Buckingham Palace and our EVENT!

Laura Penhaul By


It’s been a whirlwind of a week that I know not many can say, started with an invite to Buckingham Palace. Thanks to the D of E Awards who were celebrating their 60th Anniversary, they had kindly invited us as a team to be part of a select few that were presenters on the day. There were approximately 1,000 students who had successfully completed their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards and all presenters were assigned a group of about 50 students each.


We were fortunate enough to spend some time with the Duke himself who shared a joke or two with us and showed a good interest in the row, I think the conversation started with ‘Well you all look quite normal for a crazy bunch!’. He was intrigued to see Doris after Meg invited him over to meet her, which I’m sure didn’t help his timing schedule, but we were honoured to introduce him to her and to share a giggle or two along the way.


Whilst there we got to meet a few of the other presenters who were so friendly and supportive of the row, some of those being; Sally Gunnell (my childhood hero), above Charley Boorman who isn’t normally in a chair but has had a recent motorbike accident and has injured his leg, then below, the girls got to meet Paralympic and World Record holder Hannah Cockroft who is one of the athletes I work with and will be hopefully heading to Rio in the Summer.


It was a beautiful day but it was tainted by the fact that we weren’t there as a full team with Lizanne. We did however call Lizanne whilst we were all together and gave her a run down of the day, but it goes without saying that she was missed. That being said, we are SUPER excited to announce, that Lizanne will be making it over to the UK at the end of June!! We seriously can’t wait to be together as a full team for the first time EVER!! Even pre row we had to work remotely with Lizanne and had only met during team selection when there were other girls involved, so it’ll be sooooo great to have all of us together.


Here is the link to the ticket page where you can book to come and see us as a team and meet Doris for her solo visit to London on 26th June 2016. You’ll find there are 2 options, 1 for attending including a welcome drink and another option which includes a bite to eat. For those of you that have supported us throughout, we would love to see you and thank you in person for all the encouragement and motivation you gave us.





Update on the week and COMPETITION information!


Time continues to fly by, and I can’t believe it’s May already! I went back and read the blog post that was posted exactly a year ago. I’ve copied the link below:



I cannot believe that was A YEAR AGO! Awaiting my turn on the boat and following the girls progress with hawk eyes the nerves had started to set in! Reading about the food even made me miss it! Might have to order a cheeky packet of Beef and Potato hotpot… dehydrated style!


Anyway… here’s what we have all been up to over the last week…

Laura did a talk at a prize giving event at Redruth Schools, Megs and Ems did a school talk in Folkestone last week to four different year groups and Meg has been attending the amazing Fierce Grace yoga sessions. This has been such an incredible tool for getting our bodies back in shape after spending months at sea. For more info you can visit www.fiercegrace.com

Ems went down to see Doris last week to do a bit of cleaning. Can only imagine being back on Doris what memories and emotions came flooding back! She also did another great school talk at Howell’s School in Llandaff sports awards.


For myself (Lizanne), Nat and Izzy work got the better of us this week, so we stuck to email admin instead.


Now for the most exciting news… We have been running a competition this week, and you have until TOMORROW (6th May 2016) 12PM UK time / 1PM SA time to enter! Simply head over to our Instagram page and repost this picture below and tag @coxless_crew to stand a chance to win this brilliant Crewsaver Life Jacket.

It is exactly like the ones that kept us safe on the Pacific.

You can also text DORIS to 70300 to donate 3 pounds to our charities.


Lizanne x




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 emma@coxlesscrew.com.


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.

Screen shot 2016-03-29 at 20.26.10


Teamwork makes the dream work

Lizanne Van Vuuren By

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.


Telling our story

Emma Mitchell By

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 info@coxlesscrew.com.


Diary Entries

Lizanne Van Vuuren By


It’s not every day you get to witness a miracle.
My diary was stolen, and retrieved! So I thought it only fitting to share some snippets from my own personal record of the row.

Mon 10.08.15
I am currently in a little cabin, lying on my super-absorbent towel, and it’s absolutely baking hot. Laura is busy washing the salt off her body and Ems and Nat are on the ores. We are IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACIFIC!! (Or to be more specific; 530nm from Hawaii and 1766nm from Samoa)
On our first day out of Hawaii we had a visit from a sailboat. Clearly exciting. Although I couldn’t wait for them to leave…. I smiled through gritted teeth and waved, and as soon as they were out of sight I propelled myself to the side of the boat and was sick.
*spot the newby rower!!*
Nat gave me a polo mint. I kept it in my mouth the entire shift. Literally can’t swallow anything.
I feel like a zombie!
Nap time!



I’m again in the same position in the cabin as when I last wrote… Sweating.
I’ve not really stopped sweating for the last 3 weeks.
I’m on the ores with Ems at the moment. She’s got the most incredible stories. She has ridden the Loyds TSB horse, she’s been to circus school and she’s visited Auschwitz. It’s a good thing her stories are so captivating as it’s the only thing keeping me awake during the nights!! Man I’m tired!
I’m also reminiscing a lot and thinking about my future. Work, life, love.
As for life on the ocean… It’s amazing. I can’t believe I’m actually here.

Today has been an absolute blessing in terms of cloud cover! It makes me so happy when we’re out on the ores and there are clouds covering the sun.
Towards the end of last night and this morning the swell has increased again. I was sick again. I thought sea sickness leaves you alone after a few days? Go away nausea!
In the past 24 hours we have rowed 48nm. That’s a step in the right direction for me to make Anna’s wedding.

Emma and I rowed through a ridiculous storm today. The rainfall felt like buckets of water being chucked on us, a few minutes of hail (??) and the wind gushed around us.
We reached such great speed yesterday, and today we’re down to 0.3-0.6 knots.

Just got off the ores. It was another soak session.
There are so many birds! Seriously, where do they sleep at night??

Nat showed me a few of her photos today that she took in India and Uganda. It was so inspirational! I want to start photography when I get back! We were in the sweaty cabin and looking at a little iPhone screen immediately triggered my motion sickness…. The pictures were so beautiful though! Couldn’t stop looking at them!
It is amazing to have a group of strong women around me. It’s pushing me to be better and encouraging me to push my boundaries.
On ocean life today… We’ve caught up with John Beedon who is 84nm away! What a hero!
We saw a whale briefly.
The weather is so changeable.
It’s pretty toasty in the cabin… X

Nats and I are on shift together. We’re getting on really well. She’s bloody hilarious.
In an effort to keep me up on the ores last night we told stories, and made up our own one too. A sentence each. We laughed so hard I thought we might wake the others sleeping in the cabin.
Laura also got hit by a massive fish whilst rowing last night. It was so funny!
Nats and I were sleeping when we heard LP scream. How’s that for a wake-up call! I’ve never seen anyone move so fast as Nats did when she bolted up! LP tried to pick up the fish with the BBQ tongs. It didn’t work though as the fish was the size of her leg!
The boat reeked of fish. Ew.
It’s toasty in the cabin again.
I just had a few spoons of Nutella though, so all is well in the world

It’s remarkable how much can happen when theoretically all you do is eat, sleep, row, repeat.
I’m in such a beautifully happy mood. I think it’s because I cried so much the other day. For no reason at all. Poor Ems must have felt so awkward, in our tiny cabin and I couldn’t stop! and I never cry!! But if there’s no road or mountain to run on, surely the body just needs a release somehow?

Day 56
The monotony of our 2h routine makes time both fly by and drag by.
We crossed the equator in the early hours of yesterday. First fours boat to cross the equator! Boom baby!
Must admit though, I kind of expected a sign or a line in the ocean or something. Like John Beedon wrote in his email to us “shame there was no gift shop to get a t-shirt!”
The equator is colder and stormier than I expected. There’s a chill in the wind, and suddenly I miss the toasty weather!
I’m in the aft cabin, lying with my head in the nose and Ems is cleaning her snack pack. The remaining 15 snack packs are all stragglers- they don’t have much in them and most of them are wet and sticky as some water collected at the bottom of the hatch and so the Starbursts have melted, dissolved and has covered everything in gooey-ness. SAD TIMES.
I need to clean mine too. Mine is particularly sticky today. I’m going to be sad the day the snack packs run out… Which will be in about 4 days!
We’ve not seen any wildlife for ages. Looooaaaads of birds (we checked- the nearest island is 100miles away. Where do they sleep??)
We’ve also been followed by a shark which sucks as I’d like to have another swim.

Have just come off a night shift and Ems and I just saw a pod of whales so incredibly close to the boat. About 2 ore lengths. The moon is out so they were clear as daylight!
2nd night shift done. That certainly woke me up!
Night! X

Day 61 Continued…
Going out on the ores again in 13mins. We’ve changed rotation so I’m with Nats again.
The sea has been choppy today. So many fish feeding frenzies going on around us. I’m constantly wanting to put my fishing line out, but the current is so strong today and taking us NW. If I catch something it won’t be fair on the others if I have to stop rowing to deal with the fish. Hope I get to catch something soon though!
I made pancakes yesterday. It sounds better than it was. It took forever and I only managed to make 2! But we shared it, and it was a divine piece of heavenly homely taste. Nutella is the bomb.
I burned my leg with the boiling water though. A rocking boat makes it easy for accidents to happen. It’s not toooo bad. My left lower leg is now wrapped in cling film like a chicken fillet.
We got some news regarding time-line the other day. Looks like the girls might still be rowing at Christmas. The news crashed down hard, but having mulled it over everyone seems to be doing better. Tell you what though… That will be a Christmas to remember!

Nat is currently doing story time about her “Stars and Clouds” blog for LP and Ems.

Right… Time to get ready for the night x

Reminiscing back to the time Lizanne made pancakes on a boat

Reminiscing back to the time Lizanne made pancakes on a boat


To be continued…



Nat returns to London town!


So today saw the return of Nats to the big smoke!
First stop was a talk to the wonderful New Level Results team http://www.newlevelresults.co.uk/ where Laura and Nats talked to the coaches about the row. They highlighted how the Best Year Yet programme was the ‘glue’ that helped keep the structure and focus both on land and on the boat, inline with our psychology work.


Tomorrow will be a day for the team to be with coach Andrew from New Level Results, to take the team into stage 3 – post row plans. Look out for Ems blog tomorrow to hear more about it.

Following Nats birthday last Thursday, 5 out of the 6 (Lizanne was sorely missed!), met this evening for some birthday celebrations. This involved building our own burgers and drinking some champagne in celebration!


The monk, the mountains and Ebay…

Meg Dyos By

There was once a traveller who was walking from a village in the mountains to a village in the valley.

As he walked along, he saw a monk working in a field, so he stopped and said to the monk, “I’m on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell me what it’s like?”

The monk looked up from his labour and asked the man where he had come from.

The man responded, “I have come from the village in the mountains.”

“What was that like?”  the monk asked.

“Terrible!”  the man exclaimed, “no-one spoke my language, I had to sleep on a dirt floor in one of their houses, they fed me some sort of stew that had yak or dog or both in it and the weather was atrocious.”

“Then I think that you will find that the village in the valley is much the same,” the monk noted.

A few hours later another traveller passed by and he said to the monk, “I am on my way to the village in the valley, can you tell what it’s like?”

“Where have you come from?” enquired the monk.

“I have come from the village in the mountains.” 

“And what was that like?”

“It was awesome!” the man replied, “No-one spoke my language so we had to communicate using our hands and facial expressions.  I had to sleep on the dirt floor which was really cool as I’ve never done that before.  They fed me some sort of weird stew and I have no idea what was in it but just to experience how the locals lived was great and the weather was freezing cold, which meant that I really got a taste of the local conditions.  It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

“Then I think that you’ll find that the village in the valley is much the same,” responded the monk.

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.  Don’t allow the challenges of life to take away your joy. 

There are lots of reasons to complain and be miserable if that’s how you look at life.

There are lots of reasons to be enthusiastic and joyful if that’s how you look at life.

How do you look at life?

I got sent this story when we were rowing, and it really made me smile. It’s also a question from the past week that I have been thinking about, as I attend job interviews and continue to contemplate my career prospects – life is good, and I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying wearing socks and drinking tea.  On the other hand, I am still missing my sunset bucket sessions and the heat of the sunshine on my back.

Update: This week I got promoted to an Ebay seller that can now sell 30 items a month instead of 10! I’m so proud of myself I had to share it with you all.