All-female crew from Portsmouth compete in 2,000 mile row to improve ocean health

  • The Sea Change crew are aiming to raise awareness about ocean health and gather information for environmental research, as Lucy Warhurst reports.

A team of six women, based in Portsmouth, are preparing for a 2,000 mile rowing race around Great Britain. They've just spent two days in training off the South Coast.

If successful, the Sea Change team will be the third all-female crew to have ever completed the challenge.

But, it goes beyond just sport - as they try to improve the health of our seas."We'll be rowing in two hour shifts, so two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day, for about six weeks. And that will just become the rhythm of our lives," said skipper Kat Bruce.

Departing from Tower Bridge, London, teams will row 2,000 miles around the British coastline Credit: GB Row Challenge

The GB Row Challenge departs from London and goes round the entire of Great Britain."The fastest a women's crew has ever done it before is 44 days, that's the current world record, we would love to beat that," said Dr Bruce.

"It's incredibly weather dependent, there's just nothing you can do if big weather systems come through and you have to wait it our for a few days on anchor, so we're trying not to get too fixated on how long it takes."

"We're prepping assuming it could take six weeks or longer but ideally we'd love to do it faster."

Post training smiles L-R: Aoife Luscombe, Laura Fantuzzi, Lorena Nichols, Kat Bruce, Chrissy Durkin and Jess McIver Credit: University of Portsmouth

But as well as speed, there's another focus. Science.

The boat will be kitted out with equipment that will collect ocean pollution data as they row, which will be analysed by University of Portsmouth scientists.They'll collect data on microplastics, noise pollution, biodiversity, temperature and salinity.

Marine biologist, Laura Fantuzzi, is a PhD student analysing the scientific data from last year’s race and is taking part in the challenge this year."My goal is to get a real good understanding of the health of the coastal seas around Great Britain, which we don't have, in terms of monitoring we don't have that kind of scale."

"The more data, the more we can understand, and the more we can protect."

The Sea Change team heading out on a training run from Northney Marina, Hayling Island

The six women will need to take everything they need on board with them. Including enough food for two months.Crew member Chrissy Durkin said cooking at sea is a challenge, so it has to be easy to prepare, "There's lots of freeze-dried meals and in addition to that just tonnes of snacks."But snacking while sea sick can be tricky."When I'm queasy I don't want to eat fruit bars or anything so I requested pretzels and easy, like nuts and grain bars and things like that."It's going to be a huge physical and mental challenge, but one with a purpose. Skipper Kat says it is possible to make a difference."There are things we can all do and get involved with that drive positive change for our oceans."The race gets underway 9th June 2024.

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