By Carlena Knight
Almost three years ago, on January 28th 2019, Team Antigua Island Girls created history by becoming the first all-female all-black Caribbean to complete the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which culminated at Antigua and Barbuda’s Nelson’s Dockyard.
For many, the distant memories of a crowded Nelson’s Dockyard as thousands greeted the heroic women was the end of that chapter, but the adventures for this quartet are not yet over, as they announced on Monday that they would be taking to the seas once again, this time, to row across the Pacific Ocean.
The announcement was made during a press conference at the Everton Gonsalves Conference room at the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) Technical Centre in Paynters.
The team comprised of Christal Clashing, Elvira Bell, Kevinia Francis and Samara Emmanuel will be among 20 participating teams in the inaugural Pacific Challenge which starts on June 12, 2023.
The challenge is the latest edition to the Atlantic Oceans races, the same team responsible for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
The annual edition of this race will see teams starting from the historic harbour of Monterey in California and row 2,800 nautical miles to the Nawiliwili Bay in Kauai, Hawaii, following the path of many adventurers and explorers of yester year.
Many may ask why would these four women who had little to no sailing experience sign up for another gruelling row, but for Francis that answer was quite simple.
“We knew we wanted to do another adventure individually and collectively. We are adventurous but more than that stepping out of our comfort zone and inspiring others especially women and girls has been a great achievement for us and that is something that we want to continue to do,” Francis explained.
“So, we decided on a call to action to combine our adventurous spirit to continue to do good and to inspire others. Last time we were hoping to be a little ahead than where we were; it didn’t happen but 13th out of 28 guests was a big accomplishment, but at heart, we are not just adventurers, we are competitors. So, when Atlantic Campaigns told us about this new Pacific Challenge, we asked why not,” she added.
Fundraising activities will ramp up shortly as the team will need EC $350,000 to purchase and ship the boat and cover the cost of travel to California.
The team has begun training—both physically and mentally—as they learned from their freshman experience that it takes more mental strength than brawn to get to the finish line.
In fact, because of the wealth of experience and the early training they are undergoing this time around, the quartet is confident that they can break the fastest female record which was set by Ocean Sheroes who completed their row across the Pacific in 35 days, 17 hours and 32 minutes.
“Mentally, I think that’s where most of the challenge is. We work together as a team and we are just going to rely on each other’s strengths,” Emmanuel said.
The average crossing time for all crew sizes is 62 days.
Just 80 people in 31 boats have successfully rowed to one of the Hawaiian Islands from mainland USA. Of the 31 crews to have completed the voyage, 10 were all female, 18 all male and just three mixed gender.
Asked if they were a bit concerned with rowing the largest ocean in the world, the quartet explained that based on their past experiences, they are more confident but would only be a bit concerned about the Californian coast which is in turn the most difficult aspect of the row.
Just like in 2018, where the quartet raised funds for a specific charity, they will again next year be setting sail to raise funds for Team Island Girls, a non-profit organisation which was set up in 2018 by the Island Girls.
Monies raised in the Pacific Ocean campaign will not only go towards that non-profit organization, but specifically to a project to assist girls in conflict with the law.