In 2015/16, Bowcliffe joined thousands of others waiting for live updates from a group of incredible women who were rowing their way across the Atlantic Ocean.
On Tuesday 9th May ‘17, Members flocked to the glorious Drivers’ Club and terrace to welcome the Skipper of Row like a Girl, Lauren Morton. Greeted with a glass of sparkling Prosecco which was enjoyed in the sunshine – they then settled down to what turned out to be one of the most marvellous and inspiring stories many had ever heard.
Lauren began by explaining the inspiration for her first attempt to row the Atlantic Ocean, undertaking the challenge after losing her friend Eleanor Ellis, then aged just 23, to cervical cancer.
Lauren set off with another friend, Hannah, determined to row 3,000 miles unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera to Antigua in a 25ft boat. No sails, no engine, the girls would rely on human power alone. Nothing could have prepared them for what was to come.
Lauren and Hannah rowed relentlessly, two hours on, two hours off. The rain was equally as relentless, with Lauren reporting that during their time on board it rained 95% of the time. The boat they had raised £100,000 for, tackled 30ft waves, and on day 53, the rudder snapped off.
During their time stranded at sea, the boat capsized, resulting in Lauren suffering a 7cm gash on her head. 27 days later, and with conversation completely depleted, the rescue yacht arrived… carrying the wrong sized rudder for their boat.
They yacht left, leaving them still miles from their destination.
The second rescue attempt came from a Belgian ship heading 4,000 miles North to Canada, with an Indian crew of 21. Instead of being taken to the Caribbean (as they’d hoped!), the girls were stuck on the cargo ship in frozen waters for 21 days, with a wind-chill of -40°C. All Lauren had was her lycra and flip-flops.
Amongst many memories of the trip, Lauren regaled a dance-off with one of the ship members and cooking a roast dinner and trifle for the entire crew!
After the first attempt at rowing across the Atlantic Ocean ended in rescue, Lauren was determined to give it another go. Her new rowing partners reached out to her online and they became the female four, ‘Row Like a Girl’ (RLAG) – Lauren, Olivia, Gee, and Bella.
The goal was to break two Guinness World Records. ‘Youngest female collective age’ and ‘fastest females’ to cross the Atlantic. Only three of the 26 teams were all female. Lauren told members’ that she wanted to be a role model for young girls – to show that there are more important things than the way you look, or what people think of you…
£100,000 was raised, with The Bayford Group donating £5,000 in sponsorship.
Lauren explained that second time around she was even more meticulous in her planning, diverting the boat on day one in order to avoid a storm. It worked – they came out in 2nd place after the storm.
Hurricane Alex hit in December, breaking the water maker and rudder (again)! This time Lauren was prepared, having spooned a replacement rudder in her cabin in order to fit it in.
Describing the views from the boat, Lauren said it was ‘360° sphere of water and sunrises’. Describing the whole experience as surreal, she told members one of the oddest feelings was rowing for 40 days with just three other people and then suddenly arriving in the Caribbean to hundreds of them.
The four girls crossed the finish line on 29th January 2016 – succeeding in breaking both the World records they had set out to achieve. Over both attempts, Lauren had spent over 200 days at sea.
The evening was a huge success and admiration was indubitable. Members were also in luck as delectable canapés and bowl food was served, amongst them; tea-smoked duck with compressed watermelon, smoked salmon blinis, green gazpacho with salted caramel walnuts, and mouth-watering lamb tagine.
A huge thank you to Lauren for giving up her time, and for Drivers’ Club members’ for being so receptive. It was a pleasure to host you all.
If you didn’t manage to get to the Drivers’ Club Evening, make sure you look out for information on the next one, happening in autumn.