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.



  1. Simon TY says:

    I find all you are going through, and achieving, completely humiliating. Your strength of purpose knows no bounds.

    Be safe xx

  2. JG says:

    Similar thing happens to servicemen, especially when on operations and the best leaders will know everything about those they live and fight with and they all depend on each other for survival and success. As you have found, it is a very rewarding process and something that ex-servicemen find hard to live without . You too having developed this closeness and interdependence in the team, will miss it once the expedition is completed because it’s not a feature of ordinary life. What you have is a recipe for succes and I am so relieved that you are now setting a cracking pace. Keep safe Crew

  3. Liz says:

    Great news that you are finally making good progress, let’s hope you can continue to row at such good speed. Looking forward to hearing you have reached Samoa very soon, love to you and all the girls. Keep strong you are all amazing.xx

  4. Robert says:

    Your in luck, there is a low forming about 450nm West of you which is forecast to track South and pass West of Samoa to a position SW of Samoa 15.21° S, 173.83° W on 2015-10-13 12:00 UTC
    There is also a low pressure system NW of Fiji, approaching Fiji which is forecast to keep the SE winds South of Samoa until at least 2015-10-15 00:00 UTC.
    If you start rowing towards Apia with good following winds you might just make it before the SE winds kick back in North of the Samoan islands?
    Check with Tony …

  5. laura what a touching blog! I imagine this would be a tough leg with it being the middle. When you get Samoa -next stop Cairns!!! You & the team are doing amazing!!! The closest we’ve got to the restrictions you face are onboard during war time restrictions – no showers 6grs on 6hrs off. You are an amazing women and just getting to the starting line was amazing keep moving forward and know we are all sending our love & supporting you from home in Cornwall xxx

  6. Eleanor says:

    Laura your blogs always leave me with a tear in my eye – I love your honesty and can imagine how tough it is for you guys. Totally gunning for you every step of the way and hoping those friendly winds stay on side! Lots of love to all of you and your inspiring story X X X X X X

  7. Mike S. says:

    Laura you continue to inspire all of us with your combined human spirit & determination. Keep safe & hope you keep good weather & current.

  8. Brilliant blog Laura,made me proud of you and see my flaws,38yrs ago today fell off my pony and broke my neck spent 2 months in Truro Infirmary as it was then aged 17 and 21 yrs ago today was paralysided from the waste down in hospital had frame put into my spine and was told nobody knew if I would ever walk again,I used to read the fear and pain in everyones eyes,and hate them all but hate myself more for how I felt,and I now know what I felt was overwhelming fear.yet here I am “up Blackrock” looking after my ponies, dogs and chicken about to take the dogs down Gwithian for a walk,it takes more strength and courage to look at ourselves and be honest than ever take any act of so called bravery,been shot at and attacked by people with knives,nothing in comparison to what you girls are doing.What will be will be,be honest to yourself and never be afraid to ask for help no matter what form that help takes.You make us all very proud,and we al learn from following you girls that anything is possible and dig deep and you can achieve anything.Keep pulling girls,we are withyou riding every wave.

  9. Jim Andrews says:

    You are baring your souls to each other in a way only certain life experiences allow. I agree with the response from “JG” that your experience is akin to Military Comradery which once experienced is hard to live without. I remember the huge void I felt after 24 years in the Royal Engineers and the disappointment I felt with my new found work colleagues in various jobs. It is a rare and wonderful trust and a dependence on each other that bonds like nothing else. I cannot imagine ever being strong enough to put myself through what you ladies are enduring, the physical effort alone, is mind boggling but the mental strength is truly awe inspiring. You all write such entertaining and informative blogs but, I think all of your readers who regularly tune in will identify the various pains and stresses “between the lines”. Your chosen charities are such deserving causes and I hope, will benefit hugely from your generosity, what you are giving them is a huge part of you. All we can do is make whatever financial contribution that we are able. I can never find the words to describe my total admiration. Stay safe. XX

  10. Alison says:

    Laura, what a blog! Oh how I identify with so much of what you had to say. Once again I am awed by your strength of character and openness and honesty. Truly inspirational. You girls were the topic of conversation out on the hills today as I took part in a big litter picking effort on Scafell pike and both the leader and one of the other members of the team had been following you as well! We were talking about inspirational people and I mentioned you only to find that they were following your journey just as keenly as I am! Small world heh? Evidence of how you are impacting on so many people! Keep rowing and I’m delighted that the wind and currents are cooperating for a nice change!!

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