Jasmine Harrison Becomes Youngest Woman to Row an Ocean Solo

Oceans Rowing/canoeing
Photo: @rudderlymad

On December 12, 21-year-old Jasmine Harrison left Tenerife, along with 36 other boats, as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge (TWAC). Yesterday she reached Antigua, completing her 4,800km journey across the Atlantic and becoming the youngest woman to solo row an ocean. The previous record holder was Katie Spotz of the U.S., who was just under 23 years old when she completed her crossing in 2010.

The youngest woman to row an ocean solo

Jasmine Harrison. Photo: @rudderlymad

Harrison was teaching swimming in Antigua in 2018 when she happened to witness the finish of the race. She had been looking for a challenge and the TWAC, and in particular, “the idea of rowing across the Atlantic on my own”, appealed to her. She did it solo because, “I haven’t met anyone I could row across an ocean with.”

What makes her world record bid even more impressive is that Harrison only started rowing in January 2020. “I’ve done everything else, swimming, pentathlon, most standard sports,” she said. “Just never rowing.”

Photo: @rudderlymad

The trip wasn’t easy. For most of it, she trailed the rest of the field. At the halfway point, seven other boats had already finished — though none of them were soloists.

The frontrunners also missed the bad weather, but she caught it, and for two weeks, could barely advance. One day she rowed for 12 hours and covered just 11km. She then slept for three hours, and when she woke up found herself back where she started 15 hours earlier.

She was also sensitive to the seasickness patches she wore at the start of the race, which caused blurred vision and hallucinations. Another day, her emergency alarm woke her at 4 am, telling her that in six minutes, she was going to collide with a drilling ship, which hadn’t detected her in its path. Luckily they answered her frantic radio calls and changed course in time.

Then with just 160km before the finish, a wave capsized her, injuring her left elbow, but she managed to keep rowing and finish the course. During that difficult time, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that she found buoyed her mood. In the end, she finished in 70 days, 3 hours, and 48 minutes.

Photo: @rudderlymad

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge bills itself as “the worlds toughest row”. Founded in 1997 by Sir Chay Blyth, it was initially known as the Atlantic Rowing Race but eventually became the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Since 2015, soloists, pairs, trios, and quads vie to cross the Atlantic from La Gomera, Tenerife to Nelson’s Dockyard, Antigua — the path taken by Columbus’s fleet centuries ago.

Photo: @rudderlymad

Rowers in each team row for two hours and sleep for two hours around the clock. On average, each rower drinks 10 litres of water and burns 5,000 calories day and loses 12kg during the crossing.

The world record for the TWAC was set in 2018 by a UK team known as The Four Oarsmen. It took them 29 days, 14 hours, and 34 minutes. The winners of this year’s race, a pair from the Netherlands, finished in 32 days, 22 hours and 13 minutes. They became the fastest twosome to complete the crossing.

Jasmine Harrison at the finish.

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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Craig Quigley
Craig Quigley
2 months ago

Great achievement by the girl.

+1