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Team Talk: Q&A with Atlantic Ocean Rower Helen Butters

More people have climbed Mount Everest than have rowed across an ocean and of those rowers only a small percentage are women.

Helen Butters, however, is one of those women. And her story is special.

One of four Mums from Yorkshire who successfully powered themselves across the Atlantic in 67 days as a team in 2016, leading to national recognition and a Sunday Times bestselling book.

To mark International Women’s Day, we invited Helen into our factory for a special team talk, documenting her journey from mid-life ‘opportunity’ to inspiring record-breaker.

We caught up with Helen after the talk to learn more:

Tell us the story behind ‘Four Mums in a Boat’

Helen: Four Mums in a Boat was just four Mums entering a rowing race, motivated by wanting to have some time off work! But it’s what has followed that has surprised us all. We got an honorary doctorate and wrote a Sunday Times Bestseller. At the time we also achieved a world record for being the oldest women to row any ocean.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that all of that was about to happen, I would never have believed them. And all that happened because I said yes to an opportunity.

The International Women's Day theme for this year is Inspire Inclusion. How do you think your story relates to that?

HB: What we did was something very unusual. It was all about ordinary women doing extraordinary things. People can relate to us because we’re not Olympians – We are working Mums! The ocean rowing community is very male dominated. It was very military, but they were very inclusive of us, so we had such a positive experience. We did something that not many women do, so I am hoping our story will inspire other women to do something not typically inclusive of women.

At the end of last year, I went back to La Gomera (Canary Islands) to see the start of the race. It was the first time I had been back since 2016, and there were 38 women in the field, compared to just eight back then. They all came up to me and said that they had read the book and been inspired to take part themselves as a result.

How has it been to come here, meet our team members and see how a Formula One team works?

HB: We talk a lot about how our boat, Rose, was made from the same material as a Formula One car, so it feels like a real full circle moment being here. It is so cool to see what goes on behind the glamour, and how hard everyone is working. You don’t get to see behind the scenes very often.

It’s all about what goes on behind the scenes and we felt the same when we did our row. People saw the end product, but we could not have been Four Mums in a Boat without our ground crew, the team who built the boat, our trainers, and all the grandmothers who looked after our kids! Formula One is a team sport, and it was no different for us.

What was the biggest takeaway from what you achieved as Four Mums in A Boat?

HB: What sticks with me the most is that being out of my comfort zone brings clarity. Clarity on who I am, what I want to do, and what brings me join. I was learning every day in that boat. I got clarity on who I am, what I wanted to do next, and then I actioned that when I came home.

You cannot row the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

What advice would you give women about stepping into the unknown?

HB: It is about being sure of what you want to do. I was sure there was an opportunity coming my way and I just had to say yes. I knew I wanted to do it, but I had to find a way of doing it. The biggest piece of advice I would give is to say yes to every opportunity. Because if you’re not afraid of failing then it doesn’t matter.

It's about having the confidence to say yes to things, no matter who you are.

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