23 February 2012

Team of Heroines Cross the Atlantic in 45 Days

Julia Immonen decided it was time to take action. Shocked by the fact that human trafficking is still a global issue, she brought a team of five women together to raise money to help the modern day fight for Freedom For Everyone. At first, the all-female team elicited mixed responses:

The director's assistant at Sky Sports News searched far and wide for a team to complete a 2,613 mile journey from the Canary Islands to Barbados. Her recruits came from all corners of the world, from Ireland to Dubai and barely knew each other when they took to the water. The team evolved into Row For Freedom, and raised money for two anti-trafficking charities - A21 Campaign and ECPAT UK.

The Row For Freedom team: Kate Richardson, Debbie Beadle,
Julia Immonen, Kate Pattison-Hart and Helen Leigh
The team left the Canary Islands in December 2011 and were determined to prove they could walk the walk. 

Their journey across the Atlantic was intense. Fittingly, the ladies chose a route that was used in the early slave trade and faced 50ft waves and were rowing 24 hours a day. 

- Julia

Unpredictable weather conditions was not their only challenge. The auto helm, which helps steer the boat broke, and within days of setting off,  their hydration equipment also broke which meant they had to spend up to 20 hours a day producing drinkable water with a hand pump

But the ladies persevered, and relentlessly continued their trek to Barbados, never capsizing and appreciating both the peaks and troths of their adventure. 

The ladies completed their challenge in 45 days, 15 hours, 26 minutes. Astonishing. But that wasn't all. Not only were they the first five woman team to cross the Atlantic, but also the fastest female team to do so. 

Their story reminds us of The Wild Geese, who also faced testing seas to pursue their own sense of freedom. Like The Wild Geese, the Row For Freedom team also bonded on their adventure, and not only had to pull together to complete their challenge, but were also each others' support and safety nets. 

Debbie Beadle admitted: 'We got to know each other very well'. Especially when the chaffing made their skin sore. At times, the women abandoned all modesty and rowed naked! 

This camaraderie and the support network the women built up is incredibly inspiring. Two challenges faced the Row For Freedom team: the physical journey and the mental one. As they worked together as a team to defeat the physical challenge, they turned to one another like family to combat the mental one.  We think of 1691, when The Wild Geese had to support each other as they journeyed to new lands. The support of a friend and comrade is priceless. 

On reflection of the journey, Julia says:

They have so far raised between £60,000 and £70,000 and are planning a similar challenge in North Africa. To donate to this inspiring cause, you can visit www.rowforfreedom.com/donate.

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