Leg 3, Day 36 – Choose your attitude – Ems vs. Ems

Emma Mitchell By

Day 36 – Choose your attitude – Ems vs. Ems

Leg two of our journey between Hawaii and Samoa was a tough one. The painfully slow progress and battling hard every day against adverse currents frustrated me massively and led to a spiralling of negative thoughts and a dislike of being on the oars. Over the last couple of weeks we have had a bit of déjà vu as we have been again fighting negative currents and after a racing start our progress became frustratingly slow. I was worried, as I’m sure was the rest of the team, that I would struggle with this and give in to the frustration again. However thanks to the amazing Keith, our sports psych, who I had spoken to often during the last part of the second leg and who I spent time debriefing and talking through coping strategies with while we were in Samoa, and my lovely team mates who have supported me in the tough times and also while testing out different techniques this leg has been very different. I feel like I have dealt pretty well with the challenges which the ocean has thrown at us over the last few weeks.

One of the main fuels for my frustration in leg two was constant calculating of how long it was going to take us to reach our destination depending on the speed which we were currently travelling. This combined with adding extra time with every current which took us in the opposite direction to Samoa was enough to drive anybody crazy! This leg I have made a conscious effort not to do this. Even when we were making amazing progress I never allowed myself to get carried away with excitement about an arrival date. I have been making a huge effort to stay in the moment, to take the time every shift on the oars to appreciate where we are, the beauty of the water, the waves and the endless skies. Despite still not exactly loving the rowing I have been able to remind myself every day how lucky we are to be out here.

The frustration felt with our progress also led to my trying to row my heart out to fight the currents and winds on my own on the boat. I ended up aching, exhausted and dreading each session on the oars. I needed to have a plan for this leg to prevent the same thing happening again and in Samoa with Keith decided that when conditions were tough I needed to define success for that shift for myself. Whether that be a target speed or direction, holding position or just rowing at a sustainable pace for two hours or keeping up conversation with my rowing partner as a distraction. I have also been determinedly not paying too much attention to the speed reading on our deck repeater and only worrying about keeping the heading on the required degrees. I also worked in Samoa to put together some positive imagery surrounding rowing for using on the oars when I was struggling to stay in the moment and enjoy a shift. I have always used imagery surrounding racing to put myself in a ‘power up’ or ‘game time’ state with a lot of success as part of the performance enhancing strategies we put together with Keith before we started the row. However this required something a little different. Images of peaceful rowing below the lock at Marlow, a calm summers day on the Bristol docks, freezing cold sunrises out at Ely when training for the boat race and weekends spent in the sunshine on the canal in Stroud all made the cut and are helpful for chilling out on the oars.


This row is proving to be more than just a physical journey across the ocean and I am learning a lot of skills which I’m sure will be transferable to life when we return from the row. When I first joined the Coxless Crew team and first met Keith I was a little scared by how accurate my NEO personality profile was but impressed by his insight and the strategies he gave us to develop skills individually and as a team. I’m not going to lie though, I found our initial team sessions a little stressful. However throughout the journey to the start line and in particular since we’ve been on the boat Keith has proved to be a great sounding board, giver of good advice and general legend. Thanks Keith! Thanks also to everyone who has sent supportive messages and encouragement to Doris and on my blogs. It is a massive help to know that I have so much support back from so many people.

UPDATE: Last night after Megs and my crazy rain storm LP and Nats saw a family of sharks circling the boat. There was little Alonzo, his older brother Juan and dad Eduardo. Meg and I have taken it upon ourselves to become the Christmas fairies and are providing little festive treats for each of the 12 days of Christmas. Day one was candy canes and then yesterday we made hot chocolate and baileys for our middle of the night shifts. It was the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. Today we created goodie bags with some festive games and an invitation to the Coxless Crew Christmas party. Early this morning Megs and I were woken from our slumber by an approaching fishing boat. LP had contacted them on the VHF but a language barrier meant that they thought we might need help so they headed over to check up on us. They called us small boat and as they approached we told them we were ok and they said bye bye small boat and headed back off on their fishing trip. Today it is hot hot hot and the towels and sleeping sheets are drying nicely. Yay!

I’ll leave you with the start of our very own Christmas song…. To be completed.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a striped cane of candy.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two boats a passing.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three sharks a circling.



  1. Elaina says:

    “On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me four brave ladies rowing”.

    Xxx all our love from dolphin swim school X

  2. Wow-this is my first comment but certainly not my first reading of the blog! I have followed your amazing journey from day 1 and am in awe of all of you! I knew Emma when I was younger from horse riding – you will forever be known as Emma with Dollar to my family! Best of luck with the rest of the row – you are smashing it! Love Steph x

  3. Anne says:

    My Dear Emma,
    We have so much admiration for you and wish you God speed and fair winds and a good and speedy arrival in Cairns. We are so looking forward to seeing you and the girls there and cannot say anything but, how amazing you all are. I hope you realise how incredible this whole journey has been and how proud of yourselves you should all be, Wonderful Warrior Women!
    It is not too long now – be safe and on the 5th day of Christmas my true love sent to me 5 fish aflying . With much love xx

  4. JG` says:

    Well done Emma.Being such an intelligent person you have developed your coping mechanisms, refined them and, most importantly, put them into practice. Being fit and strong, which you clearly are, combined with your coping strategy leaves us with no doubt that you will finish the course on top form. Past half way now and not long to under 1K to go. Dont fret too much over spending Xmas at sea. Just think of that massive home-coming party when you get back here.

    Joke: Woman walks into a shop and picks a can of fly spray.
    Woman; “Is this any good for flies?”
    Assistant: “Not really Madam, it kills them”

    Keep safe The Crew

  5. sara says:

    “On the sixth day of Christmas my truelove gave to me Six Coxless Crew mates”
    So good to hear your coping mechanisms are working my beautiful and amazing daughter. I am so very proud of you and your amazing crew friends. We are right behind you all the way and I think you should know my lovely work colleague Ewa tells me in Poland they celebrate Christmas until the end of February so you wont miss it at all! JC is right the home coming will be fantastic, will be waiting in Cairns for you, take care x

  6. Jim Andrews says:

    Just been watching the arrival of Tim Peake at the International Space Station, scary stuff as they had to make a manual coupling of the Soyuz space capsule to the ISS, due to a technical failure yet to be divulged. Even the Moscow control centre admitted to being concerned. The training and professionalism of the commander and crew ensured a successful arrival at the ISS. They will now spend 6 months carrying out scientific experiments, and be the subject of experimentation, for the long term benefit, of the human race and our little blue dot of a planet. I wonder at the similarities of your joint ventures. Although they have specific dates and timings, there are numerous eventualities and things that are out of their control. They will have to learn to co exist in a confined area with no hiding place when they need some personal space. Their level of physical fitness will have to be A1 to withstand the rigours of space travel. I think their sharks, might take the form of the million fragments of space debris hurtling around at 15000 mph?
    I imagine their psychological preparation must be very similar to your own? At the end of the TV coverage I was watching, the narrator signed off by stating that the ISS was then flying over the Pacific, and I just thought how marvellous that you might be looking up at that moment and catch sight of your fellow adventurers. The Crew of Doris and the ISS have a great deal in common and I admire you both. Stay safe. XX

  7. Well done Emma, that was a victory in yourself. An achievement you can be very proud of. It is a choice you made to stand up and not to lie down. As they say it has to come from within and it truly did. We are so proud of you.
    We are very grateful for Keith that is so professional and can help you girls through moments like that.
    Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a mystery, “Carpe diem” Grab the moment.
    We pray for good currents and winds in the right direction.May this last stretch just be a pleasure.
    Stay safe and enjoy XXXXX

  8. Andy says:

    Ems I don’t think any of us need tell you about the power of the mind, but don’t underestimate the power of encouragement too. We believe you (all of you) are amazing and more than capable of pushing through anything. Just the fact that you are actually on Doris and not like me sat at home supporting is an indicator that sets you apart from the ordinary and makes you extraordinary.

    P.S. My contribution to the song is a replacement of ‘and a partridge in a pear tree’ with ‘ and a boat called Doris on the sea’

    Andy x

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