Thirsk teacher shares adventures and torment over 70 days at sea on solo row across an ocean at age of 21

Tormented by sleep deprivation after 70 days at sea, Jasmine Harrison’s thoughts focused on all the food she would quite like to eat.

Handout photo issued by Atlantic Campaigns of Jasmine Harrison after completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge after arriving at Antigua, West Indies. Atlantic Campaigns/Penny Bird/PA Wire

A pizza maybe, or a parmo, she said, like the one she had a friend describe to her via satellite phone while she rowed solo across the Atlantic.

At 21, North Yorkshire swimming teacher Ms Harrison has just become the youngest woman in the world to achieve such a feat, completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge on Saturday. She’s still spinning, she said yesterday, as she finds her ‘land legs’ once again.

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“It’s the most overwhelming moment, to step onto land,” she said, speaking via a video call from a sunny dock-side in Antigua.

Handout photo issued by Atlantic Campaigns of Jasmine Harrison after completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge after arriving at Antigua, West Indies. Atlantic Campaigns/Penny Bird/PA Wire

“I’m still not completely here, in my head.

“It has been very challenging, but the most amazing thing ever.”

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Ms Harrison, who works part time as a swimming teacher and bartender in Thirsk, first set her sights on the event three years ago. It followed a chance conversation with a crew member at the finish line of the 2018 Talisker Challenge.

Handout photo issued by Atlantic Campaigns of Jasmine Harrison after completing the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge after arriving at Antigua, West Indies. Atlantic Campaigns/Penny Bird/PA Wire

After 18 months of training, she left the Canary Islands on December 12.

It’s been “incredible and crazy”, she said, beaming yesterday after an exultant finish in the West Indies after 70 days, three hours and 48 minutes at sea.

“The first couple of days were a nightmare,” she said. “I was seeing things – I was convinced there was land when there wasn’t. I was lost, I didn’t know what I was doing.

“It was daunting to look up and realise the land has gone, and to not know when I’ll see it again.

“But then amazing things start to happen.

“You see what nobody ever gets to see. The sunsets, and the flat calm waters, when you’re supposed to be rowing but you just have to stop to watch it all. I’m never going to stop getting excited at seeing dolphins. And every single evening was different. Every single night sky.”

Challenges

Sea life can be quite the challenge, the former Sowerby Primary and Thirsk High School student said.

She did not like the food, nor the big boats that would arrive suddenly in the night while she slept in two-hour stints.

Several times she found herself going backwards, charting up more miles than any other team. Two days before the finish, she capsized.

“I needed that,” she said. “It made me realise I was done, that I was ready to finish.”

Even as she adjusts to life back on land, Ms Harrison is thinking of home. It doesn’t feel far, she said, with a barrage of messages from family and friends.

“I’ve not actually stepped on a plane so my body doesn’t compute how far I’ve come,” she laughed. “I just want to see my dogs, and hug my dogs. I had their pictures in my cabin.

“And I’m never going to stop eating, I feel like I’m never going to be full.”

Charity

There were 21 entrants from across the world, from solo rowers to teams of four, for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, including former rugby league player Craig Forsyth from York, who is expected to finish soon.

Ms Harrison, who plans to welcome him across the finish line, has raised money for charities including Shelterbox, which she was inspired to support after witnessing hurricane damage on an earlier visit to the Caribbean.

Carsten Heron Olsen, chief executive of race organisers Atlantic Campaigns, said Ms Harrison had shown "incredible strength and endurance".

"Every year we are amazed by the grit and determination shown by teams that take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and this year is no different," he said.

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