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Three months alone in the ocean as Elsa aims for record-breaking row

Elsa tries out a boat for size

Elsa tries out a boat for size

Elsa Hammond

Elsa Hammond

Press release issued: 7 August 2013

Rowing for up to 16 hours a day, encountering unknown creatures at night and spending three months in solitude are just some of the challenges Elsa Hammond will face as she endeavours to row 2,400 miles across the Pacific Ocean. The PhD student from the University of Bristol is the only solo woman from the UK registered to take part in the Great Pacific Race 2014, a new route for ocean rowers from California to Hawaii.

The PhD student from the University of Bristol is the only solo woman from the UK registered to take part in the Great Pacific Race 2014, a new route for ocean rowers from California to Hawaii.

Described as an ‘extreme sports event’, it’s the first rowing race to cross this part of the world’s largest ocean.

Elsa will take on the tough challenge in a 24ft long, 6ft wide rowing boat as she attempts to conquer storms, seasickness and the psychological effects of so much time in isolation.

Along the way she will have encounters with rare marine life, plastic pollution, huge waves, flat calms, and many other experiences unique to rowing thousands of miles alone across open ocean.

The current world-record for the route is 64 days, set in 1997. Organisers predict that lone rowers, like Elsa, will complete the race in between 45 to 90 days, depending on weather and conditions.

Completing the challenge isn’t her only aim; Elsa also wants to be the fastest solo woman to row this stretch of the Pacific Ocean and to raise money for the Plastic Oceans Foundation, a UK-based charity tackling plastic pollution in the oceans.

Elsa, 28, doesn’t set sail for 10 months, but the hard work begins now - both in terms of training and fundraising.

Although she rowed for her college at university, Elsa will have to learn a whole new technique for the ocean – including learning to row with both oars instead of just one. She will also need to take and pass a number of different courses to help her survive alone in the Pacific.

She said: “I’ve done a fair bit of river rowing in the past, but ocean rowing is very different – you need more upper body strength to propel such a large boat forward through choppy waters and you’re certainly more at the mercy of the elements. Some days the wind will be so strong that rowing will be impossible - I will just need to put the sea anchor out and wait for the storm to pass.”

The boats are built to withstand heavy weather and will self-right in the event of capsizing. Conditions are basic, with a bucket for a toilet and desalinated seawater as drinking water.

Aside from needing to be incredibly fit in order to row solidly for three months, the costs of taking part in such a challenge are sizable. Elsa estimates that she’ll need to raise £100,000 in total through sponsorship and fundraising endeavours for the row to go ahead.

Elsa, who is studying English Literature, explained: “There are many more costs involved than people might realise. Not only do I have to buy a boat, there are also race fees and insurance to consider. I’m going to need lots of equipment such as a satellite phone and a desalinator to purify water, enough food to last three months, plus the cost of shipping everything out to California for the race.

“Once I have covered the core costs of undertaking the row through sponsorship, then I will be fundraising for the Plastic Oceans Foundation. My mission to get sponsorship begins now and I’m hoping a variety of businesses will want to get involved and support me in different ways. I’m also really keen to share my experiences with schools and different organisations before and afterwards.”

Elsa’s hoping to secure a second-hand boat from a UK team, which is when the training will get fully underway.

Ocean rowing boats are ruggedly designed and built from glass fibre, carbon fibre or other composite materials to withstand the worst of the weather that the ocean can throw at them. Each boat has a water tight cabin at each end. Generally one is used for storage and the other is used as the accommodation, where the rower can rest.

Elsa added: “I’ve wanted to row an ocean for over seven years, and realised that entering the inaugural race in the Pacific Ocean would be an excellent way to start. I feel really excited, although I’ve got a lot to achieve in the next 10 months before the race even gets underway.”

Further information

About the Plastic Oceans Foundation

Elsa is supporting The Plastic Oceans Foundation, a charity that works to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans, and to combat the issue through a range of solutions and projects. Plastic pollution is a problem on many levels, detrimental to the environment, world economy, and human health.

Elsa’s journey will take her just south of most concentrated area of plastic pollution, but she will still see a lot of plastic around her, even when she is thousands of miles away from any land. Other ocean rowers report seeing some sort of discarded plastic object bobbing around regularly when they are at sea. Elsa has vowed to rescue what plastic she can from the ocean during her row, to recycle on her return to land and to take into schools when giving talks.

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