Meet the 35-year-old woman from Huddersfield who smashed the world record for a solo Atlantic row
“They were big rollers – at their worst they got so steep they would collapse in on themselves. They were the ones I was most scared of,” said Ms Evans after her record-breaking solo row from Tenerife to the Caribbean.
Huddersfield-born Ms Evans, who celebrated her 35th birthday at sea, smashed the world record by an incredible nine days.
Sounding chirpy on the phone from Port St Charles, Barbados, despite only four hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, Ms Evans said the doctor who examined her remarked “there was a lot more” of her than he had expected.
Her good health proved the benefit of “a hell of a lot” of preparation, including working with a coach who trains endurance athletes and focussing on keeping her head “in the right place”.
“You need to be able to keep yourself safe,” she said. “It felt like being one step away from something serious at times. You have to know yourself. There’s no one else out there. You can’t get off.”
She never slept for more than an hour, setting an alarm to wake up and check her seven-metre boat. In bad weather it was much less, as waves would come crashing into the vessel.
Her lowest point came at the end of the third week, when she was halfway across the Atlantic.
“I’d run out of resilience with bad weather and I had a wave into the cabin and lost some of my electrics and found out the stern cabin had locked itself from inside. I had to use a hacksaw blade and saw through the handle. It took three and a half hours.”
She had to call the boat firm so it could work out how to get into the cabin, which held vital gear including her life-raft, leaving her no escape in case of a capsize.
She said: “I was waiting for them to call and thinking it could be the end of the journey because of something so simple.”
But there were also moments of incredible beauty, the nights when she could see “more stars than you can imagine” and when a pod of dolphins joined her on her birthday. A huge shark also followed her.
“It popped up and my immediate reaction was to freeze – but after a second I thought ‘I’m in a boat. What’s it going to do?’”
Salted Hula Hoops was a treat, and her luxury was a memory foam pillow.
Her overwhelming feeling now is one of relief that it has gone well and she can spend time with loved ones.
Family from Huddersfield flew out to meet her, as did three friends. When she returns to the UK she will be back in London for her job as a corporate lawyer and Women in Sport advocate, aiming to improve access to sport for women.
Tori is halfway to raising £50,000 for the UK charity Women in Sport as part of her Sea Change Sport campaign, which aims to tackle the barriers that prevent access to sport for women and girls. She said: “There is a cultural perception of what women are capable of, which is outdated and not accurate.
“There’s a positive change but it’s not coming quick enough. There’s so much inactivity among young people, but disproportionately among young women.”