2018 – Beyond The Gate

The first part of the year was hard, but each Believer who signed up on Patreon helped me get back on the oars.

Rowing to the Farallons in April was a proper 3-day adventure. Little did I know that ‘short’ training row would become one of last year’s greatest challenges.

I departed for what became my final, record-setting attempt on the Farallons in a very weird headspace. My sponsorship deal had just blown up for what I’ll call ‘Weinstein reasons’. This wasn’t an opportunity, it was a reality with a car, an apartment, a boat building deposit check and a corporate credit card. I rowed out to the Farallons feeling the weight of failure, scared of facing more failure – my defeat on the record. I didn’t blog. I just rowed. And when I came back under the Golden Gate, all set to scream with jubilation, some workmen on the underside of the bridge beat me to it. Now there were two narratives running in my head, ‘what could I have done differently to secure the sponsorship without compromising my values’ and ‘what does success actually mean?’ I had just rowed around an island I couldn’t see in the fog and a charted marker that was no longer there.

In the end, the F-Record was the culmination of everything about the project so far: the strength training, boat refinements, the hours and hours of rowing, but also overcoming feelings of humiliation, defeat, embarrassment and fear. My previous failed attempts hardened my resolve into dogged unwavering perseverance, resilience to continue and unbendable determination not just to row around the Farallons, but across the Pacific.

San Francisco to Santa Barbara, a 350 mile training row in June, in many ways qualified me to row around the Farallons. The team solidified, Rick Leach doing a masterful job of offshore communications and Dr Aenor on hand with medical and mental support.

My arrival into Santa Barbara was such a bittersweet moment, I am grateful Dr Aenor and her sister Gigi were there to witness. My battle off Point Conception only 30 hours before, had pushed me beyond sleep deprivation, to despair. The waves breaking over my boat were another situation demanding resolve, on top of a very long day of rowing and a rough night of being dragged upwind by sea anchor. If the Whale Kingdom before Conception was otherworldly beautiful, the Valley of the Ships was intermittently terrifying; not to mention the three-day fight to escape the tidal pull of the Bay Area, with its remarkable 15-20 mile reach. Goodness me. What a voyage. I am so proud and grateful to Danielle Sellwood of FindItFilm for collaborating with me to make this into a film, which was selected before it even aired, by the Four Seasons Film Festival in London.

Mission > Pacific is an undoing, a redoing and an amelioration of everything I’ve done before and everything I hope for the future. It could be the crowning achievement of my life – or not. But while every fresh face I meet asks me ‘why,’ I’ve been asking myself my own version. What do I want out of this? It isn’t what you might think. As Gerard d’Aboville wrote in his book Alone – The Man Who Braved The Vast Pacific – And Won, “When life is a fight for survival, glory and fortune are ridiculous motivations.”

I started the project to set a record, but what I truly deeply want is to inspire children, girls in particular. It took a heart melting moment with a 6 year old girl and a pink note this year, to remind me of this. I have a children’s programme for 4-11 year olds that was created and funded by one of my sponsors, Databarracks. It is intended to be free for schools and parents alike and it’s high time I unabashedly asked for money to get that programme out there and doing its job inspiring kids.

 

 

 

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Thank you to my AMAZING team – 

Rick Leach    Offshore Communications Officer for your encouragement & assistance in trailering my boat
Dr Aenor Sawyer    Medical Officer for your professionalism, enthusiasm and friendship

Also to –

Dr Michael Gervais    Sports Psychologist
Chris Talley    Performance Nutritionist
Mike Lord    Chiropractor

Special thanks to –

Michael Watts at Under Armour for writing my strength programme and Merida Miller (UA ‘Apparel Advanced Concepts & Innovation Department) for making a dream come true and making me custom clothes.

Christian Agha for his willingness to look down the lens in outright nauseating conditions as I rowed outside the gate not just once, but twice in heavy weather. Our ‘Chasing The Storm Series’, led to the amazing photographs which in October made front and double-page spread of the Travel Section of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Also to Kristin Hanes for pitching my story successfully to Oprah Magazine and to Thomas Schiffer for doing the same to Theo Von of the Theo Von Show.

Finally, a huge thank you to my sponsors.

LopoLight the ultimate LED navigation lights
Oxyfresh the chocolatiest protein powder on the market, in a league of its own for being great with only water
PRO Bar 370kcal per bar! Can’t beat that!
Databarracks for seeing the bigger picture that educating children is the most meaningful return on investment
Ocean Racing sunglasses, for thinking of sailors first and making money second because you only get one pair of eyes
PainsWessex pyrotechnics I hope never to use, but know they could save my life if I need them
Spinlock lifejacket, ‘people in the boat, water out of the boat’ simple!
Switlik liferaft, for allowing me to pack more chocolate because my liferaft is the smallest lightest raft in the world
Ocean Signal rescue beacons, the life line I hope I never need, but trust with my life
Spectra watermaker, without water we die, I wouldn’t want to leave shore with any other brand
Canvas Works for beautiful canvas work and having me on your dock
World Clinic my virtual crew member
Fiorentino parachute sea anchors – your best friend in a storm!

Thank you to all the yacht clubs who have granted me dockage and to Sherrie & Ron who kindly let me park in their garden and use their private dock in Pt Richmond for the past 10 months. 

Row on 2019!

Be a Believer.
By | 2019-01-03T23:29:47+00:00 January 2nd, 2019|Blog|1 Comment

About the Author:

Lia Ditton

One Comment

  1. Danielle January 2, 2019 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    I’m so proud of our collaboration too…not once in the hours of studying footage or re-watching and re-working the films did I tire of the images in front of me. I feel like I’ve rowed the ocean with you, through stunning sunsets and glassy flat surfaces, to rough and stormy and wildly scary seas. I’ll never get to sit where you do, but thank-you for allowing me to feel how it feels. 2019 is going to be great.

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