Former Ripon Grammar student rows the Atlantic
Last updated Jan 12, 2024
Bobbie Mellor. Image: The World's Toughest Row

A former Ripon Grammar School student is among an all-women team of three rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in one of the toughest races in the world.

They are taking on the World’ Toughest Row to raise money for charities that help against climate change. The team are raising money for charity as part of Your Planet campaign by Vodafone which is aiming to raise £1 million to help conservation and protect the planet.

The funds raised from the row will be split between WWF’s climate crisis fund which defends wild places, restores forests, and keeps our oceans healthy and UNHCR’s climate crisis work which provides humanitarian aid to refugees displaced by the climate crisis.

Bobbie Mellor, 34, former Ripon Grammar school student, confesses she was never sporty at school and only took up rowing during the pandemic. She has joked that her old PE teacher would be astounded to see her now.

Bobbie is global head of sustainability for Vodafone, and her Wavebreakers teammates Hatty Carder and Katherine Antrobus have been training for more than two years to join the ranks of fewer than 100 women in history to attempt the journey, which they hope to complete on January 27.

Having set off from La Gomera in the Canaries in December with a fleet of 38 other crews from around the world, the team are 2,000 miles into their journey as they make their way to Antigua in the Caribbean.

Team Wavebreakers, Left to right: Hatty, Bobbie, and Katherine. Image: World’s Toughest Row

Bobbie and the team she skippers have been battling sleep deprivation, salt sores, physical extremes, and the psychological challenges of the open ocean, with their sights set on raising money to help protect those on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

In the past, she has cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Cancer Research, and she has also climbed Kilimanjaro for charity.

Bobbie said:

“I’m rowing the Atlantic in support of charities tackling the climate crisis. What better way to raise money and awareness, than to go back to basics and cross an ocean powered just by our own oars? I’ve always been quite adventurous, but the pandemic really gave me a new hunger to do big things with the life we have and jump on every opportunity that comes my way.”

Her mother, Bridget, who has been cheering her on from home in Burton Leonard and plans a welcome home party in February, has been fundraising and lighting candles at her local Catholic church as she prays for their safe return.

Bridget said:

“Bobbie has always had a sense of adventure and at first, I was absolutely terrified at the thought of them rowing unsupported. They row two hours on and two hours off through the night and have to swim under the boat to scrape off barnacles every two days.

“I am very proud of her, and all the girls in the team. They have worked really hard and done lots of training. It’s very uplifting to know there are still young people willing to push themselves to the limit and challenge themselves for good causes.”

Just getting to the start line required extensive technical, mental and physical preparation with the team completing many hours of training rows around the UK coastline to qualify for the start.

The team are tackling waves of up to 30 feet high, at one point their boat capsized and two of the team fell in the water but managed to get back on board once the vessel self-righted. The trio are surviving on freeze-dried food and drink ocean water filtered through a desalinator. Communication to home has also been extremely limited.

Bridget Mellor said:

 “I’ve had three emails and spoken on the phone on Christmas Day. What she misses most is good water, all she wants is a nice glass of sparkling water.”

“She seems to be in good spirits, they are just focused on getting across the ocean. She says the most annoying thing is getting hit in the face every night by flying fish.”

“Bobbie said it was like living in a live action movie for the first week. Everyone in Burton Leonard is in awe but I’ll be glad to see them back safe and well.”

Team Wavebreakers are currently sitting in 10th place overall and in second place for teams of three. They have reached £74,500 so far towards their £140,000 fundraising target for the two climate crisis charities close to their hearts.

Team Wavebreakers with 3,000 miles to go. Image: World’s Toughest Row

Facts about the challenge:

  • Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes over a race
  • The waves the rowers will experience can measure up to 30ft high.
  • At its deepest, the Atlantic Ocean is 8.5km/5.28 miles deep.
  • Each rower needs to aim to consume 10 litres of water per day.
  • There is no toilet on board – rowers use a bucket
  • Each rower is expected to use 800 sheets of toilet paper during their crossing.
  • Rowers burn in excess of 5,000 calories per day and lose an average of 8kg in weight
  • The rowers will be eating highly calorific dehydrated meals (imagine astronaut food). which must be re-hydrated with boiling water

You can follow their progress here and donate here.

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