Monday, December 16th, 2019

The Coxless Rowers Tackle the Pacific

Published on May 8, 2013 by   ·   No Comments

Annabel Hancock must have one of the liveliest imaginations in Britain, because when she allowed hers free rein she came up with the idea of rowing across the Pacific.  Fortunately triathlete and musculoskeletal physiotherapist to the Paralympic GB Team, Laura Penhaul shared her vision and these two indefatigable women set about planning their expedition, which is scheduled for April 2014.


©Louise May Photography

MarinaLive! caught up with the girls at the London International Boat Show 2013 in January and could not help being infected by their enthusiasm and good humour.  Annabel acknowledges that this is an unlikely project for a variety of reasons, “Laura and I are both suckers for a good quote and one of our favourites is, ‘Limits exist only in the mind’.  I am a five foot two inch blonde with an unhealthy obsession with peanut butter, so I’m not your average rower.  Then again, I’m not your average paddle boarder either, yet last year I managed to paddle a thousand miles along a river, following only three hours of training.”


©Louise May Photography

The two women met after Annabel engaged in what she describes as, “a cheeky snog with a rather dashing chap in a club in Bristol.”  During the conversation Annabel mentioned that one of her main ambitions was to row across an ocean, which clearly impressed her new friend, since he agreed to help.  Within days Annabel found herself being included in emails to CEOs of various influential companies who could be in a position to help her in her quest.  One of the replies that she received came from Leah Fullwood, a fellow adventurer who was enthusiastic about the project but could not commit to such a mammoth task.  However, a close friend of hers would definitely be interested; this was Laura Penhaul.


©Louise May Photography

With two of the team in place, the hunt is now on to find two more recruits for the big row, which Annabel estimates will take six months to complete.  The 3,000 nautical mile first leg will take the Coxless Rowers from Long Beach, California to Hawaii then the next 2,000 mile section will take them to Samoa.  The final push will be the 2,800 mile route to Cairns in Queensland, Australia.

Annabel and Laura, who will be raising money for Breast Cancer Care on their journey, enthusiastically suggest that most women still have little sense of their potential, “When I train at home in Bristol, I am still the only female in the free weights section of my local gym.  The Olympics has gone a very long way in promoting women in sport but we definitely have some way to go.  Out of nearly 600 ocean rowers only 77 of these were women,” says Annabel.

“The WSFF (Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation) recently revealed that women’s sport only receives 0.5% of commercial investment.  We are not by any means going to change this with our ocean row, but one of the fundamental reasons why we are doing this is to inspire women out there to get involved and have a go.”


©Louise May Photography

Annabel and Laura are hoping that the two final members of the team will not only contribute to the training process but also become involved in the preparation for this ambitious expedition.  “What we require is two dedicated – and, quite possibly, slightly mad – individuals who can devote two weekends per month to team training and events, attend weekly review meetings and stay in touch with us via phone and email regarding their roles.  They will also have to confirm that they are prepared to commit to a structured, six day a week training plan for approximately two hours a day.  They will also need to attend two week long training sessions away from home and be involved in presentations, fundraising events and sponsorship meetings.”

Annabel Hancock  ©Louise May Photography

Rowing the Pacific is no small undertaking and Hancock and Penhaul are aware that what they are asking from their remaining two members is dedication of a most extraordinary nature.  Some might say they were attempting to do the impossible, a notion that is given short shrift by Annabel, “Laura is constantly surrounded by Paralympians who do the impossible every day.”

The fun-loving facade covers a steely determination and it is easy to believe that these two women will make rowing the Pacific look deceptively simple.

Find more about the Coxless Rowers at and on Facebook as The Coxless Rowers.

Tags: , ,

Readers Comments (0)


FAR COLUMN: Add Widgets