Viv’s MUMENTOUS bid to row the Atlantic Ocean solo and, at 59, become the oldest female to do so, defying the menopause and breaking a Guinness World Record.

The Challenge

The World’s Toughest Row is an annual race run by World’s Toughest Row that starts in La Gomera in The Canaries and ends 3000 miles later on the other side of the Atlantic in English Harbour in Antigua. Less than 1700 people have rowed this route so far and only a handful of these have been women.

As things stand, I’ll be the 27th solo female and, at 59, the oldest.

I’ll be making progress solely by means of my own continuous effort, oar stroke after oar stroke. Everything I could possibly need I’ll be taking with me as the challenge is to not only to cross but to cross unassisted. That means no passing vessel can give me food or water and I can’t be wind assisted so no hoisting sails!

Setting off on December 12th 2024, up to 50 teams will begin a life-changing adventure. Some of them are racing against each other, some are racing against time and others, like me, are racing against themselves.

It will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But we humans don’t do things because they are easy. At the end of it, I will know that I’ve achieved something big, something meaningful, something that I can look back on and say, ‘I did that and it opened a door for others.’ And it will feel worth it. Every blister, every scary wave, the nausea, the lack of sleep and the damp, salty discomfort of every single minute of the 60 plus days.

Eat. Sleep. Row. Repeat.

It is a metaphor for life; the ups and downs, the storms and calms, the flow of everything going your way and the current of everything against you, your world being turned upside down, things righting themselves, having to fix things and tidy up the mess, remembering you’re supposed to be enjoying it!

And all the while, the world keeps on turning. The sun rises and we lift our faces with optimism then night falls and fear surfaces. Out of the darkness comes the reassuring light of the moon, the guidance of the stars and the epic wonder of the Milky Way as we ponder the Universe, our place in it and what we can do to make life better for others.

Here are the answers to some FAQs about the row:

Are you a rower?

No. But it’s okay to be learning something new especially when it breaks boundaries and stereotypes. It’s exciting and challenging and I feel alive. Where would we be if none of us tried anything new?

Photo by Penny Bird at World's Toughest Row
Photo by Miriam Payne

How long will it take?

How long will it take? The race record of 59 days was set in 2022 by Miriam Payne of Seas The Day. I don’t think I’ll be beating that and as long as I get to the other side safely, I don’t care how long I’ll be.

Will people be keeping an eye on you?

Yes. World’s Toughest Row provide two safety yachts that sail up and down the fleet throughout the challenge. I’ll also be in contact with the Safety Team by satellite phone every day.

Do you get off the boat to sleep?

No. It’s like camping at sea and I’ll sleep on board in one of the cabins. There’s no getting off until I get to the other side.

How will you eat?

I have to take a minimum of 90 days food with me and I’ll need to eat about 5000 calories a day. Most of the food is freeze dried and some is wet rations and there’ll be lots of snacks. I’m a fan of peanut butter so I’ll be taking lots of that.

Do you take all your water with you?

No. There’s a desalinator on board and I’ll be making the water I need every day. Plus I’ll be taking a few different drinks with me – just for variety.

How will all you equipment be powered?

The power is supplied by the sun. I’ll have solar panels on the boat and these will be charging up the battery packs every day.

What are the toilet facilities?

A very glamorous bucket!

*Large banner photo by Penny Bird at World's Toughest Row