Across a Personal Ocean, or Three
Original post: Another World Adventures
More people have been into space than have rowed an ocean – let alone rowed two.
Not content with rowing across both the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Elin Haf Davies then sailed across the Pacific.
We prattle on about it all the time but her achievements are the perfect example showing that dreams can come true with hard work and determination. Her stories of perseverance and endurance are gripping and inspiring which is why we were thrilled to meet her at a Driven Women event where Tori and I were speaking about founding Another World Adventures.
It shows determination and strength of character to decide to row across the Atlantic, especially when you’ve never been out to sea and haven’t even picked up an oar. It’s a spirit we love at Another World!
Elin Haf Davies did exactly that – with a friend and fellow nurse who was also new to rowing.
They hauled themselves across the Atlantic Ocean in searing heat, as waves higher than houses crashed around them and towering cargo ships threatened to smash their 24ft-long boat to smithereens.
They completed the Woodvale Challenge, billed at The World’s Toughest Rowing Race, and Elin became the first woman from Wales to row across the Atlantic.
The pair worked in four-hour shifts around the clock – each rowing 12-hours-a-day. The feat was physically and mentally draining.
Her determination paid off, and their efforts raised a substantial amount of money for metabolic research. Elin had worked in this field as a nurse and seen how devastating such medical conditions can be to children’s lives. She had already resolved to study the area more closely for her PhD.
Her Atlantic adventure was a huge test of character, spirit and resolution. Many would have been broken by it. Elin was empowered.
Less than a year later, Elin was training again, with her sights set on an even longer and more grueling challenge: to be part of the first all-female rowing crew to conquer the Indian Ocean.
Again she battled the elements. Raging storms wrecked vital equipment, hatches constantly flooded, one of the crew was injured when a rogue wave smashed down on them. They all suffered the excruciating pain of blisters and salt-sores.
Their misfortunes didn’t break them – but bound them together and filled them with enormous team-spirit that fortified them and propelled them onwards.
For weeks they led the race – ahead of several all-male crews. They rode on a wave of euphoria, catching currents that helped speed them towards to finish line. Then, storms hit and the tail-spin of a cyclone battered them back. The wind pushed them off course and the failed to hit the exact finish line, leaving them out of the race.
However, the elements could not deprive them of a world record. They became the first all-woman team to row across the Indian Ocean.
Elin knew they had all given everything they could to achieve the title and she returned to London feeling honoured to have played a part in that success. She was in debt and had put her career on hold to follow her dream, but it had been worth it. She quickly realised she wanted another challenge to focus her attention on.
In less than two years, Elin had spent 22 weeks at sea. Even that had not crushed her thirst for the ocean. She was determined to head back into the waves for another adventure.
Having crossed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Elin determined that the Pacific should be her next challenge. She felt it would complete a “hat-trick of oceans,” but to conquer it she would first have to learn how to sail.
Her opportunity came in the shape of the 2012 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. It offered her the chance to join the crew of Visit Finland for a leg of their circumnavigation route – Quingdao, in China, to San Francisco, in the USA.
During the months before the trip, every spare moment Elin had was spent training and learning how to handle the yacht.
This time she would be part of a crew of 17 adventurers, from all walks of life and all nationalities.
Although Elin found sailing physically much easier than rowing, the voyage was equally challenging. She was, once again, plagued with bad weather. Gusts of 62 knots battered the Visit Finland as Force 11 gales whipped the Pacific into mountainous waves.
Despite that, those 30 days reminded Elin of the joy and freedom that she feels being out on the open sea, and left her longing for another adventure.
Elin’s unswerving commitment is evident in her professional life. She was a children’s nurse before completing a BSc, MSc and a PhD, and now campaigns to develop medicines for ill children.
Elin now uses her adventures as a platform to raise awareness about rare childhood disorders and the need to develop new drugs.
We caught up with Elin after the Driven Women event for a quick Q&A –
You’ve got an ocean hatrick under your belt – what was the lightbulb moment when you decided “Rowing across an ocean? Yeah, I’d like to do that”?
I had just got divorced and just been dropped from the Women’s Welsh rugby squad, and I just thought “What do I do now?!”. I couldn’t afford therapy, so I decided to row across the Atlantic Ocean instead.
Why did you taking the challenge on?
I loved the idea of rowing across the Atlantic Ocean because it was so much more than a physical challenge. I had never rowed before, never been out to see before, and didn’t have the finances to pay for it, so it seemed like the perfect challenge.
What were the challenges you most had to overcome in preparing for the Atlantic crossing?
Other people’s perceptions. Very few people believed that we were going to do it. Most people just kept telling us “oh you’re mad”, “you’ll never do it”, “you’ll die!”. We just had to trust in ourselves that we would.
What were you most scared of if anything?
Can you describe the feeling of reaching shore for your Atlantic crossing in 3 words?
RELIEF, PRIDE, DISAPPOINTMENT.
When you decided to row the Indian ocean as part of a team, what were the biggest differences in the trip to the Atlantic?
I rowed across the Atlantic as a pair, we were doing the Indian as a four, so there’s a big difference in terms of crew dynamics. I was also the odd one out in the Indian crew, as I was the only one that didn’t know the others.
If you could do it again solo or with others which would you choose and why?
Both! I’d love to see how I’d react to being out on the ocean alone. But also I’d love to go out there again with an all-female crew and smash a speed record.
The pacific ocean under sail! What were the highlights?
Finishing! The Pacific Ocean is a grey beast, we were battered by bad weather, but sailing under the Golden Gate bridge was a real thrill.
What advice do you have for someone thinking of trying something completely new for an adventure?
Just go for it! Don’t wait for the right time – there will never be the right time, and there will always reasons why you shouldn’t. But at the end of the day, we always regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did.
I’m sure the packing list is pretty tight but what secret thing might you hide in your bag when rowing across an ocean?
On the Indian Ocean, my crew mate Jo packed mascara as her luxury item – so that she could feel feminine on tough days! But for me it’s chocolate – you can never underestimate how much comfort a girl can get from chocolate!
Lastly… What’s next?!
I’m trying to find sponsorship to take an all-female crew of eight across the Atlantic Ocean. This has never been done before, and I’d love to go out there and smash the male record!