In mid-December, Rowegians will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to embark on a 5,500km journey across the Atlantic, to the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. They will compete in a rowing boat together with approximately 30 other teams in the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, also called “the world’s toughest row”. Two of the four women on the Rowegians team currently work in Schibsted: Sophie Stabell in the People, Strategy & Projects department in Schibsted ASA and Camilla Bull as Commercial Advisor at Brand Studio in Norway. They will row together with Hege Rødal Svendsberget and Cornelia Bull (Camilla’s sister).
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Rowegians’ aim to break the Norwegian record, crossing the Atlantic in less than 58 days, and to become the first Norwegian women to ever row across an ocean. The team will be completely unassisted, living aboard the 28-foot boat with supplies to last them 70 days, packed in 20 tiny compartments distributed throughout the hull. Two girls will be rowing at any time, and the team members will row in shifts, two hours on, two hours off 24/7.
CEO Ryssdal joined training session
Schibsted is Rowegians’ main sponsor. The project has strong links to Schibsted’s core values: We are a team – We are innovative – We have integrity – We are here to win.
“When I first heard about Rowegians, I thought their project was a quite crazy idea! However, I really admire the boldness, the optimism and the willingness they have to set a goal that is very tough to reach and will demand quite a lot of sacrifice from them. My hope is that Rowegians will reach their ambitious target safely and gain valuable experiences on themes such as teamwork and leadership along the way. I wish Rowegians all the best on their journey, and will follow their progress towards the Caribbean with a keen eye,” CEO Rolv Erik Ryssdal said.
Earlier this fall Rowegians invited Ryssdal to take part in one of their training sessions on the Oslo Fjord to give him a first-hand impression of the boat. You can see him together with the Rowegian crew in the video below:
Interview with Captain Sophie:
Extreme leadership across the Atlantic
Sophie Stabell is the captain on Ellida, Rowegians’ boat. We have asked her how she came up with the idea of rowing across the Atlantic, and what it will take them to succeed.
Sophie, what made you want to do this?
I was first introduced to the concept of ocean rowing when I studied in the UK. I was inspired early on but it took me some time to take the leap and start my own campaign. The first major step was to get Camilla on board, which proved really easy as she jumped at the opportunity. I guess we both had an urge to go on an adventure, to do something out of the ordinary and to explore what our bodies and minds are capable of – together as a team.
The challenge also stood out as the perfect challenge for us. Not many know that the first people who rowed across the Atlantic were two Norwegians in 1896. Their heroic achievement ended up in the shadow of Roald Amundsen’s polar expeditions. Since then only four Norwegians have rowed across any ocean, and they were all men. We hope to contribute to shed light on these forgotten explorers.
How did you select the team?
We were careful when choosing our team mates, so the selection process took more than six months. We decided on three criteria; useful experience, mental and physical strength and great team players. We found exactly that in Cornelia and Hege, and we really believe that we have a great mix of experience and skill onboard now. More importantly we get along really well as a group, which is crucial when spending months together in an extremely confined space.
How do you prepare for a race like this?
Preparations include a lot of different elements, from sourcing the boat, learning to use and repair the equipment (e.g. watermaker and autohelm) to planning the logistics of packing 5000 calories per person per day for 70 days. Of course physical training is a major part of the preparations but we have learned that rowing an ocean is more of a mental endeavour than a physical one. To prepare for this we have spent a lot of time with our mental trainer Sara Isakovic, focusing mostly on coping mechanisms, such as dealing with fear, pain, expectations, sleep deprivation and more.
What do you expect will be the greatest challenges?
We will meet two different sets of challenges. One is the most critical, such as woman overboard or capsizing, where preparations are about rigid safety routines and safety equipment. The other is the inevitable, such as blisters, sleep deprivation, fatigue and generally keeping ourselves and each other motivated. We find inspiration in Amundsen’s strategy to strive for progress every day. Pace ourselves, distribute energy and stick to the plan. Even when we can’t help being blown in the wrong direction we must remember that every day is one day closer to the goal!
What are you looking forward to the most?
We look forward to experiencing a primitive and simple existence where all you do is row, eat sleep – and repeat. Really taking a step away from our busy lives. I believe it will allow us to reflect and appreciate our surroundings in a whole new way. I can’t wait to see the stars at night, the sun rising and setting and hopefully beautiful creatures from the vast sea.
What can your colleagues in Schibsted learn from Rowegians’ adventure?
I really believe that our project demonstrates what can be achieved with great teamwork and commitment to a shared goal. I hope that our adventure will inspire people, not necessarily to row an ocean, but to be more adventurous and to have the courage to start something and then work hard to get there. No matter how difficult it might seem or how crazy people might think you are.
(Photo & Video: Green Eye Media)