Bermudian rower in Atlantic crossing
A Bermudian rower has finished the challenge of a lifetime, with a 3,000-mile trip across the Atlantic as a part of a three-strong all-female crew.
Jessica Rego, 29, and crewmates Susan Ronaldson and Caroline Wilson, both British, undertook the gruelling race to raise funds for the Marine Conservation Society.
The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, from San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands to Nelson’s Dock in Antigua, is said to be toughest rowing challenge in the world and took the team and their seven-metre ocean rowing boat, Poppy, 61 days and eight hours to complete.
Ms Rego, from Devonshire, who now lives in London, said she was relieved to be back on dry land - but that she would do the race again.
She added: “The biggest challenge was the relentlessness of it. You wake up every day knowing that no matter how bad the day before was, you are going to have to do it again today and the next day.
“There were days when we would go 70 miles and as soon as you celebrated that, you would be hit by rains and weather going the wrong way. There was one day when we were going backwards. Watching the mileage back up was probably the most demoralising thing I have ever experienced.
“I’m missing being at sea, but I’ll definitely do something similar one day.”
Ms Rego and her team-mates spent 18 months training for the epic trip and turned to professional racers in the UK for advice.
They met Guin Batten, a British Olympic rower, as well as Sarah Hornby, a British rower who also completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2016 and completed courses on sea survival and first aid.
Ms Rego said physical fitness was an important part of their training, but that safety and survival expertise were paramount on board the boat.
She explained: “We learnt about maximising efficiencies and making sure we had a plan for every situation. You have to make sure you know how to fix everything on the boat and must come up with contingency plans for every situation.”
She added: “Man overboard is a precarious situation you never want to be in. In the race, you have to be attached to the boat at all times. One of our girls fell overboard just going from one cabin to another and got hit by a wave, but because she was clipped on, it wasn’t a big deal.
“The race rules can seem overbearing, but you have to respect why they are there.
“If you fall overboard in an ocean rowboat, it is very hard to get back to the person — you can’t row backwards and if there is a strong current, that person can be gone in minutes.
Ms Rego, a former Bermuda High School pupil and a keen environmentalist who used to work for the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce, said she enjoyed watching the sea life during their ocean marathon, which finished on February 11.
She added: “We saw everything from tiny jellyfish to an 8ft shark and we were circled by a whale for two days.”
“We did the race in support of the Marine Conservation Society which is one of the largest charities dealing with ocean plastics. We saw a lot of plastic, which is devastating to see around these beautiful animals. It’s a reminder that humans are the problem and we are invading their habitat.”
Ms Rego and her team-mates finished 22nd out of 28 boats — she said she was satisfied with the result as the first-time rowers were only racing against themselves.
They have collected about $10,000 in funds so far, but with the anticipated sale of the boat, they hope that will reach $50,000 for the Marine Conservation Society, “Our whole mission with the row was to show that small changes can make a big impact,” Ms Rego said.
“If we can row across the ocean one stroke at a time, then maybe it will inspire people to think about what small change they can do in their life to do something monumental.”