The awesome foursome! Four York mums smash world record by rowing the Atlantic

They did it! The Yorkshire Rows celebrate reaching the finish line. Left to right: Niki Doeg, Helen Butters, Frances Davies, Janette Benaddi. Photographs: Ben Duffy
25 Feb 2016 @ 8.00 pm
| Charity, News

They’ve done it! Four York mums have successfully rowed across the Atlantic – and smashed into the record books as the oldest female crew to row across any ocean.

After 68 days at sea, Helen Butters, 45, Janette Benaddi, 51, Niki Doeg, 45, and Frances Davies, 47, arrived in Antigua on Thursday (February 25) after setting off from the Canary Island La Gomera on December 20.

The team, named Yorkshire Rows, were one of 26 teams rowing 3,000 miles as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – billed as the toughest rowing race on earth.

The quartet, from York and Selby, have survived a hurricane, been hit in the face by flying fish, and experienced equipment failures which left them without GPS and steering manually by compass for much of the challenge.

Dream come true

The banner says it all.  Left to right: Janette, Frances, Helen Butters and Niki-Doeg
The banner says it all. Left to right: Janette, Frances, Helen Butters and Niki-Doeg

Skipper Janette said:

It feels like a dream to have arrived.

This race truly deserves to be called the world’s toughest row; it felt like we were battling against the ocean and we are so proud to have achieved something that we originally thought was way beyond our capabilities.

Less than 100 women have rowed an ocean and now we as four mums have added to that and achieved a world record.

What an incredible feeling to share as four best friends.

Seasickness and celebrations

All at sea, but in control: the four in mid-Atlantic. Photograph: Yorkshire Rows Facebook page
All at sea, but in control: the four in mid-Atlantic. Photograph: Yorkshire Rows Facebook page

Surviving on dehydrated food and no more than two hours’ sleep at a time, the crew rowed in pairs for two hours on and two hours off, often battling through debilitating seasickness and painful sores and blisters.

But they have also celebrated birthdays – Niki turned 45 on January 22 – encountered schools of inquisitive dolphins, a friendly mother whale and her calf, and rowed under countless spectacularly starry skies at night.

The crew met four years ago at York’s Guy Fawkes Boat Club and made the brave decision to enter the race over a glass of wine at the boat club dinner.

To donate to Maggie’s text ROWS88 with the amount to 70070, or for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance text ROWS91 to the same number or visit yorkshirerows.com/donate

They have been raising money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) and Maggie’s, who will be opening a new cancer support centre at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds next year.

Huge acclaim

The team at York Marina before they set off. Photograph: Heather Corbett
The team at York Marina before they set off. Photograph: Heather Corbett

Their incredible achievement has won them fans round the world and plaudits from across Yorkshire.

Chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, Sir Gary Verity, said:

What an amazing achievement by an equally amazing group of women.

Janette, Niki, Frances and Helen have experienced a number of highs and lows while out at sea, but throughout it all they have shown true Yorkshire grit and ploughed on.

No matter what the Atlantic has thrown at them, their infectious positivity has shone through – they are an inspiration to us all.

I am so proud of them all, and would like to congratulate them on their incredible achievement.

“Everybody at Maggie’s would like to congratulate Janette, Helen, Niki and Frances on an incredible feat,” said Laura Lee, the charity’s boss.

And Paul Gowland, director of fundraising for Yorkshire Air Ambulance, said: “We couldn’t be more pleased for the ladies finishing their epic world record! 

“They have done so well to complete their row and conquered some amazing challenges along the way. 

“On behalf of everyone at the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, we want to send them our biggest well done and congratulations.”