Advance Performance | Four Mums in a Boat: Friends who rowed 3000 miles, broke a world record and learnt a lot about life along the way
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Four Mums in a Boat: Friends who rowed 3000 miles, broke a world record and learnt a lot about life along the way

Four Mums in a Boat: Friends who rowed 3000 miles, broke a world record and learnt a lot about life along the way

This is the incredible true story of how four friends together had the audacity to go on a wild, terrifying and beautiful life-changing adventure, and broke a World Record on the way.

Their dream was to row across the Atlantic Ocean together in the world’s toughest rowing race. Their goal was not to escape life, but for life not to escape them.

In March 2016, after 67 days at sea, Janette Benaddi (49), Frances Davies (45), Helen Butters and Niki Doeg (both 43), a team of friends from a rowing club in Yorkshire, crossed the finishing line at Antigua completing The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, and became Guinness World Record Holders of the oldest women’s team to row across an ocean.

Their preparation started two and a half years before the race when Frances suggested they take a break from the routine of work, family, and the school run, and take up a team challenge instead of going on a holiday. The four friends enjoyed meeting at their Saturday morning rowing club – but rowing the Atlantic was still a huge leap from training weekly on the River Ouse!

These four women had a dream – and they needed to raise £90,000 in sponsorships to begin; they needed a boat; and they needed to prepare themselves mentally and physically.

A year after they completed their race, the four women have written their book ‘Four Mums In a Boat’ telling their story as The Yorkshire Rows. Their extraordinary achievement shows what ordinary people can do when they have a shared dream and the determination to accomplish their goal.

In a recent radio interview with Clare Balding on Radio 2, Janette and Helen explained how the importance of their mental strength enabled them to keep going whilst battling against adversity – this included a broken watermaker that left them hand pumping saltwater to convert it to drinking water and power failure that affected their autopilot and GPS tracking system, forcing them to steer by hand using a compass.

Janette and Helen said they wanted to share their story to show other people – especially working parents – that you can achieve a big dream if you can visualise it, and are determined to have a go. They conveyed their support of each other in their joint self belief – they shared motivational quotes on the boat. They sang songs together, changing the lyrics to suit their circumstances, and they visualised arriving in Antigua together. They talked about who would be there, the songs they would play, what they would say and do. They visualised and encouraged each other’s goal to strengthen their dendrites together.

Their book, written as a team, includes some of the quotes and their Ship’s Log – which highlighted the lessons they learned along the way. They discovered the energy and emotion of the water, their trust in each other, their faith, and their values as humans. They learned the need for that inner mental strength in dealing with the weather, breakages, the separation from family, and the torture of sleep deprivation as they could only sleep for just 1.5 hours at a time.

The team played a lot of Abba together on the boat, and  the song ‘I Have a Dream’ became an important theme song for them – they changed the lyrics to ‘We Have a Dream’. The Yorkshire Rows say they all had the same dream to cross their ocean which is what made them so successful, and now, the formidable four share their story in their book and on their speaking tour.

The dream of the Yorkshire Rows was to row across the ocean together – and now they ask others #whatsyourocean – what is YOUR big dream, challenge, life changing adventure? What is YOUR ocean that will ensure your life does not escape you?

Picture Credt: Ben Duffy