Team Wild Waves: Fleet’s World Record Rowers

 

With Russ Cook AKA The Hardest Geezer raising over £1m for charity after recently accomplishing the insane feat of running the entire length of Africa, CommunityAd thought about celebrating a local world record holder in Fleet, Charlotte Harris, part of Team Wild Waves.

 

Together with best friend Jessica Oliver the duo, despite having no previous rowing experience, set a new world record on January 26th 2022 for the fastest female pair to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Charlotte was happy to reminisce about her incredible achievement with us as we discussed her friendship with Jessica, Team Wild Waves, and how they were able to complete their Atlantic Row after 45 days and the money they raised for their chosen charities…

 

For readers who might not know, can you tell us what Team Wild Waves is and what you are all about?

Jessica Oliver and I (Charlotte Harris) have been best friends since we met at Cardiff University Hockey Club back in 2011, Wild Waves was born in 2020 when we entered the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC) 2021 – a 3,000- mile row across the Atlantic Ocean. We set off from the Canary Islands on 12th December 2021 and arrived in Antigua 45 days later having broken the World Record for the fastest female pair to row across the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t have any previous rowing experience or any sea experience (unless you count going on a cruise!) but the Wild Waves ethos is ‘You don’t have to be serious all the time, to take something seriously’ and we had an absolute blast in all the preparation for the row and the row itself!

It’s fair to say you and Jessica are adventurers, to give readers an idea of the thrill seekers you both are can you tell us about some of the challenges you did before you took on the TWAC?

I would say the early years of my and Jess’ friendship and the thrill-seeking came from a good night out!! We were both super sporty when we were younger and through University but this faded slightly post-university. We completed a couple of challenges like I ran the London Marathon in 2017 and Jess competed in a triathlon but there wasn’t anything we were consistently training for. The real kick-starter to the rowing adventures was when we entered the ‘White Collar Fight Club’ in 2019, this is where you go on a 3-month boxing course building up to a fight night where you fight your opponent in front of 1,500 people whilst raising money for Mind at the same time. We really loved turning our attention to a project, learning something new, getting fitter, raising money for charity and getting to spend so much more time with each other.

 

What first attracted you to the TWAC and got you both on board to sign up?

Post-fight night we had had such an amazing 3-month experience that we knew we wanted to do something bigger and better. At the time I was working for a company called Diageo which owns Talisker and sponsors TWAC. I had attended a talk at work by a colleague who was competing in TWAC 2019 and immediately after I’d messaged Jess asking if she’d want to enter, she asked me what it was and I said you row the Atlantic Ocean. Jess replied ‘Mate, I’d struggle to do that in a speedboat’ but 2 months later we had officially applied.

 

With no previous rowing experience, you and Jessica were able to obliterate a world record rowing across the Atlantic, just how were you able to do this?

I think first and foremost, it was teamwork. We really understand each other and know when to push each other or when to give grace and that builds an environment where you’re always wanting to give 100% to the team and every day you’re absolutely loving life, so that’s motivation in itself.

There was also a moment early on where we experienced incredibly strong headwinds where the majority of solo and pairs decided to go on para anchor and wait it out, whereas we decided to row two up for 18 hours straight, moving at an incredibly slow pace, but got through the wind to better weather and carried on with that mentality for the entire crossing.

‘…in terms of life lessons, it’s taught me to not look at something in its entirety and break it down into much smaller, more manageable chunks…’

How much money did you raise for charity and who were your chosen charities?

We raised £100k for charity with the Atlantic Row and our chosen charities were Shelter and Women’s Aid. We’d chosen Shelter as during our boxing challenge we were training in London Victoria and there was such a high homeless population that we’d decided anything we do in the future we want to support homelessness. We added Women’s Aid during the campaign as we learnt that 34% of women who end up homeless do so because of domestic abuse and that was a shocking statistic to us.

 

Can you talk us through the overall ups and downs of the TWAC, the elation you felt after setting a new world record and any possible life-changing experiences you experienced on the boat that you use now as motivation for everyday life? 

It was such a long 2 year journey to get to the start, there is so much planning and preparation that goes into rowing an ocean from the mandatory courses (Sea Survival, First Aid, Navigation, VHF etc.) to the 120 hours of on-water training and an intense gym programme but we thrived in it. We threw ourselves into it, had some fantastic mentors in the Ocean Rowing community and before we knew it we were in La Gomera and that was a brilliant experience too. There were 38 teams from all over the world and a real sense of camaraderie and energy that I would say the first 24 hours were quite jarring, you know, it’s suddenly the two of you for what could take up to 60 days! But then you get into your rhythm and throw everything you have at the challenge, we had hallucinations, we capsized, we crashed into another boat but it was all amazing. Every sunrise and sunset was stunning, the night sky was beautiful and I think almost every day we just couldn’t believe we were getting to do this!

I think in terms of motivation for everyday life, it was more the small lessons that had an impact than the life-changing experiences. We realised halfway through we could put the miles left to go on a screen on deck and once we knew how many miles we had to go, I said “You know if we do 60 Nautical Miles a day then we have the World Record”. 60 NM was 5NM every 2-hour shift so, suddenly, we had a small KPI to focus on that made the shifts so much easier and much more efficient. So, in terms of life lessons, it’s taught me to not look at something in its entirety and break it down into much smaller, more manageable chunks and suddenly you’re not looking at completing 3000 miles you’re only looking at how well you can smash 5.


Find out more about the terrific Team Wild Waves via their website.

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