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Record-breaking Rower talks about teamwork and resilience


Emma Mitchell, who completed a world record breaking row across the Pacific, spoke at Woldingham as part of our ‘Thinking Big’ Speakers Programme. The coxless rowers spent 257 days at sea, at times spending hours rowing against unfavourable currents just to stay on course.
Emma talked to the girls about the importance of teamwork, values and resilience. The all-women rowing team relied upon six core values to keep them focussed and motivated, often in the face of setbacks and extreme weather. These were encapsulated in SPIRIT: Strength; Perseverance; Integrity; Resilience; Inspiration; Trust.
Wildlife highlights included rowing beside a humpback whale, Fernando the shark and albatrosses. There was less enthusiasm for the flying fish that would hit them at night and the desolation at being overtaken by a turtle.
There were fascinating insights into the reality of a life in the middle of the Pacific; the team rowed continuously as pairs in two-hour shifts, sleeping 90 minutes at a time. Food revolved around freeze-dried meals, washed down with desalinated sea water – by the end they were left with just their least favoured dried meal of apple and custard.
The coxless crew were the first all-female team and the first team of four to row the Pacific in 2015, starting at San Francisco and finishing in Cairns, Australia. The 9,200-mile (14,800km) expedition took nine months, three months longer than originally planned, and has set two world records.
The expedition raised over £65,000 for the charities Walking with the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, and has been filmed for a documentary called Losing Sight Of Shore.

Head of Sixth Form, Josephine Lane, said, “Emma’s talk was fascinating and very relevant for our series of ‘Thinking Big’ lectures, that encourages our students to engage with the wider world. Girls have been introduced to eminent speakers from a wide range of backgrounds who have broadened the students’ academic horizons, given them amazing examples of courage in adversity, and shown them how they too can make a difference in the world.”
Upper Sixth student Eleanor said:
“Speaking to us about her incredible journey across the Pacific Ocean, the inspiring message that many of us came away with from Emma’s talk was that we all have our own Pacific Oceans to cross, and all we need is the strength to cross them. What stood out significantly for me was when she said “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Hearing about Emma’s journey against the odds, met by storms, sharks, and sunburn was extremely uplifting and reinforced the idea that as independent young women we are capable of anything we set our minds to.”

Published: November 29 2016

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