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Atlantic Challenge rowers celebrate Christmas at sea


The Row Like a Girl team on the first day of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge

The Row Like a Girl team on the first day of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge

The Row Like a Girl team on the first day of the Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Four British women attempting to break an Atlantic rowing record have celebrated Christmas at sea with carols and cheer.

Bella Collins, 22, Olivia Bolesworth, 26, Gee Purdy, 22, and skipper Lauren Moreton, 25, are seven days into the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, billed as the toughest rowing race on earth.

On Boxing Day lunchtime they were 500 miles into the 3,000 mile stretch of water that lies between the start at La Gomera in the Canary Islands and the finish line at the English Harbour, Antigua.

The Row Like A Girl team are hoping to complete their mammoth voyage in under 48 days.

If they do, they will also become the world's fastest four to row the Atlantic.

At lunchtime, they were in second place in a 26-team field despite being one of just two all-female crews.

The women have not paused their punishing schedule of alternating two or three-hour shifts 24 hours a day, but have managed to stay in good spirits.

Ms Purdy said: "We've had a good Christmas.

"Morale is really good - we've been absolutely caning it. We've been singing carols and wearing Christmas hats."

Family and friends had given them treats to enjoy on Christmas Day and they have been able to communicate via satellite, posing for photos on their Instagram account.

Seas have been calm, meaning their only frustration is that they are not travelling even faster.

They are raising money for the Because I am a Girl campaign, which aims to help millions of the world's poorest girls get an education, live free from violence and fulfil their potential. They aim to raise £50,000 for the cause.

In a message to supporters on Christmas Eve, Ms Collins said: "Rowing is relentless. Every time you're woken up for the next two hour shift you want to scream, 'give me a break!' But, when you're on the oars, it's not too bad.

"Life is starting to have more of a routine. We're up on the deck in the day, and all trying to make ourselves eat more now that the sea sickness is over, and doing bum checks - highly important as we all have pretty spotty bums already - and generally keeping each other cheery."

Ms Collins added: "We will face salt sores, blisters, infections, muscle damage and depletion as we row 24 hours a day non-stop.

"We won't be allowed to receive help from anyone while we're out there so we'll take enough supplies to last the duration of the row."

Team mate Ms Moreton recently starred on the The Island with Bear Grylls - a Channel 4 reality show which sees men and women live as castaways on a remote island.

Ms Moreton said: "In an emergency situation a rescue can be two or three days away, and we will be extremely vulnerable to whales, sharks and shipping lanes, let alone extreme weather and isolation."

In 2013 Ms Moreton attempted the same Atlantic race with friend Hannah Lawton.

The attempt was beset with problems, including their sat nav breaking down, capsizing and a battery burning a hole in the middle of their charts.

They were eventually forced to make a rescue call, with a cargo ship collecting them after 96 days at sea.

The team are rowing as part of the charity Plan UK's Because I am a Girl campaign.

Mel Gledhill, head of individual giving at Plan UK, said: "We at Plan UK are so proud of Row Like a Girl and are delighted they've chosen to support our Because I am a Girl campaign.

"They are four girls rowing for girls and are passionate about proving what women and girls can do.

"The money they raise will go towards Plan's global projects to help girls live free from violence, have access to a quality education and become powerful forces for change."

To make a donation to support Row Like A Girl and their chosen charity, Plan UK's Because I am a Girl campaign, visit www.rowlikeagirl.uk.

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