Team of 4 women breaks 3 world records by successfully rowing the Pacific Ocean

It reads like a blockbuster movie title –“257 days at sea” — but this was the reality for four courageous women, who rowed the Pacific Ocean without support. Nicknamed “The Coxless Crew”, Natalia Cohen, 40, Laura Penhaul, 32, Emma Mitchell, 30 and Meg Dyos, 25, completed an epic 8,446-mile journey on Monday. Members of a six-person team, that also included Isabel Burnham, 30, who rowed from SF to Hawaii, and 26-year-old Lizanne van Vuuren. They broke three world records to become the first team of four, the first all female team, and the fastest team to row the Pacific Ocean. And they did it in a 29-­foot bright-pink rowboat named “Doris.”

On April 20, 2015, the volunteer team departed from San Francisco and arrived on January 25, 2016 into he Marlin Marina in airns, Australia after rowing 24 hours per day, seven days per week in two-­hour shifts, for over nine months. Their only stops were in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Apia, Samoa to restock the boat with supplies and assorted freeze­-dried foods.

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. In their words, “everyone has their own pacific to cross. This project is all about creating an awareness for women facing their own challenges. We’re doing it for everybody. This isn’t something we are just doing for ourselves. We’re hoping to… inspire [others].”

As with any goal, preparation was required. The team trained for years and enlisted a support committee, including sport psychologist, Keith Goddard, who equipped the women with mental tools to face the challenges ahead. e trip “was a mindset journey more than anything,” Cohen told Women in the World, whose favorite mantra came from a necklace she wore, which said “ am in charge of how I feel today and today I choose happiness.”

Despite their preparation, she confessed that some legs became mentally grueling and difficult to endure, such as when they battled winds of “30 knots” and “40-foot waves.”

Mitchell described long, dark stormy nights, where it was impossible to see treacherous oncoming waves. These were challenging moments, especially combined with the struggle of “staying awake, because we never got more than one-and-a-half hours of sleep at a time.”

While stuck in the Doldrums, Mitchell said, “the currents were against us. We were pretty much going backwards a lot of the time. We were having to row every session as hard as we could and we still weren’t making any ground… That is when I struggled the most.”

In such low moments, the team united and fueled each other by shared conviction and humor. For Mitchell, “at no point was there any question that I was going to stop… Until we had achieved what we had set out to do, it was never going to be over.”

Added Cohen: “We are such an unbelievably strong team of women. That was key to the success of this trip. We kept each other going. There was continual laughter. I have never laughed so much in my life. We kept each other motivated.”

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. (Losing Sight of Shore)

When they were not battling life­-threatening weather, the team witnessed humpback whales, schools of fish, and herds of sharks that followed the boat for weeks. What they termed their “odyssey” afforded peaceful, spiritual experiences, as well. “You can’t help but be in a meditative state when you’re out there on the ocean. She’s absolutely mesmerizing, as you watch the undulating waves rising and falling, the clouds passing overhead, or the birds soaring in the sky. Everything that happens out there is meditative,” Cohen said.

Asked to share insights that would help someone looking to tackle an insurmountable goal, Cohen said, “you have the power to choose to do anything you want to do. With a little bit of self-­belief and trust in yourself, anything is possible.” For more on this story, Emmy ­award-winning documentary filmmaker Sarah Moshman (he Empowerment Project) followed their journey via footage shot by the women themselves and will release the film, Losing Sight of Shore, later in 2016.

The women continue the fundraising efforts from their homes in the United Kingdom. Readers can contribute by visiting

Ashley Crouch writes and speaks on women, beauty and leadership issues and lives in Manhattan. Find her on Twitter.


This article first appeared in Women in the World / New York Times by yours truly.

5 Ways to Take a Parisian Vacation Without Ever Leaving Home

Call it a breakdown, an impossible dream, or a quarter-life crisis, but my 27th birthday was approaching and I had to get away. No more sirens, hustle and bustle, trash on street corners, or neighbors who party way too late. What I was looking for was a little rest and relaxation, all alone, far away—to really unplug.

I was trying to slow down, and vacationing in France was a welcome change of pace from the frenetic Manhattan madness. Now that I’m back, I’m savoring the memories and integrating many of the habits I picked up into my daily all-American life. The fact is, not everyone can fly to a foreign country to get away from it all. So—drawing on my time spent in Paris—here are 5 ways to bring vacation to your every day.

1. Step off the beaten path. One of the thrills of vacation is the excitement and wonder that comes from discovering the unfamiliar. Give yourself that same feeling by mixing up your daily routine.

Always take the same route to work? Strike out on a new path, try a different block—or better yet—leave extra early in the morning and stop at that new coffee shop you’ve been meaning to try. You’ll march into the office with a fresh glow and a spring in your step—humdrum just got happier!

2. Amble. As a New York City girl, I can speed walk with the best of them. When I was in France, I was refreshed by the lack of accelerator. Leaving the house 10 minutes early gives you ample time to amble your way to your daily destination. You might be surprised at the details you notice when they no longer exist as a blur in your periphery.

3. Eat…slowly. I am a repeat offender when it comes to eating lunch in front of a computer screen, or worse, forgetting it altogether. But in France, meals are sacred, sometimes lasting 3 to 4 hours. Eating your food at a leisurely pace is also scientifically beneficial. Studies show it takes the brain 20 minutes from the time you start eating to register that it is full. This means refraining from inhaling your food will prevent overeating. So sit back, and enjoy the texture and flavor of your meal!

4. Set boundaries at work. As a social media junkie with at least six different channels to interact with friends online, it is difficult to unplug. Throw in a culture fueled by productivity and consumption and I’m sucked into a spiral of checking off the “to-do” list and updating statuses. But in France, the maximum work week is 35 hours and some families turn off the internet and social media outlets at night just to focus on their relationships.

Find boundaries that work for you and communicate them to colleagues and friends. While it can be scary to say “no” to the pressing deadlines, reclaiming you time energizes you and your job will benefit in the long-run. Not to mention, you will begin to discover the you that exists outside of your job, and that’s a beautiful thing.

5. Do that thing. Don’t wait for a vacation to start crossing things off your bucket list, you can start with the small things now. Perhaps it’s sketching the autumn hues at the park near your house, going for a picnic and taking in the crisp dusk air, tasting a sampling of newfound cheeses, or cooking that Pinterest recipe. Vacation can be a mindset… one that leaves room for something new. So take a Saturday and hop to it!

As is usual for most people at the end of a great trip, I wanted to package up all the memories of France into a little bottle to save for later. But armed with these lessons learned, I’m hopeful that I can change the phrase “I left my heart in Paris,” to “I live Paris every day.”

This article was written by me and first appeared at Verily Magazine.