CHARLOTTE Best likes nothing more than a challenge – and she is currently preparing for an epic one.
The Stratford Boat Club member and three crew mates will be taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – the world’s toughest ocean endurance race – rowing 3,000 nautical miles from La Gomera in the Canaries, to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua.
Charlotte, a marine scientist currently working in Oman, will be joined on board the all-woman crewed Atlantic Endeavour by a nutritionist and two bankers, as they attempt the crossing alongside around 30 other teams.
It is no cruise for the crews who will have to face sleep deprivation, blisters, salt sores and the simple physical and mental exhaustion which comes from rowing in gruelling two hours on and two hours off shifts around the clock for weeks on end, on top of the raw elements of the Atlantic.
In 1966 Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway became the first men to row the Atlantic. During their 92-day passage they faced hurricanes, 50ft waves and a near starvation diet.
Their trip laid the foundation for the biennial Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, and to this day more people have climbed Everest or been into space than have successfully rowed the Atlantic, leaving 29 year-old Charlotte under no illusions as to the task ahead.
But the former Stratford Grammar School girl is no stranger to toughing it out. Charlotte, who is also a member of Stratford Athletics Club, recently completed both the Oman Desert Marathon and the Muscat Marathon.
And she is now training hard in preparation to take on the Atlantic.
The team will have 90 days to complete the challenge – before the support boat is withdrawn – but the crew of Atlantic Endeavour are looking to be finished long before then.
Charlotte said: “We aim to break two ocean rowing world records (fastest female crew and fastest quad) while raising awareness and funding for our two chosen charities, Mind and Women for Women International.”
The record for the fastest four women crew to cross the Atlantic currently stands at 67 days
Their boat – made of a combination of wood, fibreglass, and carbon fibre – is seven metres long by two metres wide – so there is not a lot of room.
The boat has a small cabin, which is the only protection against the might of the ocean and powerful sun rays. If the weather proves too much for the boat and it capsizes, all the vessels are able to self-right.
Rules of the race state once they have started, the boat cannot be repaired, or take on any more food or water during the crossing.
The boat is equipped with watermakers, which change sea water to drinking water, solar panels to power the GPS and other vital electrical equipment, and a tracking beacon to signal the boats location.
The crew themselves will be eating mainly freeze dried meals – the sort eaten by mountaineers and those undertaking polar expeditions – to fuel a 6,000 calorie intake a day, but as they will be burning some 10,000 a day they will need to put on some weight before setting off in December.
Charlotte and her crew would still welcome further sponsorship for the challenge, both from businesses and individuals. Visit www.atlanticendeavour.com for further details.
Water, water everywhere – the long haul facing Charlotte and her fellow crew mates. (s)