11th April 2024

Q&A with Vodafone’s Team Wavebreakers from World Toughest Row

Team Wavebreakers

Team WaveBreakers, made up of 3 incredible female Vodafone employees, completed the 3000-mile row from the Canary Islands across the Atlantic Ocean to Antigua at the end of January this year. In doing this, they've become the new world record holders for the fastest female trio, completing their row in 40 days, 10 hours and 51 minutes. Fewer than 100 women in history have attempted this journey, which is a testament to their awe-inspiring achievement!

In this blog, we've shared the inside scoop on how they found their time at sea, their stories, reflections and lasting memories. 

Team Wavebreakers
Katherine, Hatty and Bobbie
Team Wavebreakers

Take us to the start of the race, what happened?

We set off to the Canary Islands on 29th November 2023, with the race starting on the 13th December, spending those couple weeks preparing our boat. When we set off, it was very high winds and what we call sort of big seas, so it was a real baptism of fire for the first 10 days or so.

How did you eat on the boat?

We never wanted to stop rowing, we always wanted to keep someone going at all times to keep moving. So that meant that there was always somebody on the oars, and then you got to eat on your rest period. So a typical shift pattern, for example, would be 3 hours on and 3 hours off, 24 hours a day. So in the 3 hours you get off, you can sleep, eat, do bits of maintenance on the boat etc. The race was unsupported so we had to have everything we needed in the boat at the start to last us throughout - so it was packed away in various holes in the boat. Every day, we had 3 freeze-dried meals each which we heated from a jet boil that heats some water, add that to your food and scoff away!

Hatty was also our snack pack queen, which is great as the snacks were so important to us as it was the highlight of our day. Lots of chocolate, nuts, sweets - all those things that we need to keep fueled as we had to consume around 4000-5000 calories a day to fuel our bodies for all the rowing.

How did you sleep?

As part of the 3 hours on, 3 hours off - when we had our break to rest, we had two cabins at either end of the boat, one was a lot bigger than the other! They weren't very spacious, it had lots of light coming in, didn't smell great etc so we didn't get the best sleep! Our bodies did get used to the routine after a couple of days. 

Did you ever see any of the other competing boats pass you on our way to the finish line?

After around 12 hours from leaving the start, we didn't see another boat the entire way. There was maybe one day when our system picked up another boat nearby (within 12 miles) so we had a chat with them via our radio, but other than that we were completely on our own. So when we did finish, it was very overwhelming suddenly seeing people again, noises and everything, it was quite bizarre.

We did have a contact satellite comms with back home, so we had a coach every morning at 8am who would message us saying what our position was, how far we were from others and some messages of encouragement, which really helped to keep us on track.

Did you ever worry about failing?

Well... we've all done around 2 years worth of training and we trained for everything we could've. There was a massive excitement to start with when we set off, but then when there was bad weather it really started to hit home what we were doing. At times, we had some really fast waves to manage which was almost too fast for us, we had to slow the boat down, and we even capsized at one point. We were really battling the elements and I [Katherine] was fearful at those points.

Breaking the world record was never the intention, but how did it all come together for you?

We absolutely never ever set out to try and break or beat the world record. Our main aim was to have a safe and fun row. There were other professional teams that were participating, who had set out to achieve world records, but that wasn't on our bingo card. But when we started the first week and realised that we were actually quite good at it, and then when we had our capsize, that was kind of a wake-up call as it pushed us back a lot in the race. But then around Day 20, once things sort of stabilised, we started looking at the stats and we kind of knew the world record was around 42 days, so I [Bobbie] rang our coach and kind of said "I know this sounds crazy and probably won't ever happen, but do you actually think we could do this?!" I think the imposter syndrome was coming out at that point, but then from then on he was like, 'If you want to do it, let's go for it'. We then had a daily mileage target, but we didn't really change anything that much but we knew if we maintained our average speed we could make it. 

How did you get on as a team?

We had to rely on each other massively and we all do feel so safe with each other. We spent a lot of time getting to know one another, how each other ticks, how each other feels vs what we're showing. We focused on making sure we looked out for each other as much as possible. 

Learn more about the inspirational women behind the Wavebreakers team here.

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