This week we had a chance to sit down with the Bristol Gulls, Ali (A), Sofia (S), Lorana (L) and Chloe (C). They’re a team of 4 women who are tackling the Atlantic ocean in a sustainable 4 person rowing boat. We wish them the best of luck, but we’re sure they won’t need it!
You’re obviously all keen rowers – when did your interest in sustainability start?
A: “My interest in sustainability started roughly 5 years ago when I decided to adopt a vegan diet in the interests of cutting my carbon footprint. I have always loved the ocean and nature and grew up in a rural area far from noise and light pollution, so I guess you could say that I just want to preserve that serenity. Without the natural world, I won’t be able to partake in any of my hobbies, from rowing to hiking and I can’t think of anything worse than that.”
S: “I have always loved the sea, and grew up next to it. I spent every summer on holiday in a lovely part of Uruguay where we have some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and it got me really worked up to see so much rubbish in the water sometimes! After I moved to the UK (and grew up), I realised that most of the problems we have are caused by us as humans and there are ways to prevent this harmful behaviour we have towards the environment.”
L: “A long time ago but particularly at uni. During my engineering degree I researched recycling carbon fibre composites and then completed a masters in environmental management, focused on recycling waste electronics. Now I love that I can use my composites manufacturing experience to help develop our Eco Boat!”
C: “I grew up on islands in the tropics developed a strong love and passion for our oceans. I learned a respect for the environment, for our planet, and an understanding that as part of a global ecosystem whatever we do has consequences.”
This is a big challenge, taking you away from friends, family, work, and other hobbies. What led you to take this big commitment?
A: “I’m a fiercely independent woman and always have been. Pushing myself and seeing how I react to extreme situations makes me a better person and helps me to grow and evolve into the person that I want to be. I’m just excited to see who I am when I reach the finish line in Antigua.”
S: “Limits are only really found when you are completely out of your comfort zone, and I like challenging myself to discover just how much I can achieve. There is so much that I love in life that’s brought together in this challenge: the ocean, sport, rowing, teamwork, challenge, friendship, the unknown: opportunities to be a better me! This was the original reason. Once we decided we were going to row, we wanted to do more, we wanted to do it for people and causes that we care about and that’s how the sustainability angle came about.”
L: “I’ve been a rower for a while and have a big appetite for challenges. Sofia asked me the question. I went along to a meeting about TWAC from the organisers and listened to their stories of rowing oceans. Not long after that, I was 100% in! The main question I kept asking myself: ‘why the hell not?!’ Life is too short.”
C: “The people that know me well are not surprised… I’m always up for something that’s a bit ‘out of the ordinary’. It all really started, one day, bored at work, I was browsing an adventure seekers platform bored, looking for an expedition I could join, and my eyes came across these ladies looking for rowers to join their boat to row across the Pacific, and even though I had never set foot in a rowing boat I said, ‘yes please!’ Six years later, it’s time.”
Who is the most likely to push themselves beyond endurance?
A: “Honestly, I think it has to be Sofia and myself. Sofia and I are extremely similar people, from the way we take our coffee and the way we think, to our scores in our physio workup haha. I know what we are like and I know that we will often push ourselves right to the edge of our physical, emotional, and mental limits. If anyone is going to overwork themselves and push too hard, it will be one of us.”
S: “Well, pushing beyond endurance is essentially asking for injury. I would like to think we will get to the start line psychologically prepared for this challenge, and know better than pushing ourselves to injury. This challenge is not only about getting massive, rowing off in this boat and just pushing through, it’s about being smart about your health, the needs of your mind and body, and your recovery. So hopefully, nobody.”
L: “SOFIA. That woman is super human, I love her passion for sport and how she pushes herself further every day.”
What will you miss the most during your adventure?
A: “This is an easy one. My bed. I will miss my beautiful bed so so so much. No question.”
S: “Speaking to my family on a regular basis and telling them that I love them.”
L: “l will miss my supportive family and friends and can’t wait to see them on the other side in Antigua. But, I love food – it’s a big part of my life! Those are some things I’ll really miss. However, I hope a few treats can come on the boat… particularly for my birthday on the Atlantic Ocean! I think I’ll take anything not in freeze-dried format!”
C: “I think in order of the length of time we’ll spend at sea: 1) early on, the stability of land, 2) the comfort of a bed and space to walk around, 3) fresh fruits/salad/veg 4) hot shower. Overall, the comfort we take for granted in our everyday life!”
How can people get involved in supporting you?
A: “There are so many ways to get involved! Mention us to friends, colleagues, family – share our story! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter; sign up for our newsletter; read our blogs; watch our videos – just engage with us really. If you’re feeling extra super generous then you can check out our JustGiving page and donate whatever you can afford; from £2 to £200, every little helps. We need to raise £150K to even get us to the start line. Help us with that and we promise we won’t let you down!”
S: “So many ways! Follow us on social media and become part of our community! @thebristolgulls (IG, FB TW). Join our Crowdfund! Every single penny will help us get to the start line. Check it out here. Spread the word with family, friends, partners, housemates, colleagues, the barista in your local coffee shop, everyone!
“We want to build partnerships with organisations that care about what we stand for, so any company with sustainability at the forefront of that they do, we would like to speak to you. Whether you can help us with money (however small or large a ticket) or whether you can support us by supplying kit, cosmetics, space to store our boat, GPSs, rudders, solar panels, a venue to host an event – you name it! Every and any organisation will have something they can help us with, so we want to speak to all of them!”
C: “All of the above!”
To find out more about these incredible women and their mission, check out their website.