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Introducing Team Antigua Island Girls

When Team Antigua Atlantic Rowers arrived home in second place on January 13, 2018, the challenge was issued for an all-female team from Antigua and Barbuda to be next. Several women answered the call, and the field is down to five women, all of whom are in training. Eventually, four will row the ocean, but all will carry the mantle for the country.
 Team Antigua Island Girls is comprised of Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King. Collectively, they are four athletes and a skipper.  Team Antigua Island Girls have set their sights on being the top female contenders and among the top five overall. They are being put through their paces on the water by the tough taskmaster and coach, Eli Fuller, and in the gym by personal trainers, including Kevinia.
 The women have selected Cottage of Hope as their charity. Cottage of Hope is a non-profit organisation founded in 2009 that houses and/or serves girls who have been abused, neglected or orphaned.
 And the ladies are… 
 Elvira Bell: A natural athlete at ease on the track, in the dojo, in the gym or in the pool, Elvira is a level 2 learn-to-swim instructor and a certified health coach. Her passions are natural health and wellness. The 36-year-old earns her living as a flight dispatcher at LIAT (1974) Ltd.  Initially, she said no when asked about participating in the challenge, due to a bad boating experience. It turned out that the answer was simply reflexive and after consideration – and subliminal gestures from teammate Kevinia – her adventurous side kicked in. No became yes. Besides, Elvira and Kevinia are twins born of different mothers. She said, “If anyone knows us, where she (Kevinia) goes I go, and I would feel comfortable knowing we are in it together. Her aim, she said, is “to rise and conquer.”
 Christal Clashing:  In 2004, Christal made history as the first female swimmer to represent Antigua and Barbuda at the Olympics. The 28-year-old adventure guide and travel writer lists as her sports, swimming (pool and open water), stand-up paddling (instructor) and the occasional triathlon. Christal relished the chance to join Team Antigua Island Girls. A few years ago, an encounter with a group traversing the Caribbean in a dugout canoe, retracing the steps of the Amerindians, piqued her interest and set her on a quest for a seafarer adventure. “I immediately jumped at the chance,” she said. In addition to rowing to be the best among the women’s division, Christal sees the TWAC2018 challenge as the opportunity for her to test her mettle and to come out on the other side of the cross-Atlantic row physically and emotionally stronger.
 Samara Emmanuel: The first Antiguan woman to become a RYA certified yacht captain, at 32, Samara has more than 12 years’ seafarer experience. She is also a certified day skipper, coastal skipper, yacht master and boat master among a lengthy list of certifications. Currently employed at Jumby Bay as a boat mate, Samara has a passion for racing and delivering boats. She said her best time is being alone at sea at night. “I have completed countless solo deliveries across the Caribbean and I welcome the solitude and the chance to tap into myself and to get to know my boat and my capabilities.”  Samara set her sights on an Atlantic crossing long before she became aware of the TWAC. When opportunity knocked, she quickly said yes. 
 Kevinia Francis:  Any one who knows Kevinia knows that she rarely backs down from a challenge. She began imagining an all-woman crew in 2015 when the first team from Antigua and Barbuda, Team Wadadli, entered the event. In her own words, she said an instant yes “because this challenge epitomises all that I live for in one go: sports, travel, competition, country, charity, new experiences and creating memories.” The 40-year-old is a certified health-and-fitness trainer and a bar manager at Island B-Hive Party Stand. She’s a title-winning, all-round athlete who excels in basketball, cycling, martial arts and track-and-field. Completing the more than 3,000 mile row is a basic for Kevinia. The goal for the TWAC2018 is to be the best among the women and to challenge to be the best overall. 
 Junella King: She’s at present juggling CXCs with training, and the TWAC is tailor-made for the path 17-year-old Junella has set for herself. Her sport is sailing – which she’s been doing for three years – and her passion is sailing. Junella juggles school and her sport with part-time employment as a RYA dingy sailing instructor. Her interest in the Challenge was stoked when Team Wadadli, post race, visited her school, All Saints Secondary. “They talked about their experience and showed us around the boat and, since then, I knew I was going to do this,” she said. She’s keen to represent Antigua and Barbuda and to stake a bid to being among the champions.

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