The four Yorkshire mums setting out to row the Atlantic

The Yorkshire Rows, left to right Frances Davies, Helen Butters, Niki Doeg, and Janette Benaddi, who are to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
The Yorkshire Rows, left to right Frances Davies, Helen Butters, Niki Doeg, and Janette Benaddi, who are to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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When the waves get rough, the team of Yorkshire working mums bidding to become the oldest to row any ocean will have added motivation next month.

With just a fortnight to go until the Yorkshire Rows quartet jet off to La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, ahead of the start of their mammoth 3,000-mile Atlantic rowing challenge the group visited a cancer centre they are hoping to help bring to Yorkshire.

Janette Benaddi, Helen Butters and Niki Doeg – three of the four-woman team set to take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – stopped by at the Maggie’s Newcastle cancer support centre at the city’s Freeman Hospital last week.

The York-based group’s epic rowing challenge will benefit Maggie’s, which is bidding to build a similar centre for Yorkshire at Leeds St James’s Hospital, as well as the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Plans for the £5million Maggie’s Yorkshire, designed by the acclaimed Heatherwick Studio, were approved by Leeds City Council earlier this year. It could open to offer walk-in cancer support in 2017.

Helen, 45, who works for the NHS in Leeds, said: “In Leeds there is a real gap. My experience was if there was a Maggie’s in Leeds my dad’s end of life experience would have been so much better.

“There is great medical care but there is not this and that’s why we want to raise money and bring this to Leeds.”

Of the Newcastle Maggie’s centre, Janette, who lives in Selby, said: “It’s creating an environment where people with cancer can flourish, it’s such a positive approach.”

Maggie’s centres all aim to offer a welcoming environment to those affected by cancer in unique spaces. The Yorkshire centre would add to services offered by the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, situated behind the Thackray Museum.

The Macmillan Centre offers services to more than 12,500 people newly diagnosed with cancer every year through support groups, yoga classes, counselling, hair loss services and hypnotherapy.

Frances Davies, Helen Butters, Niki Doeg, and Janette Benaddi at the St Peters School Boat House.

Frances Davies, Helen Butters, Niki Doeg, and Janette Benaddi at the St Peters School Boat House.

Maggie’s chief executive Laura Lee said: “The team’s fundraising efforts will make a huge difference in helping us to build the new centre at St James’s University Hospital where we will provide a free high quality programme of support for people living with cancer as well as their family and friends across the region.

“We wish them the best of luck when they start the challenge.”

The Yorkshire Rows team, which also includes Frances Davies, are all working mums who only started rowing four years ago.

Having rowed the North Sea, a mere 120 miles in comparison, earlier this year the group will start their challenge on December 15. It could take five to 10 weeks of two hours on, two hours off rowing shifts done in rotation.

But after months of multi-tasking, the group are keen to test themselves in what is billed as ‘the world’s toughest row’.

“It’s quite nice to be at this point,” Niki, 44, said. “It will be nice to be in a boat and not to have to do millions of things a day.

“We are all still doing day jobs, cleaning, school runs, the charity stuff and training.”

During the challenge, which is unsupported, each team member is likely to be burning 7,000 to 8,000 calories a day.

The Yorkshire Rows have raised around £80,000 to reach this point and fund equipment and training, but plan to auction everything off after the event to boost their two charities.

Back the team

The Yorkshire Rows hope to have the start of their challenge televised live on BBC Breakfast next month.

The race, involving 26 teams, starts in La Gomera and finishes in Antigua.

More people have been to space or climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic.

The idea of the Atlantic challenge race came to Sir Chay Blyth whilst he was rowing the Atlantic Ocean in 1966 with John Ridgeway. It was a 92-day battle against hurricanes, 50ft waves and near starvation.

For more information on the Yorkshire Rows, who are appealing for sponsors and donations, visit yorkshirerows.com, facebook.com/yorkshirerows2015 or @yorkshirerows on Twitter.