Lia Ditton’s Pacific Crossing Begins

A few days before one Pacific solo rower, Angela Madsen, perished of as-yet unknown causes, another woman, Lia Ditton, set off on a similar route from California to Hawaii. Ditton, 40, left San Francisco on June 17 to beat both the men’s and women’s record for rowing across the Pacific. She will have to cover the 4,000km faster than the 52 days taken by Rob Eustace in 2014.

She had planned to start back in April, but COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns made it hard for her to obtain the kit that she prefers to row with. Closures to water access points also impeded an earlier start.


In the moments immediately before Ditton departed, she wavered in hr resolve, as she thought of her friend and fellow rower Ruihan Yu, who died earlier this year during his second attempt at the same quest. Ditton managed to overcome the inner turmoil and is off to a promising start.

No stranger to solo ocean rowing, Ditton’s first solo Atlantic crossing came at age 25. She is also the only female competitor to finish the single-handed Transatlantic Race. This is Ditton’s twelfth time exiting the Golden Gate.

It was also her most terrifying. On her first night, she had to slip past a nearby convoy of cargo ships, shining their blinding spotlights in her eyes. Eventually she got free of them and anchored down to sleep after a 10-hour stretch.

She had smooth sailing until June 20, when Ditton passed near the Farallon Islands, where it is notoriously difficult to anchor securely. Ditton had to wake up repeatedly to re-anchor. The blasting of a cargo ship’s fog horn further broke her sleep that night. Sleep deprivation goes with the territory, because would-be record setters are not making much mileage when they aren’t rowing.

 A stiff southwesterly breeze then forced her to row offshore in that direction until it died down. To have a chance of besting the record, she needs favorable conditions. If not, she will try for the 99-day record for fastest woman, currently held by Roz Savage.

Lia Ditton’s current position.


Ditton is currently approaching the crux of the route, where prevailing northwest winds push vessels backward. Eight previous record attempts have failed when they couldn’t break free of the wind’s grip in this region.