Inspirational former Haberdashers’ Monmouth students row Atlantic Ocean

Inspirational former Haberdashers’ Monmouth students row Atlantic Ocean

24 January 2022

A Monmouth woman and her sister battled extreme sleep deprivation, 40-foot waves and flying fish to row unaided across the Atlantic Ocean in just 40 days.

Pippa Edwards and her sister, Felicity Ashley, both former students at Monmouth School for Girls, completed the epic 3,000-mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in a remarkable 40 days 11 hours and 25 minutes!

It has been an incredible effort by Monmouth-based Pippa; Felicity and crew-mates Jo Blackshaw and Lebby Eyres, who got their challenge under way in La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12th December and spent Christmas Day on the Ocean.

Known as The Mothership crew, the inspirational all-female members maintained a sense of humour and teamwork throughout and now want to show women and children that no challenge is too great to overcome.

The crew members, who have 11 children between them, have raised more than £56,000 to be split between three charities – Felix Fund, Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice and Women in Sport.

The quartet were reunited with their families at the weekend when they reached the finishing point in Antigua, Caribbean.

“We are doing really well,” said Felicity, whose parents, Bob and Scilla Greenland, are based in Usk.

“We have been getting our land legs back on because we were a bit wobbly when we first hopped off the boat. We have all adjusted pretty well to being back on land.”

Pippa followed in the strokes of her husband, Old Monmothian David Edwards, the Deputy Head (Pastoral) at Monmouth School for Boys, who successfully rowed the Atlantic in 2019/2020.

And Pippa has taken the family bragging rights because The Mothership finished the challenge in one day fewer than it took her husband’s crew.

Pippa, who grew up near Chepstow, explained: “My husband rowed in the 2019/20 Talisker Race and it was his dream to do it.

“I supported him but, at the time, I could not really understand why he wanted to do it. I took my children over to La Gomera to see the start of David’s race and then I came out to Antigua to see the finish. It was then that I got the feeling that I needed to be a part of it. The moment when David finished his Atlantic row was the moment that I knew I was going to take part one day. I immediately started to get the crew together for the challenge and, two years later, we have done it.”

She added: “One of our goals beforehand was to beat the time taken by David and the boys – and we managed to come in a day earlier than they did.”

The Mothership crew rowed in shifts, two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day in what proved to be a test of mental and physical fortitude.

The crew had a particularly tough Christmas Day. Pippa was attacked by flying fish, which soared out of the Atlantic Ocean, and the boat – a 28-foot Ocean rowing boat called Mrs Nelson – momentarily spun out of control when it was caught by a strong wave and headed north.

Pippa said: “It’s hard to underestimate the positive impact on morale of a visit from a pod of dolphins or a sighting of a whale.

“It was a slow slog at times and to have 100-plus dolphins decide to spend half-an-hour in our company lifted the spirits.

“As we moved further West, the likelihood of storms or Atlantic squalls increased but, with them, often so did our speed.”

In doing the race, the crew wanted to inspire their own children to dream big, to believe that anything is possible.

Pippa said: “In our crew, we are all ordinary women and working mums. We are not professional athletes and we just wanted to demonstrate that if you want something enough you can achieve It – because that’s exactly what we have done.

“Thankfully, there were no major incidents. We maintained good relationships and team morale while under constant pressure, which is a huge test of character.

“We achieved one of our main aims – starting and finishing as friends.

“We are hoping to inspire other people to choose – and tackle – their own challenge. We would highly recommend the Talisker Challenge.”

To make a donation towards the crew’s three chosen charities, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/team/themothership

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