft and we are back to getting a regular dousing from the Ocean. Full air dumps, deck wipeouts and hair washes from the sea, to leave us constantly crusty with salt, a déja vu from leg one.

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 81 – ‘My Best Always’

Laura Penhaul By

Day 81 – ‘My Best Always’

Wow what a day, Thursday 15th of October will go down as a key highlight to date. Not only did we have the amazing One Show phonecall in the morning, but the night was topped off by my receiving a call from my old Junior School. The lovely Dan Simons, a teacher at Trewergie Junior School in Redruth, Cornwall had been so supportive of the row and had set up a non-school uniform day of heroes and heroines whilst running a rowathon, all in aid of raising funds for our charities. Dan is one of the most passionate and enthusiastic teachers I know, driven to empower his pupils to be the best they can be, a trait shared with his father who was my teacher when I was at Trewergie. Dan had co-ordinated through my parents, to set up calling us on the boat when the children were together for an assembly at 10:15am (UK time). This was 11:15pm for us and landed at the beginning of mine and Ems row shift which was from 11-01:00 (after much deliberation around time difference and mucking it up as I had planned/ thought it was landing in a rest shift- oops!). We were lucky with the weather, that although the seas were choppy and the wind was picking up, the night sky was clear with an abundance of stars and slither of a moon, so we were able to stay out on deck for the call. Apart from signal dropping out twice briefly, the call was clear and we were able to speak to the audience of 400 children and staff. Dan had introduced me and then there was an opportunity for 3 pupils to ask me questions;

1) what is your daily routine on the boat?
2) what has the sea life been like?
3) what keeps you motivated?

image1 (1)

This last question was my favourite. I told the children how speaking to them and hearing their support was without a doubt, a huge motivator for me. Redruth is a small town in Cornwall, so I got a chance to share how I was sitting exactly where they are (albeit more than 20years ago!) but am now experiencing sitting in the middle of the Pacific. I’m lucky enough to say, that the words that Mr.Simons left my parents and I with when I left that school, was ‘the world is your oyster’, who would have thought that 20years on, I would realise that, that has become true. I wanted to share this with the children, to help them realise not to let location or circumstance get in the way of following what you believe and help create focus on what you can achieve.

Trewergie School definitely played a huge role in shaping the person I am today and grounding of my beliefs. With a school motto of ‘My Best Always’ I hadn’t realised until recently returning to the school, how much I lived my life by that motto. The school is a beautiful old building , but to me it is more than bricks and mortar that makes a school, it’s the teachers that make it. Back in the late 80’s / early 90’s when I was there, Mr.Butcher was our Head Teacher and Mr.Simons the Deputy. Mr.Butcher was a kind man with assertive authority that ensured the School was run like clockwork which resulted in outstanding Ofsted for years to come. Mr.Simons was a lovely man and gave so much time and energy to the school to ensure every, single pupil had the best experience and they could take something away from it.

The thing with Trewergie is that it has such a welcoming, warming feeling. Having not been back since I left there when I was 11, it brought wonderful memories flooding back when I visited the month before we left for America. The homely feel to the school comes from the teachers passion and positive energy to want to be there, to be ‘their best always’. What’s beautiful is that there were still a number of teachers there that had taught me! Secondly there were the sons of my teachers (Mr.Butcher and Mr. Simons). Finally a couple of teachers were those of my classmates who had now returned to teach!!

To see your old school get right behind and go one step further to set up an independent event on our behalf, has been truly humbling. To hear 400 children shout good luck to us down the phone, is a moment I will never forget. This row has brought us some amazing experiences and we’ve seen some beautiful things, but this phonecall back to my old roots will be one of the most memorable.

Update: The last 2 nights we have had the sea around Doris light up with something luminous. We’re not sure if it’s phosphorescence or jellyfish as it comes in all shapes and sizes and seems to float past the boat not swim. We had 2 sperm whales surface near Doris today as they surfed the waves and although the wind has picked up, we are continuing a steady path towards Samoa and a good pace. Just 430nm to go!

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 77 – Noodles

Laura Penhaul By

Day 77 – Noodles

Many of you have asked whether the impression we give off that team dynamic on the boat is harmonious, is a facade and actually behind the scenes we really hate each other. Well sorry to disappoint, but our dynamic is stronger than ever. However, this is not to say that we haven’t had a disagreement or difference of opinion, I don’t think we would be normal to undergo the conditions and challenges we’re facing without an argument or two ; the sleep deprivation, the heat, battling the currents and the winds, the torrential rain storms, recently the lack of music and the finishing of snack packs. The difference with this team, is that we deal with it there and then and most importantly MOVE ON. Nothing is left unsaid and often it is reflected on afterwards and finished with a hug. That being said, Nat and I have decided to share with you a recent disagreement we had, it was over something hugely important. The most relevant points to highlight to you, is that the outcome of the debate would clearly affect the speed of the boat and the dynamic of the team, so of course it was indeed a very necessary discussion to have. The heated argument we had…….was about……. noodles! Noodles come in as a close third behind Oreo’s and fruit pots as a luxury item, so when Lizanne and I found an extra 7 on the boat, it was a disagreement as to how the noodles were distributed. So here’s the debate……

image1

LP: I asked Nats how many noodles she had stashed from her previous snack packs and she’d saved 3 packets. The rest of us had none as we’d previously eaten whatever we had at the time. To note that not every snack pack had noodles previously & we had an extras bag where we’d helped ourselves, so some may have had more than others but there was no way of telling exact numbers. Therefore I thought it was fair for the team to have equal share going forwards, so I gave Lizanne, Ems and I, 2 packets each and suggested the other packet goes into the spare bag for whoever needs it first. I truly, honestly believe that this was the fairest way, as we now don’t have any snack packs and food is precious. It was not in any way meant to be unfair or to alienate Nats, as far as I was concerned she still had an extra bag to the rest of us so I figured it made us all even.

Nats:
” I saw a zip lock bag of at least 5 packets of noodles enter the aft cabin as I was just about to exit to begin my row shift. Being ‘hawk eyes’, I made a mental note and then as I began rowing asked where the extra noodles had come from. LP replied that she had found them and was going to distribute them between the team excluding me as I already had a stash of noodles. I was gobsmacked. The fact that I had taken it upon myself to keep some noodles for a rainy day was my prerogative and had absolutely nothing to do with how extra noodles that had just been found should be distributed, in my mind. That’s how I felt and so that’s what I said.

LP has consistently eaten a large number of noodles during this leg and the reasoning behind not giving me any made no sense at all. Why should everyone else get 2 packets and I get none!!?? Everyone has collected stashes of various food stuffs over the last few weeks and what they have managed to save is theirs. The fact that they saved sweets or cereal bars over noodles, again, is their choice. When LP was about to exit for the row changeover, she asked ‘Are we ok?’ to which I replied, ‘As long as I’ve got a packet of noodles, I’m fine’

LP and I have always had a really passionate relationship as we are we are both strong, confident and expressive women who are not afraid to share our opinions with each other. I love this about us and although there have been a handful of disagreements over the last 18 months (they happen on land too), we have a deep, mutual respect and understanding about who we are what makes each other tick. ”

As this ended up being a pointless argument where neither of us agreed with the other person’s viewpoint, I could see how Nat was seeing it I just didn’t agree. Also as it was a topic that didn’t influence the speed at which we travelled or our performance, I gave her the extra packet of noodles in order to keep the peace. It took 24hrs later for me to swap our pairs so that Nat and I were on shifts together, we hugged and made up and found we could laugh about it even though we still disagreed. Nat and I are particularly open and honest with each other and not scared to be confrontational if needed. The majority of the time we get on like a house on fire, bouncing off each other with ideas, laughter and support, and only rarely has it occurred that our opinions clash. Considering the length of time we’ve been at sea, Nat and I had one disagreement on leg 1 and have had 2 on this leg, which I think is pretty good going, hopefully it won’t be 3 times on the final leg!

There are certainly ways to approach things which takes the heat out of a debate or point of view, but I think the way we handle disagreements on the boat, I hope I will take forwards with work and relationships etc. in the future.

UPDATE:
Today was the hottest day we’ve had yet. Over 110 degrees out on deck and about 100 degrees inside the cabin. We’re literally melting together!

Share:     

Leg 2 – Day 73 To bare all

Laura Penhaul By

In day to day life it can be easy sometimes to put a smile on your face temporarily when really you’re feeling sad, to give a fake laugh when you don’t find it funny, to pretend your excited when you actually don’t care. Out here, with sleep deprivation and no personal space, faking it or pretending to be someone that you’re not is not a possibility. Maybe with a lot of effort someone can hide from who they really are for a 24hr period, but not for 6months.  The conditions, the space, the close proximity with your team mates, leaves you no where to hide. Slowly but surely this row has stripped us all bare of the temporary barriers or facade we may have put up, to bring us back to the raw and real you and expose our vulnerabilities.

Being British there is a stereotype that we are a nation that tend to hold a ‘stiff upper lip’,  we power through and are prudent to our emotions, saving them for behind closed doors. Before doing this row I too believed, that wearing your heart on your sleeve and showing when you’re upset, was a sign of weakness.Why is it that I had trained myself to think, that a ‘strong’ person or leader, is stoic and can take anything on? Someone who doesn’t ‘drop their guard’ with their emotions and keeps them bottled up and hidden away. Someone who gives the appearance that nothing phases them. Keith our Sport Psych has highlighted to me that who I’m describing is a robot and not human. This middle leg of the journey has finally taught me more than ever, how wrong I used to be in thinking that I needed to be a robot in order to show strength. Out here and particularly on this leg, I have come to realise the strength in showing your vulnerabilities and how that brings you closer as a team. I know I feel closer to someone if they open up to me and I feel I can support them or help. I don’t know why I felt before that I personally should be any different.

Lizanne recently wrote a blog about the middle, the place where you have to get your head down to push through, the place where the job gets done, the place which challenges you the most. I couldn’t agree more with the words that Lizanne wrote in that blog that day. Our first leg was challenging but everything was exciting and things were faced for the first time. The last leg, I hope, will also be more enjoyable as we row towards the finish line, towards an achievement albeit with a few challenges along the way. This middle leg has without a doubt, felt like the middle, a long middle, a place where we have been constantly challenged with frustration, anger and loneliness in missing home.  It is during this leg, that I have learnt so much about the strength you feel when you open yourself up to your vulnerabilities, how refreshing it feels to show raw honesty and openness to who you are. My barriers I had developed over the years I am sure came from the fact that deep down I always worry about what people think. I was jealous of friends of mine who have always been confident in who they are and what they believe, never worrying about others opinions. No one is perfect and at the end of the day what is perfection? However I have always had this idea for what I had created in my head to be perfect, to be the best I can be, to show no weakness, to never fail.

This row and our team have taught me to challenge the thought of what is a weakness? Surely they’re just areas to improve. To learn to love the imperfections and be confident in that they make you who you are, a whole, gives you self belief. I have learnt that exposing those vulnerabilities brings you closer to others, it allows those around you to feel like they can play a role, and a reminder to who you are. If you can’t be vulnerable with your family, friends and loved ones, then ask yourself the question whether they know the real you, the whole you.

Update: We’re going South!! And not only is it the right direction, but at a speed of 2-2.5knots! We haven’t rowed at this pace for months! Now as usual we’re not sure how long it will last, so we’re powering through and making the most of it whilst we can. Thanks again to all of you that have sent such supportive emails and comments, they have worked a treat to boost morale and drive us forwards to Samoa. Personal thanks to great friends and family that have been emailing, including Michelle, Heather, Lily, Kim, Mary & Darren, Kirsten, Leah and Ben, Hannah, Lou (HUGE congratulations on the engagement!), the Day family, Gemma and Mike C, it’s worked a treat to put a smile on my face.

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 69 – Surprises of the sea

Laura Penhaul By

Day 69 – Surprises of the sea

Feeling like a stuck record, we are once again caught in strong currents East and strong unpredictable winds from the South West, culminating in meaning a rapid track East and an increase in mileage to Samoa. As you are aware the last few weeks have been testing, I guess that why it’s called a challenge. Poor Lizanne has been a pillar of strength through a very difficult time with her uncle passing and being away from her family, the rest of the team having to come to terms with an extended time aboard Doris potentially over the Christmas period. But thanks to all of your lovely comments, words of true support and sound advice, plus a few surprise visitors from the deep blue, we are feeling revived again.

It seems amazing to us, that as soon as we reach some difficult times and we start cursing at the sea, the ocean sends us a few visitors to restore our faith and reignite our passion for being here. In the last 24hrs we have had the closest and most amazing whale encounter yet. Literally less than an oar length away from the boat, she was over twice the length of Doris and with the close encounter happening over 4 times, you could tell she was checking Doris out. She stuck around for over an hour and a half, circling the boat, rising and falling and occasionally showing a glimpse of a barnacled tail or a huge, big long mouth. She came so close at one point, that we got hit from the spray of her blow hole, it was unbelievable! That sound when they blow is unforgettable and I think it will end up being my favourite sound from the Pacific.

We have talked in recent blogs of fish frenzies that we’ve encountered. I have never seen anything like it. With my so called ‘bat ears’ (as Nats likes to call them as I hear everything!), the first thing is actually the whirring sound of what you imagine to be a rushing wave coming towards you. When you look round you don’t see anything apart from a few white breaking waves and then suddenly you see this whirlpool across a massive expanse and loads of fish jumping, belly flopping, twisting and turning rapidly underwater, all in a crazy frenzie. There are literally thousands of fish in these schools. When it happens at sunrise you can see just the fish and once or twice we have rowed straight through the middle of it with fish jumping all around us. Later in the day, the frenzie draws attention from an array of birds including all that we’ve talked of to date; boobies, magnificent frigates, turns, storm petrels to name a few.

As well as our trusty sharkies, who then decide to stick with us for a short period to see what Doris is up to or whether any of us are planning to take a dip. When we first saw Wendy the whale, it was a David Attenborough shot as she rose up from the depths with her mouth wide open, right in the middle of the frenzie, taking out most probably nearly half the fish. Without a doubt it was definitely a ‘I wish I had a camera on’ moment. But not to worry, as our personal close encounters with her we’re certainly captured on the go-pro so hopefully there’s some great shots for the LSOS documentary. I guess the take home from this is, trust that even when you’re feeling really down, something will come along, cheer you up and put a smile on your face. Have belief that the sad and hard times will pass and they are just part of the journey, but as much as things feel difficult it can be outweighed in a second if you take a time to be in the moment, experience it and enjoy it for the rarity that it is.

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 64 – A blog about blogs

Laura Penhaul By

Day 64 – A blog about blogs

A number of you have kindly asked us questions in emails or in our blog comments, as to ‘when do we find the time to blog?’, ‘where do you get the inspiration about what to write?’, ‘when do you start thinking about your blog?’etc. so I thought I’d take inspiration from you all and use this time to answer your questions.

As you may now know, we rotate around the team writing a blog each day, so that we only need to write one every 4 days. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we have no idea what to write about and it feels a little arduous, but truth be told, I think writing the blogs has been a blessing, as it creates a natural distraction from the monotony of row, eat, sleep, repeat. Sometimes we have the ‘planned blogs’ where we’ve thought of a number of subjects we want to write about and have 3 or 4 lined up before it gets to our turn. Other times it will be a ‘reflective blog’ where in the preceding 3 days it occupies some thinking time whilst on the oars and therefore helps a 2hr shift fly by.

Alternatively, there is the ‘wing it blog’, when literally in the last 2hr off shift you still have no idea what you’re going to write until you pick up the iPad and start typing. Finally, there’s the ‘event blogs’ when you’re lucky enough to have something significant happen on your blog day, whether that’s an animal sighting, a storm or a key milestone achieved.

With regards to the timing of writing our blogs, this comes down to our 2 awake shifts, giving us less than 4hrs to fit it in amongst the other chores. Thankfully, being a great team, we look out for each other and often the one that isn’t blogging, will make the food and run the water maker to save time. This leaves just eating, washing and reading our emails coming in, before we can settle in to writing our blog.

Once our blog is written, we tend to do ‘story time’ for the other team mates on the oars, which is usually during the sunset shift or before depending on timing. This entails propping one self up by the aft cabin so to face the rowers and also the team mate in the cabin can hear. The blog is then read out which also gives a chance for correction of any mistakes and/or additional comments to add from the rest of the team.

The iridium Go is then run so that we can send/receive emails for the second time that day, it would be our night time so equivalent of your early morning (approx. 7am UK time). Often the sending of the blog runs over into our first sleep shift, so once the routine of logbook, talcing and sudocreme application is complete, silk liners laid out and alarm set, the blogger will lay reclined and the light off so that the team mate can snooze. Then the blogger will lay out with an arm outstretched by the hatch so that the iridium go aerial can face up to the sky. If a picture is being sent, this can often take many attempts and up to an hour, leaving just 15-30mins of snooze time before being back on the oars.

The comments and emails we receive from you all is really humbling and running the iridium go to receive emails into our inbox is honestly what we look forward to each day. Our support team back home will post us a copy of your blog or Facebook comments and then in our row partners, one of us reads the messages aloud to the other. Simon TY, JG, Jim Andrews, Andrea Herr to name a few, thank you for your unrelenting support since day 1, your comments make us feel connected to you and closer to home than what we really are. Emails received from people we have yet to meet but send us regular updates, I.e. Mike Fenwick and Aunty Linda thank you. There are also those we may never meet but send us a fleeting email to let us know they are reading and following and have been influenced by what we’re doing, we are truly humbled to think we can touch anyone’s lives, so thank you for letting us know. What is strange and difficult for us, is to have this one way relationship with you all, receiving amazing emails and messages from afar but not having the ability to return our thanks. Please know we do appreciate every comment or email we receive and we hope that one day on land we can get back to you with a personal thank you.

UPDATE: Don’t say it too loud or it might come back but we seem to have had a let up in the strong westerly current over the last 24 hours and have been able to make progress South! Woop woop about time! We appear to be in sperm whale territory at the moment. The other night on the stroke of midnight Lizanne and Ems were visited by a large pod of sperm whales swimming all around close to the boat. It was magical to see them by the light of a full moon and a really special moment. Early this morning Laura and Ems saw another pod of these beautiful whales with their big stubby noses swimming past Doris. We also watched a group of masked boobies and frigate birds catching their breakfast. We have had the most beautiful couple of nights rowing under a clear sky with the horizon lit up by a huge bright moon. Sadly there was no sign of an eclipse over here and we think it must have been over before our night time.

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 59 – Can lightening strike twice?

Laura Penhaul By

Day 59: can lightening strike twice?

Right when a few of us are starting to miss home or feeling the dregs of the monotony of rowing 12hrs a day, today the Pacific brought a taste of home to us. It appears that regardless of being at the equator where you’d imagine it to be searing heat, we have entered into rowing what seems to be the English Channel in early Winter. It’s actually been cold through the night, torrential, non-forgiving rain and bitter winds making us want to wrap up warm in the cabin and have a shepherds pie to warm our little cockles up. Like a taste of back home. Who would have thought, that at the equator we were drenched wet and freezing cold, dreaming of a hot cup of tea rather than an icey cocktail.

Last night started with a star filled sky and then suddenly the stars disappeared and we entered into a sky of pitch blackness with heavy clouds you could feel all around us. There’s something about the dark that can allow your mind to play tricks on you, when you’re on land, then the darkness can bring a fear of someone being there when you can’t see them. Out here, thankfully void of any unknown visitors in the dark (unless it’s Monty the Booby landing on Doris) the fear instead is of the looming clouds overhead, you don’t know whether they are about to rain on you, or worse still, are they lightening storm clouds. Last night they were exactly that,  lightening storm clouds.

image1

I love watching lightening from a distance, where you can see the night sky light up for a split second. The natures phenomenon of how lightening is created through electrical charge, it’s fascinating. However, when you row into these clouds at night time and you feel the clouds have engulfed you, then I feel it’s less fun when that electrical surge happens directly above you. Don’t quote me on the odds, but I think it’s something like a million to one chance of ever being hit by lightening and if you ask Tony if we are at risk, he’d say there’s a very slim chance albeit next to no risk. However, in my head, that computes to, ‘but there is a small slither of a chance it could happen, Doris could be struck by lightening’ and let’s face it, people do get struck by lightening and with our track record recently in the Doldrums, I would put us at higher odds. Let’s look at the facts, we’re a small boat that yes is low to the sea level and doesn’t have a huge mast up to the sky, but we do have carbon fibre in the hull which correct me if I’m wrong, but I think would be a conductor. We too have aerials that stand up approx. 1.5m above the cabins. We don’t have a grounding line. So as far as I’m concerned, when sitting within the heart of an electrical storm, I’d prefer we take precautions and needless to say my heart rate was most probably sitting a little higher last night until the storm had passed. So maintaining a steady rowing pace, the aerials were folded down and then when the clouds above us and all around lit like a lightbulb had been switched on and the rumble of thunder soon followed, it was time to watch from the cabin. We sat it out for just 10-15mins max until it had passed overhead and then returned to the oars. Shortly after, Ems and Lizanne had to do the same in the last 15mins of their shift, as another storm cloud passed over head. On returning to the oars, as it has been for the past few days and let’s face it, pretty much 90% of the Doldrums so far, we have once again been battling against currents and the wind, making it heavy work to go little distance for a lot of effort. This without a doubt has been the most frustrating and I think we all have had our moments cursing the sea and wishing it to ease up just a little bit. Thankfully by noon today, the grey clouds had lifted, the sun began to shine again, the winds and current started to settle down and we have been able to resume rowing South. So with just 3degrees (180nm) to go until we are hopefully out of the doldrums once and for all, I think this will be a point of celebration even bigger than crossing the equator!

Share:     

Leg 2, Day 54 – England Rugby

Laura Penhaul By

Day 54 – England Rugby

I can’t believe the time is here for the Rugby World Cup to arrive in the UK and games are already underway. In my head, I thought we would be nearing the finish line around now and hopefully be back home in time to catch the final England game, unfortunately the winds, currents and timeline has not been on our side, so needless to say, I am gutted to be missing out on all the excitement of the rugger back home. One bonus is that our next stop is Samoa, so being home to many a rugby player, I’m hoping there may be somewhere to watch a game or two on our stopover.
I’ve talked previously about role models and individuals that have inspired me along the way, but one of the biggest learning curves to come out of this row, will be what it takes to make a great team. There certainly is no recipe to this, but I’m sure by the end of the row I’ll be able to highlight the key characteristics that brought us together, the shared values and beliefs that kept us focussed and the antics we got up to keep morale high. Certainly working to bring a team together in the first place, I researched and spent time with a number of effective teams, from Army to Sport to business. One of the biggest in sport that stood out and influenced me the most, is that of the England Rugby team.

Head Coach Stuart Lancaster, has got amazing vision to see potential in players, to nurture them and build their confidence, to draw them together with shared passion and values. As with us, it’s not just about the playing team, it’s the team behind the team that give it strength and England RFU have an excellent support crew in place; from truly experienced and esteemed coaching staff, to the expertise of the Strength and Conditioning team, the physio’s and medic, to the performance analyst team that spend hours behind the scenes drawing together an obscene amount of footage, the nutritionist and Sport Psychologist that play key roles, the admin team that keep everything running smoothly and most importantly not forgetting the kit man (always a crucial role within any team).

I have been fortunate enough in my profession, to have had the opportunity to spend time at Penny Hill Park. A good friend of mine and previous colleague, is Dan Lewindon who has been a physio for the team for some years. He is testament to the type of personality and character of those that work there, he excels as a physio, never stopping to learn more and dedicated to be the best he can be. He is kind, caring and thoughtful, yet assertive and focussed to get the results.

On the times that I have been to their training ground, I have never felt like an outsider. The team, both players and staff, are immediately welcoming and appear comfortable with someone new being in their environment. They maintain a grounded and humbled persona and no matter who they are, they are all very approachable. The atmosphere they create is one of professionalism balanced with an abundance of good banter (crucial to any team!). I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to sit in on a morning team debrief with all the players and hear Stuart Lancaster address them with play feedback on video analysis. Delivery of key messages done assertively yet immediately supportive with how to improve. Plans, processes are all clear as day so any one player knows exactly what their role is and what their goals are to achieve. Simple methods, but hard to do well and extremely effective when they are.

Chris Robshaw also creates a great role model for what a good leader looks like, someone that is reliable, gets stuck in to do the graft, is supportive, remains calm yet authoritative in given situations, but more importantly, recognises and respects the strength of his team around him ‘I may be the captain, but I’m a captain of many leaders’ (quote to that effect). This quote has always stuck with me, on and off this boat, each of the girls leads on a different area. They may have the skill set or have worked with our team of experts around us to develop those skills.

So we have a lot to thank the England Rugby team for and are only sorry we can’t be there in person and team as support over the coming weeks, but rest assured, we will be screaming out into the Pacific words of encouragement and sending our positive vibes back across the equator.

An adapted quote from Any Given Sunday for the boys:
‘You find out life’s this game of inches. So is rowing. So is rugby. Because in either game, life, rowing or rugby the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a stroke too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.

The inches we need are everywhere around us.

They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch’

Smash it England, show the world how it’s done!

"GOOD LUCK ENGLAND RUGBY"

“GOOD LUCK ENGLAND RUGBY”

Update:

Tantalisingly close to the equator!! As I write this message we are less than 10nm away from toasting to Neptune.

Share: