17 October 2017

A Shropshire Midwife will swap the calm waters of the River Severn for the mighty Atlantic Ocean later this year.

Sharon Magrath, Specialist Midwife at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford, will be joined by two other women when she sets off from La Gomera in Tenerife to the English Harbour in Antigua on 12 December.

The Atlantic Ladies pose for one last photograph with their boat Poppy before it shipped out to La Gomera. From left, Elaine Theaker, Sharon Mcgrath and Dianne Carrington.

More people have climbed Everest than have rowed the Atlantic Ocean, making the 3,000 miles Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge one of the toughest challenges on the planet.

Sharon, 54, of Shrewsbury, will be joined by Dianne Carrington, 61, from Pontesbury, and Elaine Theaker, 54, from Abergavenny. They will become the only crew of three women to row any ocean.

Sharon, a mother-of-two who has worked in the NHS for the last 36 years, said: “I have always been interested in health and fitness and love running, cycling and attend the gym as often as possible in between juggling work and home life.

“I have embarked on a couple of challenges over the last few years, one year I completed the London Marathon and a few years later I joined a team of cyclists who pedalled from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in one week.

“During a recent visit to the gym I was asked by Dianne if I would like to be part of a ‘mature’ ladies team to row the Atlantic. My initial response was ‘wow what an amazing experience and challenge’. When I told my son, who lives in Oxford, he simply texted me back with the word ‘cool’.

“After a few days of research I realised just how tough the challenge would be as rowing 3, 000 miles can take as long as 70 days, rowing two hours on with two hours off, 24-hours-a-day with the risk of storms, huge waves, capsizing and having to swim under the boat to clean off the barnacles.

“Despite the reality of the challenge, I am so grateful that I have been asked to join the Atlantic Ladies team. I started my rowing adventure by joining a local rowing club and am looking forward to embarking on what will be the biggest challenge of my life and at the same time be raising money for worthwhile charities.

Sharon Mcgrath, Specialist Midwife at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, inside Poppy, their £50,000 boat that will become their home for approximately 65 days.

“I am at an age now where I appreciate how very fortunate I am to continue to enjoy good health and realise how life’s circumstances can quickly change. This challenge for me is about celebrating life and showing that you are never too old to learn something new and to challenge yourself.

“We didn’t all know each other before joining together to form a team to take on the challenge, but have been brought together by the spirit of adventure.”

The team, who have named their boat Poppy, are aiming to raise thousands of pounds for Motor Neurone Disease Association, Macmillan Cancer Support and Association and Relapsing Polychondritis UK.

Each crew member chose a charity to raise funds for; with Sharon opting for Motor Neurone Disease after a close friend was diagnosed with the condition.

Sharon, who will take sabbatical leave from The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust from 30 November to 1 April 2018, said: “Like most people I had heard about Motor Neurone Disease but did not truly appreciate how devastating the effects of it can be and how quickly the disease can progress.

“In a matter of months my friend faced the daily challenges of fatigue, the inability to speak, difficulty with swallowing and eating, knowing that currently there is no cure for the illness.

“Despite the life changing effects on herself and her family she always has a smile on her face and is full of hope that one day there will be a cure. Immediately following her diagnosis she continued to live life to the full which included campaigning hard with the rest of her family to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Unfortunately, her illness has progressed quite quickly but with the support of her family she continues to enjoy short walks or a ride in her wheelchair to enjoy the fresh air.

“I have been humbled and inspired by my friend and her family, despite her diagnosis they continued  to support others and each other through their campaigning and I would like to use this challenge as an opportunity to support them and other families affected by Motor Neurone Disease.”

The team have so far raised approximately £20,000 for the three charities.

To sponsor Sharon visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sharonmagrath-atlanticchallenge or for more information about the challenge visit www.atlanticladies.co (correct)

The race will start on December 12, 2017.

Did you know?

  • The race fleet will be spread out over hundreds of miles and the Atlantic Ladies must cross the Atlantic unsupported and be fully self-sufficient to ensure they are not disqualified. It is likely that we may not see another boat from within hours of the start until the finish line.

    The team – in their NoMan boat – during a 200 mile Mediterranean ‘training row’ from Ibiza to Barcelona.

  • The boat will be fitted with a machine that converts sea water into fresh water. They will use this to rehydrate dried rations for food.

  • The boat will contain enough food for 65 days. Despite each crew member aiming to take on 4,300 calories a day they expect to lose weight; up to 20 per cent of their body mass.

  • How will they go to the toilet? This is the question the Atlantic Ladies get asked the most. ‘Bucket and Chucket’ is an expression that many ocean-rowers use.

  • They will face storms, adverse weather condition and hunger and sleep deprivation; it will be the challenge of their lives.

  • By downloading an App called Yellow Brick Races you can regularly track the progress of the Atlantic Ladies.

  • Their boat, Poppy, built Justin Adkin of Sea Sabre, cost more £50,000.