Rannoch Women's Challenge
In June 2016 five women will leave New York at ground zero and begin rowing across the Atlantic, following the first route across completed in 1896, to Falmouth in the UK, 3000 nautical miles. This North Atlantic crossing has only been successfully crossed 25 times, most Atlantic rowing attempts cross on the Southern Atlantic and from East to West. We as a team aim to break the current speed record of 43 days 21 hours and more importantly become the first all female team.
So who am I and why do I wish to take on such a challenge? It is a very good question, my name is Gilly Mara and my sporting background is as a Team GB white water kayaker. The main reason for doing this is to motivate others to not see a problem as a barrier but that it can be a challenge and be made fun. In 2002, I had a major accident and fell 200ft in Albuquerque New Mexico, USA, I fractured and dislocated vertebrae in my neck which narrowed my spinal cord and broke my pelvis (in 4 places), fractured my skull and had a number of open wounds to the bone. I was not in a great state and had extensive surgery to fix my neck, very soon into my recovery, someone said to me 'just be happy to walk again'. Now I am stubborn, competitive and when those words were said to me it stirred a fire inside me like no other... I was 20 years old in 2002, at University and before I fell felt the world was my oyster. After falling, I spent the first few days feeling my world had disappeared, all I was doing for myself was breathing. I was paying the consequence of the decisions I had made on the day I fell and the world looked bleak. I remember laying there in the hospital bed wondering what was it I wanted, I decided I didn't want to just walk I wanted to run :o) From that moment on, I set goals for everything, the first time I fed myself, my first step, to putting my shoes on. The doctors said my recovery was phenomenal, I left intensive care after a week, flew home to the UK after 14 days, was back at university in 4 weeks 5 days, and could walk without crutches after 5 weeks 5 days. It took me 2 years to learn to run and once that goal was achieved I set my goal to represent Team GB and I did, and have done for over a decade.
Now this challenge is the biggest I have ever taken on, mentally and physically. As you can see it spurs me on to take on the odds but this time I want our story to be heard and inspire others. We are 5 women from different backgrounds.
- Guin Batten, our skipper is an Olympic Silver Medalist Rower and sports industry professional
- Molly Brown, a youth national sailor and University Rower
- Alex Holt, a waterski instructor and sports marketer professional
- Mary Sutherland, a ocean sailor and graphic designer
- Gilly Mara, a GB Kayaker, ultra endurance kayaker and Engineer
We all bring different strengths and mine is not only my sporting background but also my practical mindset to tackling problems. I work in an industry environment which is very male dominated, I partake in a discipline in canoeing which is very male dominated but that to me is a positive. Since falling off a mountain, how I see the world is different, every situation I encounter can be seen as a challenge and one I wish to achieve highly in and be made fun.
To make out challenge a success, it is all about preparation and having the right equipment. Each member of the team is contributing to buying safety equipment (life rafts, lifejackets, survival suits etc), communication (VHF radio, navigation, satellite phone etc), training courses (sea survival, sea first aid, bespoke rowing vessel scenarios, navigation courses), Boat equipment (oars, boat, etc) and of course food!
The £10 000 puts someway towards my personal contribution, but what I really want to do is be able to share our story further. If we raise £50 000 to £100 000 we can make a series of TV episodes showing our journey through all the training, the actual trip and the follow up (e.g. developing school visits, road show talks).
I passionately want to inspire women to try and do things they thought were beyond them, why because you can. It is only a barrier if you make it one. Whether it be getting young people into STEM subjects, how that mindset is useful to adapt your knowledge to solving problems practically, or getting those who have been injured whether that is a spinal injury or other to believe if I can, they can.
I hope you can be a part of our journey.
Yours in sport
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