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Astro to Atlantic

Pebbles sponsors Astro to Atlantic in their record breaking rowing challenge

On 12th December Lou, Helen, Chloe and Emily from Kingsbridge, who make up the Astro to Atlantic team, will set off on one of the most challenging rowing expeditions in the world, to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance - a charity that’s close to the hearts of everyone living and working across Devon.

It has been a great honour for Pebbles to be amongst the sponsors helping them to achieve their goal.  Here, they tell us about the challenges of training and what motivates them…

You’re nearly ready to go - how is training coming along?

Training is going well thank you, we have completed all our required training hours (96 hours total and 24 hours of those hours in darkness). We have experienced different sea states, which has resulted in battling seasickness and various weather conditions, our night time training has really tested us. 

All of our training has been out of Salcombe, so we have been lucky to train in our beautiful local area. We are constantly learning throughout this project - it has been such an amazing journey and we can’t believe we now have less than two months to go!

All of our training has been out of Salcombe, so we have been lucky to train in our beautiful local area

What have been the most challenging aspects?

A combination of factors; the seasickness has perhaps been worse than expected during our training, three out of four us have really suffered so we have been adjusting how to cope with this and still manage to keep rowing. The sleep deprivation on top of this has been a challenge; we all have full time jobs so trying to manage our night rowing training and then recover to return to work has been quite testing. 

Also, the sheer volume of the equipment - we are all completely new to ocean rowing and our equipment list seems never ending! We have been learning and researching all about various devices, tools and gadgets and how to cope with different scenarios if we experience any form of equipment failure. 

What have been the best bits?

Seeing dolphins during training just out of Salcombe has to be a huge highlight and it gave us a real glimpse of the amazing wildlife we will hopefully see on the Atlantic. That has been an experience we will never forget.

Our Team is also wonderful; being part of this unique crew.  We started our campaign as great team mates on the hockey pitch and now we rarely go a day without seeing each other.  We are all such strong minded women and our team morale is always one of our strengths. 

Who else is sponsoring you other than Pebbles?

Numerous sponsors are on board with our campaign; we have been very lucky with the amount of positive local support we have had. We have twelve oars sponsors, four of which are training oars which we have trained with here in Salcombe and eight of which are race oars which we will take with us on the crossing.  We’re delighted to be taking a Pebbles oar across the Atlantic Ocean! Our full list of sponsors can be found on our website.

Has anything surprised you about preparation so far? 

We knew this project would be full-on and would be a real adventure, but perhaps the scale of the preparation to reach the start line hadn’t been emphasised enough. 

The saying is ‘the toughest challenge is reaching the start line’.  We have been preparing for the last 18 months and we really have needed every single day of that time. 

It has totally absorbed our lives; it’s our first thought in the morning and last thought at night - this only makes our desire to earn a record and reach Antigua even greater. 

Why did you choose to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance in particular?

We chose the Devon Air Ambulance as we have all been lucky enough to be born and bred in Devon. The geography can make emergency rescues incredibly complicated. 

The Devon Air Ambulance, with its two helicopters, can be anywhere in the county within minutes. The patients that the Devon Air Ambulance helps to save are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. 

We hope by choosing Devon Air Ambulance Trust as our charity we can help to generate more funds and allow the incredibly important "night time is flight time" campaign to be a complete success. 

What's left to do in the last few weeks/months before you set off?

Our boat was shipped to the start line on 16th October, so we have been busy preparing all the equipment and food to be packed on board. We now have six weeks without the boat before we fly to La Gomera.  

This time is for training, increasing our weights, and gym training harder than ever. We will be increasing our calorie intake to 4,000 cals a day to acclimatise to eating up to 6,000 a day on the crossing. 

We have some mental preparation with some psychology testing to ensure our minds can survive the elements the Atlantic will bring.  We then fly to the start line on 30th November and have twelve days’ preparation before we head off. 

This will involve scrutineering tests; unloading all our kit and equipment on board to be inspected by the Duty Officers. These twelve days will be a chance to meet the other teams competing and really share the challenge experience. The race start date is 12th December. 

What are you nervous about?

We will all have our own individual challenges while we are on the boat but some of the hardest ones will be the sleep deprivation until our bodies clocks get used to the two hour on two hour off shift pattern.  

Also having to deal with prolonged periods of seasickness, being cold and wet and missing our families and friends back at home. Inevitably the biggest challenge will be the mental one; the monotony of being at sea on what seems like an endless ocean with no other company or entertainment than ourselves.

What are you excited about?

A combination of things: seeing amazing wildlife - whales, dolphins, turtles, and witnessing beautiful sunsets and sunrises out on the ocean; and really pushing ourselves to the limit, both physically and mentally.  We know this challenge will take everything we have and we are as determined as ever. 

Having played hockey together for so many years, we know each other inside out. It is incredible to be able to complete this challenge together.Knowing that whilst we have done it for each other, the Devon Air Ambulance Trust will be benefiting hugely from our challenge, which will make everything so much more worthwhile.

We are also looking forward to finally reaching Antigua and seeing our loved ones after weeks at sea and having that huge sense of achievement that we have crossed 3000 miles of unforgiving ocean. That’s not a statement that many can make, especially four women!

What's the most helpful piece of advice you've been given to date?

The toughest challenge is reaching the start line – we concentrate on the now and are preparing as much as we possibly can.