Three friends and one dad take on toughest rowing race in the world

A father and daughter are among a fourman team taking on the worlds toughest rowing race. Catherine Scott reports.

(LtoR) Roger Staniforth, Brittany Staniforth, Victoria Micó Egea and Edward Raymont.Pictures: Ian Dearman
(LtoR) Roger Staniforth, Brittany Staniforth, Victoria Micó Egea and Edward Raymont.Pictures: Ian Dearman

Three Leeds graduates have teamed up to raise money for four charities when they take on a 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic.

University of Leeds alumni Victoria Micó Egea, 29, and Brittany Staniforth, 27 and Leeds Beckett alumni Edward Raymont, 28, together with Brittany’s father, Roger Staniforth, 59, make-up the four-man rowing ‘Generation Gap’ team, which will set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December.

The team chose the name Generation Gap in recognition of the 31-year age gap between its oldest and youngest members.

The team's training has been hampered by the coronoavirus pandemic

They will row 3,000 miles in a target of 42-days, arriving at the finish line in Antigua of the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, which is known as ‘the world’s toughest row’.

Victoria studied for her PhD in Physics at the University of Leeds, and Brittany spent six years studying Medicine.

The pair first met at the University of Leeds Rowing Club where, as committed and talented rowers, they competed together at a national level. Edward, who is Victoria’s partner, studied Sports Science at Leeds Beckett University before going on to join the Royal Marines.

The team is taking on the race in support of Mind, The Royal Marines Charity, Rural Assistance Nepal and Women’s Aid, with the aim of raising as much money as they can for each charity.

More people have climbed Everest than rowed the Atlantic ocean

“Life in lockdown has meant the last few months certainly haven’t been plain sailing for Generation Gap,” says Brittany, who works as a doctor at Bradford Royal Infirmary. The group has had to adapt to training apart from one another, develop new types of stamina and strength training whilst the gyms have been closed, as well as face the challenge of not being able to get out on the water for real rowing practice.

“But with five months to go until the race begins, we are feeling more committed than ever to reach the target for our four chosen charities. The relaxing of social distancing measures has meant Generation Gap is now finally able to get back out in our boat, Mandy, a Rannoch R45 built specifically for the team and race.

“My biggest fear is to see land going off into the distance and have nowhere to escape to just go for a walk and stretch your legs. Rowing should act as a nice distraction.”

Reflecting on the time spent training in lockdown, Edward, who is the team’s skipper, says: “It has definitely been a difficult few months as we, like so many across the UK, have had to adjust to the new normal. Social distancing measures have made rowing together in a small boat completely impossible, so we have focussed our training on building strength and stamina, doing virtual home workouts together where we can.

“Getting experience in our boat – named ‘Mandy’ after Roger’s wife and Brittany’s mum – is essential to the team’s preparation for the challenge, as we need comprehensive knowledge of the boat’s functionality for when we are in the Atlantic’s rough waters.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has truly emphasised the social inequalities faced by many, and we’re prouder than ever to be supporting charities that have proven invaluable to countless people during lockdown,” Victoria adds.

“To even attempt the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, we’re required to have spent a minimum of 72-hours rowing in our boat, including 24-hours in darkness. But really, the more time we get out on Mandy the better. I’ve been feeling anxious about how it would feel to be back in the boat, as there’s only so much training you can do off-water and in limited space at home. But as soon as we were out there together as a team, it just worked.

“When we first seriously talked about rowing the Atlantic at a BBQ I said I was in and then left it the idea drift away. Luckily I know people like Britt, who never let ideas drift away. And they are not going without me are they?

“Perseverance is what will get us to the other side. Each stroke will be one less stroke to go. Also look forward to the beer on the other side.

“My biggest fear is going back to normal life afterwards – I bet I’ll be addicted to rowing by then! Also building the mental strength not to doubt ourselves in the middle of the ocean.

“The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a formidable feat on its own, without factoring in a global pandemic. But we’ve seen just how important the work of our charities has been in this time, and that has motivated us to train harder than ever.”

The oldest member of the team, Roger is looking forward to the challenge.

“When Britt told me she was going to row the Atlantic, my first thought was … ‘Can I come too?’ I maybe not quite as fit as the younger team members, but I have never heard of a team having to give up because they weren’t physically fit enough.

“It is the team work what will get us to row across an ocean. There are bound to be tensions and stresses, not to mention sore backsides and blisters, but pulling together as a team to train, to achieve together and to recover afterwards is how we will do it. My biggest fear is letting the team down.”

Generation Gap departs for La Gomera on 12 December 2020. rowing east to west 3000 miles over the ocean, La Gomera to Antigua.