‘Yorkshire Rows’ inspirational mums break world records after epic Atlantic challenge

THE Yorkshire Rows are revelling in the sweet smell of success by cruising into the history books as the oldest female crew to row across any ocean.

After 68 days at sea, Helen Butters, 45, Janette Benaddi, 51, Niki Doeg, 45, and Frances Davies, 47, arrived in Antigua today after setting off from the Canary Island La Gomera on December 20.

The team, named Yorkshire Rows, were one of 26 teams rowing 3,000 miles as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – billed as the toughest rowing race on earth.

The quartet, from York and Selby, have survived a hurricane, been hit in the face by flying fish, and experienced equipment failures which left them without GPS and steering manually by compass for much of the challenge.

Surviving on dehydrated food and no more than two hours’ sleep at a time, the crew rowed in pairs for two hours on and two hours off, often battling through debilitating seasickness and painful sores and blisters.

Yorkshire Rows team Niki Doeg, Helen Butters, Frances Davies, Janette Benaddi arrive in Antigua to finish the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and become the oldest female team to have rowed an ocean. Picture and copyright by Ben Duffy.

Yorkshire Rows team Niki Doeg, Helen Butters, Frances Davies, Janette Benaddi arrive in Antigua to finish the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and become the oldest female team to have rowed an ocean. Picture and copyright by Ben Duffy.

But they have also celebrated birthdays – Niki turned 45 on January 22 – encountered schools of inquisitive dolphins, a friendly mother whale and her calf, and rowed under countless spectacularly starry skies at night.

Skipper Janette said: “It feels like a dream to have arrived. This race truly deserves to be called the world’s toughest row; it felt like we were battling against the ocean and we are so proud to have achieved something that we originally thought was way beyond our capabilities.

“Less than one hundred women have rowed an ocean and now we as four mums have added to that and achieved a world record. What an incredible feeling to share as four best friends.”

The crew met four years ago at York’s Guy Fawkes Boat Club and made the brave decision to enter the race over a glass of wine at the boat club dinner.

They have been raising money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) and Maggie’s, who will be opening a new cancer support centre at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds next year.

Laura Lee, Chief Executive at Maggie’s, said: “Everybody at Maggie’s would like to congratulate Janette, Helen, Niki and Frances on an incredible feat.

“We have been following their progress and are extremely thankful to the Yorkshire Rows team for raising money to support Maggie’s and help us to build a new centre at St James University Hospital, where we will be able to offer our unique programme of practical, emotional and social support to those affected by cancer in Yorkshire and their friends and family.”

Paul Gowland, Director of Fundraising for Yorkshire Air Ambulance, explained: “We couldn’t be more pleased for the ladies finishing their epic world record!  They have done so well to complete their row and conquered some amazing challenges along the way.

“On behalf of everyone at the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, we want to send them our biggest well done and congratulations and also thank them once again for choosing to support us as one of their Charities.  The monies they have raised, as well as the awareness they have created of our Charity has been outstanding.

“We cannot thank them enough and hope they enjoy a well-deserved break before returning to the UK.  We can’t wait to see them when they are back in God’s own County!”

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, added: “What an amazing achievement by an equally amazing group of women.

“Janette, Niki, Frances and Helen have experienced a number of highs and lows while out at sea, but throughout it all they have shown true Yorkshire grit and ploughed on.

“No matter what the Atlantic has thrown at them, their infectious positivity has shone through – they are an inspiration to us all.

“I am so proud of them all, and would like to congratulate them on their incredible achievement.”

CONTACT:

To donate to Maggie’s text ROWS88 with the amount to 70070, or for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance text ROWS91 to the same number or visit http://yorkshirerows.com/donate
For more information on the team visit http://yorkshirerows.com, http://facebook.com/yorkshirerows2015 or follow @YorkshireRows Twitter.

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