Tunbridge Wells Hospital worker takes on the ‘toughest rowing race in the world’

OARSOME: The six team members of All Systems Row

Physician Associate Jessica Plail, 33, who works in the Trauma and Orthopaedic Department, is hoping to beat the current record together with her teammates when they row over 2,000 miles unassisted around Great Britain next year.

The GB Row Round Britain Race is acknowledged to be the toughest rowing race in the world as challengers have to be able to understand navigation as well as the sea’s tidal flow.

Jessica is one of four NHS workers making up an all female team of six called ‘All Systems Row’, and they’ll be taking a number of courses over the coming months to learn how to safely navigate around the country.

The rest of the team is made up by Steph Toogood (51), who lives in Bexhill and works privately as a brain injury physiotherapist; Charlie Cooper (21), a physiotherapist at Solent NHS Trust; Lia Evans (22) from Bexhill, a physiotherapist at East Sussex’s Conquest Hospital; Andrea Harwood (45), a social worker from Bexhill; and Sophie Harris (35), an elective amputee who works as an intern sports therapist at Plymouth Albion Rugby Football Club.

The team have also set themselves the target of beating the current record held by an all-female crew.

Jessica said: “To date, only six crews, including one female crew of four called the Segals, have completed this race. 

“The ladies’ Guinness World Record for the fastest row around the British mainland, which was set in August 2010 by the Seagals, stands at 51 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes. 

“We hope to challenge this time and in doing so gain a new world record.

“This is an unassisted race, meaning from start to finish we will be self-sufficient and cannot stop or take on provisions.

“Our boat is 10 metres long with two small cabins at each end. During our journey we will be reliant on solar energy for powering our navigation systems, water maker and electrical items.

 “As we are all passionate about environmental causes, we’ll be using the challenge as a way to raise money for a small Brighton-based charity called Renewable World which is striving to make renewable energy accessible to all, helping to end extreme poverty and reduce climate change.”

She added that the team was undergoing extensive training for the challenge.

“We’re all coastal rowers with varying degrees of experience ranging from two years to 10 years. However, Andrea is new to rowing so we’re currently teaching her – luckily she has a year to perfect her technique.

“In order to race safely we will be doing a lot of training leading up to the race. This will consist of long endurance training as well as cross-training and strength work. 

“We are looking to get coaching and training programmes developed for us, and Plymouth University have offered to do some physiological testing for us to help set our training parameters, which we will need to balance with nutritional support. 

“We’ve even got an executive leadership coach to help with team building. 

“Although I already knew Steph, Lia and Charlie, we only met the other two crew members six months ago after we were put in touch with Sophie via GB Row Challenge crew finder and Steph found Andrea through Bexhill sailing club.”

You can follow the team on Instagram @allsystemsrow

To sponsor All Systems Row, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/allsystemsrow

Photo: © Jane Allan

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