2015 saw some incredible British achievements, from the first British man into space, the amazing advancement of research into stem cells, to winning the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936.
Kick starting 2016 is the inspiring and emotional story of 4 young British women who left the coast of San Francisco in April 2015 to embark on one of the most audacious, treacherous and challenging feats of human endurance ever seen – to row 8,446 miles across the Pacific Ocean.
They spent over 9 months at sea, living, eating, sleeping and rowing aboard Doris, their 29ft boat. Breaking two world records, their main objective is to raise awareness for women who face adversity and raise funds for Breast Cancer Care and Walking with the Wounded, female service women.
During their time at sea they recorded one of the most insightful and inspirational daily blogs ever written. Despite huge set-backs, exhaustion and the kind of danger and endurance many of us would never want to experience in our lifetime, the team has persevered. On Monday 25th January 2016, they finally arrived to welcoming crowds in Cairns, Australia.
As part of their meticulous preparation the team, working with a professional coach, created a strong set of values that has driven their thinking, behaviour and actions. Without these values becoming central to everything the team did, they simply would not have succeeded. Added to this, they called in expert help for every stage of the journey. This included technical, practical, emotional, navigational and inspirational support, with ambassadors, sponsors, mentors and coaches and the unwavering support of their families.
Testimony to their success, and indeed the success of any team is the power of leadership and living to a set of common values. A leader can take any team in any setting, instil and embed values and that team will always succeed.
So what is so special about Values and especially those of the Coxless Crew – perhaps you can be the judge of that:
The girls shared their tiny home and life stories, laughing, singing and crying their way across the vast, ever changing Pacific and formed a bond that is unbreakable. They become a strong team who came together knowing and utilising each other’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve something far bigger than any of them could ever have achieved alone. In unpredictable seas, filled with storms, swells, tsunamis and sharks and ‘waves the size of large houses’, they showed external strength of character, courage and determination and an inner strength that reaches the unending possibilities of the human spirit.
Rowing 2 hours on and 2 hours off, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for nine months. Can you imagine the impact this has on the human body and mind. From nasty sores and injuries to sleep deprivation and hallucinations, the alarm clock seemed to be always ringing – in their sleep, as they woke and as they drifted off on the oars. This undertaking would be bad enough on calm, flat seas with the currents in your favour, but imagine throwing in the odd Tsunami, 50 foot waves, raging storms, huge swells and strong currents – its like cycling to the top of the Alps rather than across Holland.
Out in the Pacific sharing a 29ft space with three other people, there is no room for being anything other than your real self. Everyone was completely open and vulnerable with the rest of the team. Having a clear plan and common purpose contributed to their effectiveness as a team. Likewise there was no room in the confined space for any unsaid ‘pebbles in shoes’ or hiding their feelings, worries and fears. The work they did with their coach before leaving the UK helped them to learn how to give feedback to each other and receive it in an open manner.
When discussing before the row what resilience meant to them as a team they came up with reliability, a can do attitude, never giving up and a belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Adding to these the ability to keep a sense of humour no matter what the ocean could throw at them. Natalia reports “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much or as consistently as we have out here on the Pacific. It is obvious that the mood in our team remains positive and we are all committed to completing what we have started.”
During the journey both the girls and the readers of their daily blog were totally transfixed by the almighty Pacific Ocean. It’s the biggest ocean on earth and covers more than 30% of the earth’s surface. With a surface of close to 66 million square miles, she provides almost half of the Earth’s water area and connects and unites us all. At its deepest point the Pacific is deeper than the height of Mount Everest. Rowing this mighty Ocean and completing the task in aid of two incredible Charities is a feat that will go down in the history of human achievement and endurance that’s an inspiration to us all.
“Out here on the ocean we are each other’s main support network and together are our own little ocean going family. For our team to work so well it is important that we trust each other fully to take responsibility for our roles on the boat and to take care of ourselves. Probably most importantly, trust that there are some things that happen on Doris that will always stay on Doris!”
These strong values underpinned their one page plan that helped support their thinking and ultimately the expedition. Many times through the daily blogs we have all heard them refer to their plan:
- ‘Believe in yourself and the strength of the team’
- ‘Row with SPIRIT’
- ‘Stroke by Stoke, be unstoppable’
- ‘Control the controllable and conquer OUR own Pacific’
- ‘Enjoy the journey – Live in the moment’
All great inspirational reminders for the team to keep them focused and on track. There is no doubt that the Coxless Crew epitomizes the power that can be unlocked through coaching.
The girls have trusted each other, their support team, their plan and their coach every step of the way. Their success is testimony not just to the power of human achievement but also to the power of coaching.