We caught up with Lara Vafiadis, from This Girl Rows, to discuss her upcoming solo row across the Atlantic Ocean. Life’s a Beach joined Lara’s sponsorship team and have been following her progress ever since. We touched base with her to see what she has been up to in the lead up to the race and how she is preparing for this epic challenge.
Lara is taking part in The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. This annual race begins in early December, with up to 30 teams entering from across the globe. This challenge covers more than 3000 miles from San Sebastian in La Gomera, Canary Islands, west to Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes during the race, burning around 5000 calories per day each.
Teams must battle with sleep deprivation, physical extremes, salt sores, the vast expanse of the ocean and the dangers that entails, and the job of getting themselves and their boats safely across the Atlantic Ocean. The mental and physical endurance leads to a life-changing achievement, that will never be forgotten.
Lara, however, is not entering as part of a team instead entering as a solo participant. Only 20 women have ever successfully rowed across the Atlantic solo. Lara will be joining this very select club of amazing women to have completed this enormous challenge.
“I have always had an innate sense of adventure, gaining my yacht master at 21 and subsequently sailing the Atlantic. Rowing the Atlantic is the next logical step!”
What’s your motivation, driving you to complete this challenge?
Lara explained how her motivation could be outlined into a few different reasons. Firstly was the desire to raise money for charity. The charities she has chosen are Plan UK, Prostate Cancer UK and Our Only World.
Another strong motivator was the challenge itself. “You see all the videos from previous races with huge waves and all the stuff that goes wrong and yeah that is really nuts but really exciting at the same time.” Lara described how her determination doesnt come from a place of over confidence but more self-belief.
“I struggled a lot through my teenage years and that has built me into the person I am today. I know that nothing is going to come and get me down so if anything goes wrong now its fine. I can cope with it and handle anything.”
It’s this determination that has drawn her to the challenge of this race, not only to test herself but to prove to herself that she can handle anything and can achieve something so demanding.
Finally, a motivator to complete this challenge is the desire to be a strong role model for other women and girls. This race is heavily male dominated with teams mostly consisting of really athletic men tackling the challenge together. Lara wants to prove that not only can women take on this challenge just like the men, but she can do it alone. “If a man can do it, then so can a woman.”
What drew you to the charities you have chosen to support?
First up is Plan International UK. They promote the rights of children across the globe, working with partner in more than 45 countries. They make sure that children in some of the poorest communities are safe, and protected from violence. This has become especially prevalent recently with their work in Ukraine. They provide access to essential services including education, healthcare, clean water and toilets. They are there when disasters happen, providing emergency relief and supporting communities to recover, rebuild and develop their resilience.
Through their ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign, they are also dedicated to improving girls’ lives globally – including right here in the UK. By working with young people, they are challenging gender inequality, campaigning against harmful practices like child marriage and enabling girls everywhere to build a better future. “I want to live in a world where every child, especially every girl, knows their value – and the communities they’re growing up in – and the world around them -values them too. This is something I feel really passionately about as I’ve grown up with a really excellent education, and I wouldn’t say I feel guilty per-say, I am very aware of how privileged I’ve been and I wanted to give back. There is so much good that can be done in the world and I want to help Plan UK continue to do the amazing work they carry out.”
Prostate Cancer UK is a charity working towards not only life-saving research into prostate cancer and treatments. They also provide essential support to families impacted by this illness. “This charity really close to my heart as my father has prostate cancer currently. He is the rock in my life and I am really hoping he’ll still be with us when I cross the finish line in Antigo. That would be the ultimate for me.”
Our Only World is a very small charity based in Cornwall. Their mission to stop single-waste plastic ending up on UK beaches. “I’m keen for women to support women and when I met this lady and she just had the most wonderful story. She is a one woman show doing all of this great work and I am really happy to try and help support her.” They are working to put water fountains on beaches across Cornwall to encourage people to stop turning up with single-use plastic bottles and to refill reusable bottles instead.
Lara is set to cross the Atlantic in early December 2022. You can read more about Lara here. To help her on her incredible mission she is still looking for sponsors. To find out about her sponsorship packages, and how you can support, click here.