Duo’s daughters make mother of all rows across the Atlantic

Thursday 3rd February 2022 5:00 pm
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Pippa Edwards (second left) and Felicity Ashley (third left) celebrate completing the Tallisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with 'Mothership' crew-mates Jo Blackshaw and Lebby Eyres

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A county Council leader and his wife have welcomed the safe homecoming of their daughters after an epic 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic.

Monmouthshire Council deputy leader Cllr Bob Greenland and wife Scilla have been tracking the progress of daughters Felicity and Pippa from their home near Usk since the duo launched out with two other mums on their ‘Mothership’ two weeks before Christmas.

And after their safe nigh-time arrival a week last Friday (January 21) in Antigua after nearly six weeks battling 40-foot waves, sleep exhaustion and flying fish, a delighted Bob posted: “Huge pride and relief watching our daughters Diddy and Pip, plus friends Jo and Lebby row into Nelson’s Harbour at Antigua after 40 days rowing the Atlantic.

“They wanted to inspire others to meet their challenges and demonstrate girl power!” added the Llangwm parish councillor, who is also a vicar in the Usk parish.

There was no rest for their daughters, though, who both learnt to row as pupils on the Wye at Monmouth School for Girls, with a 5.30am live ITV interview on the beach next morning with Lorraine Kelly, followed by other media events.

Rowing with Oxford Blue rowers Jo Blackshaw and Lebby Eyres and boasting 11 children between them, they set off from La Gomera in the Canaries on December 12 and spent Christmas and New Year hundreds of miles from land.

And they completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge letting off flares onboard as they entered Antigua English harbour after sunset to cheers from family and supporters, to finish in a remarkable 40 days 11 hours and 25 minutes!

Amazingly, Monmouth-based mum-of-four Pippa was following in the blade puddles of Old Monmothian husband David Edwards, the Deputy Head (Pastoral) at Monmouth School for Boys, who successfully rowed the Atlantic two years ago. But she has taken the family bragging rights as The Mothership was a day quicker than it took his boat.

They have raised more than £56,000 to be split between three charities - Felix Fund, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and Women in Sport - from their epic voyage.

And the inspirational all-female boat, who maintained a sense of humour and teamwork throughout, now want to show women and children that no challenge is too great to overcome.

Marketing director Felicity, who lives in Oxford and competed for Wales as a junior rower, said: “We are doing really well. We have been getting our land legs back on because we were a bit wobbly when we first hopped off the boat.

“We have all adjusted pretty well to being back on land.”

Pippa added: “My husband rowed in the 2019/20 Talisker Race and it was his dream to do it.

“I supported him but, at the time, I could not really understand why he wanted to do it.

“I took my children over to La Gomera to see the start of David’s race and then I came out to Antigua to see the finish.

“It was then that I got the feeling that I needed to be a part of it. The moment when David finished his Atlantic row was the moment that I knew I was going to take part one day.

“I immediately started to get the crew together for the challenge and, two years later, we have done it.”

She added: “One of our goals beforehand was to beat the time taken by David and the boys - and we managed to come in a day earlier than they did.”

The Mothership crew rowed in shifts, two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day in what proved to be a test of mental and physical fortitude.

The crew had a particularly tough Christmas Day. Pippa was attacked by flying fish, which soared out of the Atlantic Ocean, and the boat - a 28-foot Ocean rowing boat called Mrs Nelson - momentarily span out of control when it was caught by a strong wave and headed north.

Pippa said: “It’s hard to underestimate the positive impact on morale of a visit from a pod of dolphins or a sighting of a whale. It was a slow slog at times and to have 100-plus dolphins decide to spend half-an-hour in our company lifted the spirits.” In doing the race, the crew wanted to inspire their own children to dream big, to believe that anything is possible. To make a donation please visit: www.justgiving.com/team/themothership

Pippa said: “In our crew, we are all ordinary women and working mums. We are not professional athletes and we just wanted to demonstrate that if you want something enough you can achieve It – because that’s exactly what we have done.

“Thankfully, there were no major incidents. We maintained good relationships and team morale while under constant pressure, which is a huge test of character.

“We achieved one of our main aims – starting and finishing as friends.

“We are hoping to inspire other people to choose - and tackle - their own challenge. We would highly recommend the Talisker Challenge.”

Far fewer people have rowed the Atlantic than climbed Everest.

But the local area has produced more than its share of successful ocean rowers, with Abergavenny’s Elaine Theaker among those to complete the row in 2018.

To make a donation towards the Mothership’s three chosen charities, please visit: www.justgiving.com/team/themothership

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