After 115 days away from home, the woman who intended to sail to the Caribbean in memory of her friend has finally returned. JAMES METCALF speaks to Lauren Morton to find out how her adventure ended.
At the age of 24, Lauren Morton set out on a journey of 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands with her friend and rowing partner Hannah Lawton in December 2013.
Before they could reach the finish line in Antigua, however, the pair - one of 16 teams in the race - suffered what Lauren called a ‘catalogue of catastrophes’, leading to the decision to call the race to an abrupt end.
After a broken autopilot, faulty compass, low pressure systems, a fire, a capsized boat, various injuries, including a 7cm gash to the head, and a final rescue mission by a cargo ship bound for Canada, Lauren is now home and safe with her family again.
“I am really jetlagged at the minute and struggling sleeping at night,” she said, back at her parents’ Collingham home.
“We were 96 days on our own boat, 109 days until we hit land, and 115 days until we got to England.
“There were storms all the time because the weather in England was pretty bad. There was rain all the time.
“But we are both rowers anyway, so we were used to it.”
The initial impetus behind the challenge to row across the North Atlantic came when Lauren and Hannah’s friend Eleanor Ellis died of cervical cancer in May 2012 at the age of 23 after being diagnosed in June 2010 - just after graduating from the University of West England where she met Lauren and Hannah.
Their phenomenal feat of determination and bravery has already raised almost £15,000 on their website alone for Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Myton Hospice, where Eleanor was cared for until her death.
And now the intrepid duo - called Inspirational Friends - plan to take to the sea once more to finish what they started.
Lauren said: “We are going to do it again in 2015, and carry on raising awareness about cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is quite an understated cancer, and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is such a small trust, we would like to keep raising awareness.
“We both wanted to do something adventurous because of how Elle coped with cancer.
“The problem that we had was equipment failure, not anything to do with us psychically or mentally, so it is unfinished business really.”
Lauren and Hannah were in the North Atlantic for 96 days before they were rescued by Lowlands Opal - the cargo ship that picked them up on March 10, 600 miles away from the finish line.
They were given beer, food, towels, and the use of a hot shower and cabins and were then on their way to Becancour, Quebec.
After an unplanned flight, they stepped onto English soil for the first time since setting out last year.
Lauren’s dad Wayne said: “Her mother and I were extremely proud of the fact that Lauren decided to take on the challenge and that she had the determination to attempt it.
“They have shown such determination in the face of complete adversity.”
Lauren qualified as a paediatric nurse 48 hours before boarding the flight to La Gomera where the challenge had its start.
A dedicated rower, she was captain of the rowing team for a year.
After almost completing one of the toughest boating races - the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Row Challenge - Lauren is to prepare for her second attempt next year.
To donate visit Inspirational Friends at www.insfriends.org.uk
About the race:
The trip from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua was first performed in 1966 by Sir
Chay Blyth and John Ridgeway in their boat English Rose
III in an impressive 92
After 48 years, more people have been into space than have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, and the official
race, established by Sir Chay in 1997, is a trip fraught with difficulty.
With 2,900 miles to race across the extensive tract of water, the rowers have to store essential equipment and have to start at a set time, so they cannot wait for favourable weather.
The boats themselves are also strictly limited in design and innovation.
Seven metres long and just two metres wide, the boats have only a small cabin for the necessary protection against the worst weather.
There is also no chance of
them being repaired if damaged, and crews are not
allowed to take on extra supplies without forfeiting the race.
The record crossing time for the trip is 36 days and 59 minutes, which was set by a team of four in 2004.