Girl From Henley Faces Toughest Endurance Rowing Challenge


In May 2014 four teachers from the UK and South Africa will set out on the toughest test of endurance imaginable, rowing over 7200 nautical miles from Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to Hawaii as part of the world’s first Pacific Ocean rowing race, before setting off alone and unsupported from Hawaii, to Cairns, Australia. The team are Sarah Weldon (pictured in the centre above) from Henley, Katie Gibbs, Michelle Andrews and Brigid Weir from Cape Town.  Sarah’s grandparents were secondary school teachers at Gillotts school. Sarah met Katie whilst undergoing AIB selection to join the Royal Navy in 2009. The idea for the Pacific Ocean row came about when the students on their charity ‘Oceans Project Georgia’ followed Roz Savage as she rowed across the Indian Ocean.

The journey is likely to take around 8 months, with the girls living in a confined space, with no bathroom, facing 30-50 foot high waves and tornadoes, and the ever present risk of being swept overboard as they spend an average of 12 hours per day rowing in shifts of two hours at the oars and two hours resting. The girls, aptly named ‘Fourbirdsaboating’ will be totally reliant on the energy of the sun to turn sea water into drinking water. This will not only replace lost fluid through exercise and the heat, but will be essential for rehydrating their sachet food and for washing the boat and themselves to keep them working efficiently.
Three of the girls have never rowed before and none of them have undertaken an endurance challenge on this scale. Thankfully they have the support of GB Olympic Rower and Leander Club Captain Debbie Flood to coach them in rowing, and the advice of their charity’s Patrons: Ocean Rower Roz Savage, BBC Oceans Television Presenter Paul Rose, and ESA’s remote medic Dr Alexander Kumar who has just returned from over 12 months in Antarctica researching remote medicine for Mars exploration.

During the journey, the Fourbirdsaboating team will teach young people around the world, thanks to web based platform WizIQ in India, and will visit as many schools as they can during the expedition. Funds raised will provide tablet computers and educational materials to 300 schools, orphanages, and youth groups worldwide (contact us if you would like to be a recipient), as well as places on the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, and funds for 4000 children supported by the Thai Children’s Trust, and children with a disability in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia through First Step Georgia, where three of the girls met whilst teaching.

The team are likely to set several Guinness World records in the process of their ocean row. Team member Brigid as the first South African female to row the Pacific, and perhaps the first or fastest fours team to row across the Pacific Ocean. The boat itself is a first, named ‘Mr Toad’ after the classic children’s story ‘The Wind in the Willows’, designed by Yacht Racer and Marine Architect Phil Morrisson and built by ocean rower Charlie Pitcher (currently at sea in a bid to set the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in Barbados Mid March). The boat is a mix of carbon and composite designed to withstand the impact of the waves and weather, and will be made available to future participants of the New Ocean Wave Pacific Ocean rowing race from Monterey Bay to Honolulu, Hawaii on the proviso that future teams continue to raise funds for young people, environment, and education.

The team are encouraging donors to give whatever they like in return for their name handwritten on the boat and are using Crowdfunding to accept donations until 16th April 2013 @ www.sponsume/project/pacific-ocean-row-2014.  To watch their inspirational video go to

If you would like more information about the Pacific Ocean row go to or contact Sarah Weldon or call 07866715749.

We will be keeping up to date with the news about this fantastic challenge…good luck to the girls.