Life
Peter Taylor-Whiffen 5 Jun 2018 04:27pm

An oarsome challenge

EY forensic accountant Emma Rogers tells Peter Taylor-Whiffen why she’s spending seven weeks at sea in an open boat

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Caption: Richard Ansett

As challenges go, it’s extreme:seven weeks; 2,400 miles across the Pacific Ocean; 90 minutes sleep at a time. In a rowing boat. But Emma Rogers isn’t fazed. “I cannot wait,” she says. “I’d be foolish to say I’m not nervous, but you just don’t often get this opportunity for such adventure.”

In June Rogers, a forensic accountant at EY, will join three team mates in an attempt to pull themselves from Monterey, California, to Honolulu – with the additional aim of becoming the fastest female crew to row across the Pacific.

“I’ve been rowing for about seven years and first saw this challenge advertised three years ago, but I didn’t have time to train,” says the 28-year-old. “So I thought I’d wait and let the mad idea go away, but it never did, and now here I am.”

Rogers and her crewmates form one of eight teams – and the only all-female foursome – competing in the Great Pacific Race, but they are mainly trying to beat the clock. “The fastest all-women time is just over 50 days,” she says.

“We are hoping to get across in 45 – it would be great to come back with a record.” It’s meant a long winter of training. “We’re on the water [near her home in Fulham] four hours a day – we’ve only missed two days because of snow and ice.

We start at 5am, then I cycle 10k to work, then back again, then go on the water again, and we also do weights. It’s the only way to fit in sufficient training.” Rogers’ level of commitment – she gave up a place on an Oxford MBA to do the race – is driving her to prepare as well as she can. “We’ll row in pairs, two hours on, two hours off, day and night,” she says. “We’ll be out there for seven weeks never sleeping for more than an hour and a half. And of course we have to take all our food with us. I’ve tried some of the freezedried packets…”

But it’s not just about the challenge or the record: Rogers – who also ran the Rotterdam Marathon last month as part of her training – is using the race to raise money and awareness for a cause close to her heart. As co-founder of the EY Sustainability Team for UK and Ireland, she says: “Eight million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year – in fact the Pacific has a huge mass of it that is five times the size of North Korea.”

The team is also looking to raise money, both to support the voyage itself and, primarily, for environmental charities Surfers Against Sewage and Sustainable Merton, with the aim of making Wimbledon one of the first plastic-free communities in the UK. “Every piece of plastic in the ocean is put there, directly or indirectly, by human action. We want to make people realise the damage being done to our environment. We hope the challenge of rowing across the Pacific faster than women have ever done before will help us to do that.” To track the crew in real time across the Pacific, visit their website at rippleeffectrowing.com