A woman who only took up rowing five years ago to overcome a fear of drowning is aiming to become half of the first female pair to row around Britain.
Charlene Ayres, 30, and Sally Kettle, 36 – dubbed the Coast Girls – will set a Guinness World Record if they complete the 2,000 nautical-mile, 45-day challenge, which sets off from London’s Tower Bridge on Saturday.
They are entering the gruelling GB Row 2013 – dubbed the “toughest rowing race in the world” – round Britain’s coast in their 23ft plywood boat the Pendovey Swift.
Charlene took up the sport to conquer her fears after nearly drowning in an accident that saw her pushed into Cosmeston Lake, near Penarth, on a college trip.
She enlisted the help of experienced seafarer Sally – the first woman to row the Atlantic Ocean twice from east to west – when seeking advice on the challenge.
Now the pair have the new record firmly in their sights.
Charlene said: “I met Sally last year when I started to plan the challenge. I got in contact with her for some rowing advice.
“She said: ‘you need lots of people in the boat’ and, lo and behold, we are the first female pair.
“I am really excited and nervous – it’s such a huge challenge, it’s a huge undertaking.
“It’s going to be something we are going to look back on and think: ‘wow, we have achieved this’.”
The pair’s route will see them take in Land’s End, The Inner Hebrides and John O’Groats before returning to London in July.
Charlene and Sally will take it in turns rowing at a constant 30 miles offshore, and are hoping their exploits will raise £20,000 for their charities, The Fire Fighters Charity and the MS Society.
The Fire Fighter Charity is a cause particularly close to Charlene’s heart after her mum Jeanette was rescued from a blaze at her home.
Charlene has had support from colleagues St David’s Hotel and Spa, Cardiff Bay – where she is a spa beautician and is used to looking out on the waters.
Graeme Barclay, general manager of St David’s Hotel and Spa, said: “All the staff at St David’s Hotel and Spa are backing her every mile, and look forward to welcoming our record-breaker back in July.”
Any of the eight boats to beat the fastest-time record of 26 days, 21 hours and 14 minutes will win a £100,000 bonus – the world’s richest rowing prize.
To support Charlene, visit www.coastgirls.co.uk