Leg 3, Day 30 – Gadget toes Mitchell

Laura Penhaul By

Day 30 – Gadget toes Mitchell

So as promised, following on from my last blog, each blog will now be a recount of each of the girls, their contribution and why they’ve made this journey so amazing.

As you’ve most probably learnt my now, this whole row has made me more in touch with my emotions than ever before, so you’ll understand when I say that writing about each of the girls makes me a little teary eyed, but none more than speaking of Emma and our journey together.

When I first met Emma (aka; Ems, Mitchell, gadget toes (they have a mind of their own!), sniffer (Ems can be found sniffing everything before use), the quiet one (self explanatory)) she was one of 18 who had come over to the Isle of Wight to meet us for the row. Emma stood out to me, amongst a group of raging extroverts as she was different, Emma sat back and let others take the lime light. When asked, it was evident that Emma had taken everything in but would only share her thoughts when prompted. It wasn’t until at lunchtime that she was sitting within a group that I saw the roles reversed, everyone transfixed and silent as Emma retold her story of having just returned from Belize where she learnt to survive in a jungle for 4 months and had returned to the UK with a machete in her luggage! This is the thing about Ems, she is honestly one of the most fascinating, interesting people I’ve met as you really have no idea when meeting her what experiences she’s had. If it was anyone of us, you’d know about it within the first hour for sure! Who would have thought, that a quiet, smiley, Cambridge Graduate has not only survived the jungle, but has roller bladed the Berlin marathon, run a marathon, run 3 marathons in 3 days, gone to circus school to learn the trapeze & rode the Black horse in the Lloyds TSB advert! To think she’s also got a Cambridge blue for rowing and winning the women’s race in 2006, oh and not to forget, she has a PhD in neuropharmacology. Seriously, she absolutely amazes me, but yet above all this she has no idea what she’s achieved and is so understated.

When Ems and I started to work together it wasn’t quite plain sailing. Take one strong minded extrovert and one quietly determined introvert, our communications were a tad opposite. I talk, think, talk, Ems thinks, talks, thinks. I will verbalise everything as it happens and as I’m thinking, Ems won’t say a word unless spoken to or asked. To say I got a little frustrated in the early days was an understatement, I had no idea what was going on behind those eyes, did she hate me, did she think I was stupid, how was she feeling? What were her thoughts? As a person who cares about what people think of her and shares everything, you can imagine where my thoughts ran away with me, but more importantly, did she have some great ideas about things but hadn’t shared them because I hadn’t asked? Ems is actually fairly simply stated, if asked how she is, the response you will get is nearly always ‘I’m fine’, of course from my perspective, I never thought this could be the case so would always pry for more and once introduced to our sport psych Keith, he too has driven Ems to delve into the depths of emotions and feelings. I will never forget the look on her face the first time she met Keith at Paddington station, rabbit in highlights comes to mind! Yet to think 2 years on and now you can’t stop Ems from dropping Keith an email or two & being best pals, love it.

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Ems is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She may not express it verbally but will do it in her actions. On my 31st birthday, after being in the team for just 4months, Ems had made me the most beautiful present that was totally unexpected, a box full of little presents for the row; something sweet when I need a pick up (chocolate), something to do when we’re bored (a card game of questions), something for fun (a small paper kite), something for a laugh (face paints) etc. For this years birthday which was 3 days before we flew to San Fran, Ems had made me the most amazing birthday cake, topped with blue piped icing and an icing shape of us rowing Doris with mint choc matchsticks for oars, it was amazing.

Without a doubt, I can’t think of anyone else that I’d want as my wingman for an expedition like this. Emma is a ‘Tony Humphreys’ in the making! On the boat practically, Ems is the DIY queen, fixing anything and everything especially if it squeaks! She has organised the snack packs and the packing of Doris, supports with the navigation and worked with Tony on the logistics, not to mention being the strongest rower bringing with her 14years of experience. She is the most task focussed person I know and will give the team 150% to show we can get through some difficult conditions, only sometimes this has unfortunately been detriment to herself. Watching Ems lose her happy place in leg two was soul destroying, but one thing to highlight, is that it is testament to her strength and determination that she continued to power through. There are not many people that would be having internal struggles and yet still have got on the oars every shift, or have got back on the boat in Samoa. Emma faces things head on and I hope at the end of this, she realises what a true inspiration she has been and is to many. Ems certainly has been one of 5 that hve inspired me and motivated me to get on the oars every shift and stay focussed all the way to the finish line in Cairns! Thank you Emma for being you.

Music to remind me of Ems: Alphabet Aerobics rap (watch this space for our duet!)



  1. Andy says:

    Though I have followed this journey from the beginning, sadly, I am unlikely to ever meet you set of legends. However, if by some happenchance I am blessed by good fortune to cross your path, I would love to spend a hour with Ems, she does strike me as an intriguing character.
    God speed and much love.
    Andy x

  2. Ray.P says:

    We were speaking to Sara (Em’s mum) the other day and your observations about Em’s mirrored exactly what she said, such an accomplished, focused and reliable character a true stalwart as are all the girls. I know it’s been said many times over the journey but again we’ll say how proud we parents are of 6 amazing characters, even if Laura did deprived our aged dog of his bed. I’ll tell the story before Christmas.

  3. Simon TY says:

    Ems did not realise you were a Blue….and from the right place as well. Which College ? I coached the Women’s Blue boat in 1983/4…… Probably before you were born, only just out of wooden boats. In fact, the men had an Empacher, but the women may have still been in a shell. Cannot remember. Presumably still at Henley in yr day ?

    I staggering that is now a month on this leg. It has flown by for us…..I fear not for you.

    Hope you having a good day. Lots of love. Keep safe

    Xx S

  4. Jim Andrews says:

    Strange how your description of Emma is really close to my mental image of her. The relationships and bonds you have created during this adventure are truly enviable. You will know so much about each other because you will have been through every emotion. There will have been tears of frustration, anger, sadness and laughter which you will have had to deal with, with compassion, empathy and I am sure, at some time, with a verbal slap? Like Andy in the previous post, I will never likely meet any of you but I am proud to have followed you, and to have witnessed through these virtual pages, the most amazing young women putting themselves through the unbelievable trials of this fantastic voyage. This trip will be with you the rest of your lives. The memory of your trip will be with me the rest of mine. Stay safe. XX

  5. JG says:

    Comes as no surprise to me, your description of Emma. From the images of her in photos and videos I had already formed an impression of Emma that follows what you have said exactly. You can see from something as simple as an enigmatic smile, the body language and obvious demeanour the strength of character and unobtrusive but powerful presence. Your blogpost just confirms my personal assessment of this great girl. So great in fact I feel I’m being intrusive and that I really don’t have the right to comment. What the Crew are achieving with this expedition will go down in history as a unique event. Just wish the misguided current flow would become more supportive – fingers crossed. Keep safe

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