CHARLOTTE Best has conquered the Atlantic – in 55 days, 13 hours and 29 minutes.
The Stratford Boat Club member and her three crew mates successfully rowed 3,000 nautical miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean – breaking the previous record for an all woman crew which stood at 67 days.
But it was far from plain sailing for the Atlantic Endeavour crew – 30 year-old marine biologist Charlotte, Sarah Hornby, 31, Kate Hallam, 33, Becky Charlton, 28, – who were among 30 teams taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest ocean endurance race.
Between them they had completed numerous Ironmans, marathons and intrepid treks. Former Stratford Grammar School girl Charlotte had recently completed both the Oman Desert Marathon and the Muscat Marathon.
But during nearly two months at sea the women physically and mentally pushed themselves to the limit.
They endured sleep deprivation, sweltering heat and the psychological stresses of living and working in such an unpredictable and harsh environment.
But from colliding with a shark to enduring tropical storms, Atlantic Endeavour overcame their worries and the waves to complete the monumental challenge.
Skipper Sarah – on reaching English Harbour in Antigua, where the crew were greeted by family and friends – said: “This was our toughest challenge to date, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our friends and families back home.
“We all experienced hallucinations during the race and there were some difficult days, but we just got back up every day and kept rowing.
“It’s been a long journey to reach the finish line and the feeling of elation arriving in Antigua tonight was unlike anything we could have imagined.”
Crew members burnt around 8,000 calories a day and lost approximately 20 per cent of their body weight over the duration of the race, which started on December 14.
The crew ate mainly freeze dried meals – the sort eaten by mountaineers and those undertaking polar expeditions – as they rowed gruelling two hours on and two hours off shifts around the clock to propel their seven metre long boat made of a combination of wood, fibreglass, and carbon fibre.
The boat – which had a small cabin which was the only protection against the might of the ocean and powerful sun rays –
was equipped with watermakers, which change sea water to drinking water, solar panels to power the GPS and other vital electrical equipment, including a tracking beacon to signal the boats location.
The crew were raising money for Mind UK and Women for Women International – the final amount for which has yet to be totted up.
Sarah Fleming, for race organisers Talisker, said: “We are delighted for Atlantic Endeavour and admire their perseverance and determination to finish the challenge.
“To us, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a perfect opportunity to support a remarkable adventure that at the same time benefits so many worthy charities.”