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University of Bristol rowers smash world record

The record-breaking crew (Flo Ward, Hannah Walton and Georgie Leech) after reaching Antigua. Photo credit: Atlantic Campaigns

The record-breaking crew (Flo Ward, Hannah Walton and Georgie Leech) after reaching Antigua Atlantic Campaigns

Press release issued: 9 February 2021

Two University of Bristol graduates have become the youngest women to row the Atlantic.

Flo Ward and Hannah Walton, along with friend Georgie Leech, completed the awe-inspiring 3,000 mile crossing in 52 days, 4 hours and 57 minutes.

The trio made landfall in Antigua after a punishing schedule that saw them rowing in shifts around the clock.

They battled vicious weather conditions, flying fish that hit them in the face and waves the size of houses, including one that snapped an oar and nearly threw Flo overboard.

But despite all this the crew of Atlantic Antics were full of smiles - and even managed a New Year’s Eve party with neon face-paint and glowsticks.

Making landfall in Antigua they posted triumphantly on Instagram: “What an adventure. We’re still soaking it all in and couldn’t do it justice with words right now but we will eventually. Our aim was to ‘do the Atlantic and do it well’... pretty sure we can say we have.

“We left as good friends and we’ve come back even closer ready to take on a new challenge (right now it’s making it through the cocktail menu...hold tight for @georgieleechy‘s reviews).

“Thank you for all the support throughout, it really has meant so much to us all.”

Flo, now a data analyst, said her highlights included catching up with other boats via satellite phone and listening to Barack Obama’s autobiography while on the midnight to 2am shift.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The 27-year-old said: “On day 37 I tried cleaning the boat in larger conditions than usual. I only managed half the boat before it felt too big and Georgie had to haul me back in as I'd run out of energy.

“The combination of feeling completely wiped out and knowing that other teams had started to finish made it a mentally tough day.”

The record-breaking crew also raised more than £13,000 for charities ‘Women in Sport’ and ‘Rowing Together for Healthy Minds’.

Flo and Hannah met at the University of Bristol Boat Club (UBBC) while Flo was studying Spanish and Hannah Geography. Both graduated in 2015. Georgie studied at Lincoln University and is now a freelance marketing manager.

Hannah, aged 27 and now a geography teacher, said: "My time at Bristol would not have been the same without joining UBBC.

“The friendships formed during that 3 years are still some of my strongest today. It was also how we heard about the race when we watched Callum Gathercole complete it in 2015 whilst he was part of the club!"

The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge saw around 30 boats attempt the crossing.

Further information

  • Rowing Together for Healthy Minds was started in memory of René Zamudio, who took his own life in January 2017 aged 22. He learned to row at the University of Bristol before continuing his studies at Imperial College.
  • The University of Bristol Boat Club (UBBC) was founded in 1909 and has won hundreds of trophies over its century-long tenure.
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