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The Atlantic Ladies: 'We said we would do it – and we have'

By Lucy Todman | Pontesbury | News | Published:

Three middle-aged women set off to row across the Atlantic in December. Yesterday they achieved something truly amazing.

The Atlantic Ladies at the finish line

As they crossed the finishing line, three plucky middle-aged ladies made history – taking on the might of the Atlantic and winning.

Dawn was breaking back home in Shropshire as Di Carrington, Sharon Magrath and Elaine Theaker made a last-ditch push in to harbour as lightning crackled overhead.

Setting out from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12, their final destination of the Caribbean isle of Antigua seemed a distant dream.

The Atlantic Ladies set off flares to celebrate their feat

Despite battling strong winds and huge waves, their boat capsizing twice on the final push and losing their stocks of G&T the terrific trio made landfall at just after 6.30am (GMT).

Tired, blistered and looking more than a little weather blown, their huge smiles were testament to the relief they felt at being back on dry land.

It had been a colossal undertaking. With a year-and-a-half of training under their belts, they were among 28 boats which set off.

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While the first boats to come in finished The Talisker Atlantic Challenge in mid January, Di, Elaine and Sharon were determined nothing was going to put them off their stroke.

Di and Sharon both celebrated their birthdays at sea, with retired businesswoman Di, from Pontesbury turning 62 and making her way into the record books as the oldest woman to row the Atlantic.

Shrewsbury midwife Sharon saw in her 55th birthday and celebrated with cards and a rendition of Happy Birthday from her crew mates.

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They have also taken the record of being the first trio of women to row the Atlantic and the first trio of women to row any ocean.

And it was a trip of memories which will always be treasured – Elaine, 54, from Abergavenny was kept company by whales and dolphins during a night time rowing session and tried desperately to rouse her two buddies so they could enjoy the moonlit spectacle.

A mid-Atlantic dip to clean barnacles off the bottom of their seven metre long boat Poppy is something they will never forget.

But perhaps it is their arrival at English Harbour on the island of Antigua that they will always remember.

The Atlantic Ladies

Dressed in bright jackets, waving red flares in the air and with huge, satisfied, if not somewhat tired, smiles plastered on their faces, they were met by friends and family who cheered them on from the quayside.

The trio are now set to become role models for young and old alike and are even having a play written about their exploits by Shropshire playwright Chris Eldon-Lee.

Speaking of their journey, which took 60 days, 18 hours and 34 minutes, Elaine and Sharon said: “It feels unreal. We experienced magical moments and moments of terror and moments of fear, misery and desperation.

“I am so proud to have been in that boat with them. It has been a real honour to row together. We said we would do it in 60 days and we have.

Capsized

“The last 24 hours were very, very scary. We were not sure we had the courage and determination to do it and we dug deeper than ever before. I do not want to do it ever again.”

Di said: “I am quite proud to be the oldest. It does not matter what age you are. You are never too old. If I can do it at 62 anybody can do it. It is not easy, my body is falling apart but I hope I can inspire people to do things.”

Sharon’s daughter Ginny revealed that her mum and Elaine had both suffered injuries when the boat capsized as they completed the final stretch of their mammoth row. “They are very tired,” she said. “They look very different and have lost a lot of weight. They are like China dolls now. They are so tiny.

“It was amazing to see my mum. I was really worried about them today. The boat capsized twice and she was so frightened and she did not want to go out and row again. But they knew they had to go back out again and row. They are in shock now they have realised they have done it and are back on dry land and have rowed the Atlantic.” She said that the trio had encountered difficulties walking back to the hotel as a result of not using their legs whilst at sea.

“I knew my mum was strong but I never realised how mentally strong she is. I think she is the strongest out of the three of them. It was mum who got them through.”

And she said she had been inundated by messages from wellwishers. “I have so many messages to pass on to them when they wake up,” said Ginny. “The support has been amazing.”

The trio were planning to celebrate their epic journey with rum cocktails, will now enjoy a break with friends and family before returning to the UK.

And there will be a boost to their fundraising campaign – Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club has made a £250 donation towards their charities Relapsing Polychondritis UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Motor Neurone Disease Assocation.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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