Out in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s a forbidding and desolate place. Boredom strikes on a daily basis, thoughts revolve around your head…past experiences, future ambitions, lessons learnt, feelings felt. It’s a cauldron of what if’s and future plans, only to be dropped with a sudden thump as soon as you get off your tiny ocean rowing boat, that had been your home for the last 4 months and you become overwhelmed by the sheer emotion of seeing family and friends for the first time, since the air horn went off on the start line.
The truth is, within no time at all it feels like an experience that wasn’t just a long time ago, but one that you weren’t even a part of. Strange isn’t it? All that planning, training, stress and emotion for something that was on epic proportions and within days of ending, becomes somewhat distant and forgotten.
But Inspirational Friends story, started way back before that air horn went off on the start line.
Inspirational Friends was founded by myself, Skipper Hannah Lawton. Although for many years I didn’t have a team name or even a team, the seed was planted that I wanted to row the Atlantic. At the age of 16 I had decided that one day, I was going to do it! In 2007 I moved to Bristol to read Geography at the University of the West of England (UWE). Already a rower, I naturally joined the university boat club. This is where I met Elle, the girl that unknowingly made the seed grow that had been planted since 2004. Elle was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2010 and lost her battle at the age of 23 in May 2012. It was her determination and true grit, that pushed me into setting up ‘Inspirational Friends’.
It was in May 2012 that I spoke to Elles’ parents about rowing the Atlantic, in memory of Elle and to raise awareness and money for cervical cancer.
In the early stages of setting up Inspirational Friends, I decided I wanted to row the Atlantic in the female pairs category, the next challenge was to find the right person to row with…which wasn’t that easy! To start Jessie Vanbeck was on board, but things didn’t work out and I needed to find a new partner. In September 2013, 3 months to race start, I had the hard decision of picking the person that would join me for the row, Lauren Morton joined the team and we became the pair that would compete in the 2013 attempt.
The 2013 attempt became one of epic proportions, with countless equipment failures from start to finish. All of which can be read about in the 2013 race blogs. The problems we encountered forced us to retire just 600 miles from the finish. Upon our return, we were adamant we would compete again in 2015. However, I applied for a job with the GB Rowing Team and was successful and started in my position in September 2014, which meant we would have to wait until the 2017 race. (At this point the race was still a biennial event, as of late 2014 it became an annual event.)
Things rapidly changed, Lauren decided she would pursue other things and I was in a new job. Lauren is now taking part in a 4 person female crew this year, for a different cause and I wish her all the best. I knew I would be going back out; it was just a matter of when. Firstly, I had to get the other team member back, ‘Sedulous’ who was happily floating up towards Florida after we abandoned her. On top of this, my heart lies with the team I set up and the reasons behind the team, the pairs class is where I want to test myself and ‘Sedulous’ will remain part of that team.
Which is why in December 2016, I am back with Team Inspirational Friends and a new female pairs partner!
There’s lots of things to tell you, so stay posted for updates. But for now, check out the website and it’s new design for the 2016 attempt and have a look at the revamped Inspirational Friends logo below:
The support you all gave us for the 2013 attempt was beyond inspiring and I hope that in the 2016 attempt, you will continue to support Inspirational Friends.