REBELS ROW THE ATLANTIC
Kate Hallam is passionate about adventurous expeditions and encouraging other women to "get out there". She recently managed the campaign for Atlantic Endeavour, resulting in rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a team of four women in 55 days. Kate is also an avid amateur mountaineer, summiting Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro plus alpine peaks over 6000m+ and at high altitude in remote areas of Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Kate is currently based in London and in training for the next peak. Follow her on social media @expeditionkate.
"What was that?!" I cried out, as the boat suddenly stopped shuddering and something white and fleshy emerged with an almighty splash from the underside of the hull. It was the middle of the night and I was partway through one of my usual two-hour rowing shifts on the Atlantic Ocean as my teammate and I pondered the options: too big for a dolphin, too small for a whale, it could only be... "a shark!". Excitement over, we settled back into our rhythm and I lost myself again in the surrounding blackness, broken by the thousands of twinkling stars above us and the phosphorescence dancing off the tips of our blades as they hit the water. I always enjoyed the night shifts best - with only the horizon around us it felt like you were floating in space and I loved spotting the different constellations and planets. Ironically more people have been to space (or climbed Everest) than rowed an Ocean and the privilege of being out in such a unique and remote environment was always on my mind.
Previous teams had told us that getting to the start line in La Gomera was the hardest part - they weren't kidding! It had been the culmination of a two and a half year campaign of endless emails and phone calls trying to get sponsors, visiting kit suppliers, convincing insurers we wouldn't sink the boat, doing our sea survival, first aid and RYA courses, making calorific food packages, and arranging charter of the boat itself. A vital part of our preparation was also to condition our bodies to withstand two tough months at sea. We spent a huge amount of time cardio training, strengthening our cores and building muscle, helped by group sessions at 1Rebel. This was complemented by rowing sessions on the Thames and in the sea. So many times people told us we wouldn't make it and doubted our abilities, but we kept on persevering.
But how did an accountant from London end up bumping into a shark? Just a few months earlier I'd been analysing business plans on Excel spreadsheets in an office and here I was rowing 3000 miles across an ocean in a 28ft long rowing boat with three other women as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge: Becky Charlton, Charlie Best, and Sarah Hornby.
On the boat we rowed in pairs for 2 hours on, 2 hours off, fighting the elements around us. I spent the first four days throwing up from seasickness, my back and shoulders continuously ached despite a hefty dose of ibuprofen, the weather could be relentless with almost 30ft waves and 25 knot winds, and conditions were cramped and basic. You couldn't help but feeling vulnerable out there - one stormy night I recall watching lightning flashing across the black sky, bracing myself against the lashing rain and praying a bolt wouldn't strike our boat. The monotony and isolation were by far the hardest thing to deal with; with only the horizon to watch, three people to talk to, and the same routine day in day out, it felt like we would never reach land.
However there were also so many amazing moments such as witnessing some breath-taking sunrises which lit up the whole sky in pinks and yellows, seeing whales and dolphins close up playing alongside our boat, sharing a unique Christmas Day (complete with novelty hats and carols), the exhilaration of rowing naked in a storm, painting our faces with rave paints on New Year's Eve, and singing along to Adele mid-Ocean together at the top of my voice.
Finally, on 7th February 2017 we rowed into English Harbour, Antigua after 55 days, 13 hours and 19 minutes on the Ocean. With our flares held aloft and superyacht horns sounding all around us in the dark harbour, it was a surreal but unforgettable moment. I'd lost 11% of my body weight, I couldn't wait for fresh food and to see loved ones again, and it was the hardest thing I had ever done both physically and mentally.
When I was 29 my friend convinced me to run my first "Race for Life" 5k in our local park and I struggled to finish. It was a big wake up call and as I blew out the candles on my 30th birthday I decided to get fit and be more adventurous with my life. Since then, almost four years later, I'm proud to say I've climbed some huge mountains, run three marathons and now rowed an Ocean.
If this experience has taught me anything it’s that with hard work and determination anything is possible. We all have the ability within us to achieve our goals, whatever they may be. I once read "until you cross the bridge of your insecurities you can't begin to explore your possibilities". So I urge all the Rebels out there reading this to always believe in yourself, dream big, and never ever give up…
Follow Kate on Instagram @expeditionkate.
Finish line photos: Ben Duffy
Other photos: Atlantic Endeavour