Irish woman takes on ‘biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the planet’
Team Boatylicious plans to be first all-female team to complete 4,445km race in Pacific
Anna Hughes, Emily Blagden, Laura Kennington and Aoife Ní Mhaoileoin are the all-female team hoping to set a record in the inaugural Great Pacific Race.
Aoife Ní Mhaoileoin is determined to be part of the first all-female team to complete a gruelling new race in the Pacific Ocean in June, even though she is new to rowing and first sat in a row boat two months ago.
Sharks, 12-metre (40ft) waves and the possibility of being capsized in the world’s largest ocean have not deterred the doctor from taking part in the extreme endurance challenge, which will take at least 40 days and nights in a cramped boat.
Ms Ní Mhaoileoin, the only Irish female to compete, said sleep deprivation would be a challenge as she would get no more than two hours at a time on the 4,445km (2,400 nautical miles) expedition from California to Hawaii. “It’s a daunting prospect, particularly as I’ve never taken on a major rowing expedition before, but I’m drawn to the race as an opportunity to test all my physical and mental resources,” she said.
Team Boatylicious is one of 15 crews competing in the inaugural Great Pacific Race, dubbed by organisers the “biggest, baddest human endurance challenge on the planet”.
The 26-year-old, originally from Castleknock, will have to consume up to 6,000 calories each day from rehydrated army rations and protein shakes. “I’d expect I’ll still lose about a stone in weight,” she said.
The Trinity College Dublin graduate said their 7.3 metre boat had a sleeping cabin but no engine or sails. “We’re not even allowed dry clothes hanging down in case they act as a sail,” she said.
The cabin ideally fits two, but four could squeeze in when a storm hits. “It’s a tight fit and the hatches have to be closed. It’s all manual. If we wanted comfort we’d stay at home. “
Ms Ní Mhaoileoin said that although the goal was to finish in 40 days, they would take enough food to last for 70.
“If we’re really unlucky with things going wrong, we do have to consider it could be twice as long as you prepare for,” she said. “There’s no turning back.”
They have been warned not to get in the water for 24 hours after seeing a shark. “But the more likely problem we’ll have is equipment failure,” she said.
No stranger to taking on extreme challenges, Ms Ní Mhaoileoin reached the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Toubkal in Morocco last year, though she describes herself as a “normal strength” swimmer. Since joining the team in October, whose members had never met each other before, she has taken part in intensive training, sea survival and navigation courses. “Our priority is that we’ll keep getting along despite the stresses we’ll face,” she said. “What excites me the most about it is the sheer number of things that can go wrong because achieving success will mean total dedication and commitment every step of the way. I’m looking forward to pushing myself further than I’ve ever been before.”
The team is hoping to raise about €48,000 for children’s and disability charities. Details at boatylicious.org