Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Coxless Crew start their third and final leg

Published on November 16, 2015 by   ·   No Comments


Four women, AKA The Coxless Crew, reached the shores of Samoa at the end of the 96-day second leg of their record-breaking attempt to row across the Pacific in a bright pink boat called Doris.

In total, the intrepid crew will row 8,446 miles in three stages from San Francisco to their final destination of Cairns, Australia.  Throughout the journey, the women will have a punishing two-hour rotation on and off the oars.  This means in the normal course of things they will have six resting sessions per day, four of these will be sleeping sessions with the other two for tasks, blogging and everything else.  Of course the flip side is that there are also six two-hour sessions of rowing every single day.

The team was originally supposed to consist of four permanent crew but, due to personal commitments of the fourth rower, they were forced to reorganise themselves as three rowers who will complete the whole journey, with the fourth place on Doris a kind of hotseat with three women each rowing one of the three legs of the journey in relay.


All six of the crew are extremely keen sportswomen with adventures galore under their belts. Founder member and team leader Laura Penhaul, whose ‘real job’ is physiotherapist for Paralympic Athletics, calls herself “a jack of all sports”.  She has run the Paris and London marathons, competed in Barcelona and Geneva triathlons, likes ice climbing, is an advanced scuba diver and skis when she has the chance.

Natalia Cohen has lived and worked in over 50 different countries over the last 15 years. She’s also no slacker and has completed the Inca Trail ten times, the Camino de Santiago, and crossed the Pacific by sailboat.

Emma Mitchell is the super rower in the crew having rowed for England at the Home International Regatta, for Cambridge in the Boat Race, and in National and International regattas, as well as a few other little runs like the Berlin Marathon which she completed twice in two days – once on skates and once on foot.

Then there are the three relay crew who will be hotseating.  Solicitor Isabel Burnham, Meg Dyos, the baby of the team at 25, and Lizanne van Vuuren (whose claim to fame is being the Under 14 High Jump Record Holder at only ten years old) who will take over for the final leg to Cairns.  These relay girls might not be doing the whole journey, but each one faces a minimum of 45 days at sea in two hour shifts, it is not for the faint hearted.


Doris set off from San Francisco on 21 April 2015 for the first leg to Hawaii.  This 3,028 mile stretch  was supposed to take 50 days, but technical problems forced them back to land and added days to their journey.

Conditions were very tough on the first leg.  Crew member Emma describes how she felt, “Imagine if you will, being on a roller coaster without being strapped in…. waves the size of large houses which can come from any direction… Inside you can’t see the waves coming and so unexpected lurching and swooping movements slam you into the sides causing bumps and bruises.”

However there were also more pleasant memorable moments, when a humpback whale breached from the water only a few metres from Doris giving them all a shock.

It was 67 gruelling days later that the battered and bruised crew finally landed in Hawaii and literally staggered ashore as they tried to find their land legs.

Between each of the three legs the crew are able to take a breather on land while the boat is restocked, which gives the girls a chance to work the kinks out of their aching bodies.


After their seven day sojourn on land, the crew left Hawaii on 28 July to row the 2,608 miles to Samoa.

A journey that was only supposed to take 60 days took 96.  Consequently food ran very low.  On day 70 they ate the last of their ‘snack packs’ so no more sweets and treats.  On day 83 they had to reduce their meals to two a day, and towards the end of the leg they were down to their last packs of pretty much everything – but (un)luckily there were still 48 beef curries left to tide them over.

They finally managed to survive their curry only diet and in such close quarters it must have been an interesting final few days. Amazingly Coxless Crew started rowing the final leg,  2,810 miles from Samoa to Cairns on November 10.  And, to their dismay, it looks like Christmas dinner will be freeze-dried turkey at sea.


To find out where Doris is now and follow their astonishing journey take a look at their website:

You can donate to their chosen charities here:

Take a look at the beginning of the story here:

Readers Comments (0)


FAR COLUMN: Add Widgets