Yorkshire Rows: four women with one world record in their sights

WE TALK to Frances Davies, one of four Yorkshire mums training to race across the Atlantic ocean.

Four Yorkshire mums are preparing for one of the biggest challenges of their lives – rowing the Atlantic!

Four Yorkshire mums are preparing for one of the biggest challenges of their lives – rowing the Atlantic!


AT THE end of this year Yorkshire Rows, four mums from Yorkshire, will set off on a challenge to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic ocean. The row is part of a race that sees 30 teams set to test their endurance, stamina and resolve in what is seen as rowing’s toughest challenge. 


We were delighted when Frances Davies took the time out of her busy working and training schedule to talk to us about the team and the charities that will benefit from the girls’ efforts.


Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your life and have you always been a sporty person?


I grew up in the Yorkshire countryside and have always participated in sport. When I was a teenager I competed in athletics, changed to cross country at university and since then have regularly taken part in running, open water swimming and cycying events. Highlights have included the London Marathon, the Great North Swim, the Caledonia Etape cycling race and the Scottish Coast to Coast race. I have always enjoyed a challenge! Some of the attractions of these events are the opportunity to raise money for great causes and the ability to travel across and really see the landscape at a slower pace than in a car.


Professionally, I have been a solicitor for almost 20 years. I was an equity partner at my last firm but the most exciting chapter of my career has happened in the last two months when I have set up a boutique private client law firm, Progeny Private Law, with three former colleagues. The timing is interesting as setting up a new business at the same as preparing to take part in the World’s Toughest Rowing Race has led to some extremely busy days! At the same time it’s rewarding on so many different levels.


My very understanding husband, Mark and I live in York with our two sons, Jay and Jack.



The ladies are currently training for 60 to 90 minutes a day.


What inspired you to join up with the three other girls for the challenge of rowing the Atlantic?


It was a combination of factors all hitting at the same time: a love of rowing which I took up just four years ago, meeting Niki, Helen and Janette and striking up a wonderful new friendship with these amazing women, and a sense of age creeping up on me!


Could you tell us a little more about each of the other mums involved and how long have you known each other?


Our skipper, Janette, is a formidable presence. She grounds us all with a wonderful sense of humour yet is decisive when she needs to be. Janette ran her own successful clinical research company for many years and having sold the business now still works for the new owner. Janette is married to Ben, a Frenchman and a keen sailor who has been able to give us useful advice. They have two children, James and Safiya.


Niki and her husband, Gareth, own and run a wealth management company, Stanford Rhodes Wealth Management, so she also has her hands full on the work front. They have two sons, Corby and Aidan. It is no exaggeration to say that Niki is the most organised person on the planet! Her unceasing enthusiasm for the logistical preparations has been essential. Niki also brings our team’s secret weapon: her family! They have been with us every step of the way and we will need to remember to check very carefully at the start of the race that Niki’s father, Pete, is not hidden in one of the cabins!


Helen is married to Richard, a barrister and they also have two children, Lucy and Henry. Helen works in communications with the NHS. Helen brings a spiritual element to the boat. She is also the world’s best networker and has been largely responsible for our growing TV and radio careers. Helen is our social media expert – keeping our profile as high as possible on Facebook and Twitter with daily postings. She doesn’t work in communications for nothing!

As a group, we have known each other for four years. We met when we all decided to learn to row at the same rowing club. Our children also go to the same school and some are in the same year groups so we did know each other a little before then.


row the atlantic

Frances Davies talked to us about Yorkshire Rows and the team’s Atlantic Row challenge.

What charities will benefit from the row and what do they mean to each of you?


We thought long and hard about which charities to support. Eventually we settled on two: Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Maggie’s is currently building a new centre at St James’ Hospital in Leeds close to where we all live. They provide free practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and their families and friends in a warm and welcoming environment. Cancer has touched the lives of all four of us and Helen and I have both lost a parent to the disease so this cause means a lot to us.


Yorkshire Air Ambulance is a local Yorkshire charity, providing a life saving service across the county. They are an independent charity relying completely on donations and need to raise around £12,000 a day to keep their helicopters maintained and in the air. As they say “the next life they save could be ours” – or our friend’s or our families’ and so we want to raise as much as we can for both these wonderful charities.


How can people find out more and donate to the cause?


All the details of our row are on our website www.yorkshirerows.com and there is a link there to donate. We also have a crowdfunding site www.crowdfunder.co.uk/yorkshire-rows.


Anyone wanting to contact us can also do so through Facebook or Twitter or can call us on 07521 959627.


How intense is the training and could you tell us more about the North Sea row you have already completed?


We are trying to train for between 60 and 90 minutes a day. Unsurprisingly, training for a long row requires a lot of rowing so we have all hired rowing machines and spend as much time as we can on those – watching films and box sets as it can get a little boring! We also do regular weights sessions to improve our general strength and core muscles.


The North Sea was a humbling experience which gave us a lot of confidence and, at the same time, made us realise how much more we have to learn! It was a privilege to understand first hand how it feels to be out of sight of land and truly on our own in the middle of the sea with only each other and our boat, Rose, to rely on. I am very happy to say that Rose looked after us beautifully. 



The four mums’ training has included a North Sea row.


The row took us around 45 hours and so we now know what it’s like to live round the clock on a small boat with all the intimate detail that includes. There is certainly no privacy in such a small space! We didn’t realise it until just before we set off but we don’t think that any group of women has ever rowed across the North Sea before and we are now waiting for Guinness to confirm that we have set a new world record. 


The North Sea brought many challenges not least because it is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. We managed to miss all of the tankers but we didn’t escape the torment of seasickness! Helen and I both suffered quite badly so we are now trialling all sorts of different remedies to cope with this. We are hoping to row to the Isle of Man and back in September as we realise that real sea experience is what we need before the main event in December.


What habits do you fear most from the other girls on the row and which of your own habits or traits might be most annoying to the others?


Spending up to nine or ten weeks in a space 8m by 1.5m is going to be ridiculously challenging anyway but adding in the unpredictable elements of the ocean and the weather will mean that we are all tested to our limits. When fatigue and emotion are heightened I am sure that all of our irritating habits will be too! For me personally, it will simply be the constant presence of other people without any possibility of getting away which will be the hardest. Some of us tend to talk a lot and that might become a little trying at times! As to my own irritating habits, that’s probably for the others to comment on!


If you could sum up in no more than 15 words your message to all those who are inspired and interested in what you are doing, what would those words be?


If four middle-aged working mothers can row an ocean then nothing is impossible!

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