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Solo Atlantic Crossing: Insights from an Inspiring Woman

I met an inspiring woman at the harbour during our holidays. I simply had to talk to her, so I went to their table where she was drinking her coffee.

Half an hour later we were sitting in her 20 feet long boat, having a lovely discussion. The boat on which she'll row across the Atlantic Ocean. Alone. For 40 days.

She's committed. She's prepared. She's funny and kind. And she's raising funds with her rowing to support Action Medical Research’s special campaign which focuses on rare child diseases.

Last night, while enjoying a holiday by the harbour, I chanced upon an intriguing sight: a boat that seemed to whisper tales of adventure and courage. This discovery led me to Linda Blakely, from Northern Ireland - an awe-inspiring woman with a mission that defies age and stereotypes. I had the privilege of interviewing Linda, who, at 50, is preparing for a record-breaking solo paddle across the Atlantic Ocean. My encounter with Linda wasn't just an interview; it was an inspiring lesson in breaking age barriers and pursuing passion with relentless vigour.

When I first approached Linda, her presence radiated an aura of approachability and strength. Her plan to row solo across the Atlantic is not just a test of endurance but a bold statement against age stereotypes in sports. As a fellow 50+ sports enthusiast, I felt an immediate connection with her mission.

The Journey Begins

Linda plans to embark on her ambitious journey from Gran Canaria to Barbados, spanning 3,000 miles of ocean on her 20-foot boat named Ulster Warrior. This extraordinary feat isn't just a personal challenge; it's a statement to the world about the capabilities of senior women in sports. Linda, celebrating her 50th birthday mid-ocean, wants to raise funds for Action Medical Research and awareness for women's unyielding potential in sports.

Inspiring the Next Generation

Linda's work extends beyond sports. She operates children's homes in London, providing care and guidance for those with learning disabilities and emotional or behavioural challenges. They’re provided a safe environment in which to thrive and promote their self-independence to move on when they become 18. This work mirrors her philosophy in sports – fostering confidence and independence, laying a foundation for young adults to realize their full potential.

The Role of Sports in Personal Development

For Linda, sports is an integral part of life, not just an additional activity. She instills this belief in the children under her care, emphasizing the importance of incorporating sports into their daily routines. Her philosophy is simple: Get out there, move, and enjoy it.

Mental and Physical Preparation

Preparing for such an endurance challenge involves more than just physical training. Linda has meticulously prepared, ensuring her routines become second nature. This includes everything from maintaining hygiene to safety drills – a testament to her dedication and attention to detail. She plans to do 3 hours shifts of rowing and eating / sleeping.

Safety at Sea

Understanding the unpredictability of the ocean, Linda has equipped herself with a plethora of safety measures. From para-anchors to personal locator beacons, she ensures that she can manage any situation that arises during her solitary journey. The keel measures 1 meter in length, and the boat is constructed such that it will right itself if capsized (personally, I would not be keen to put this feature to the test).

Support and Solidarity

Linda's story is not just about individual achievement; it's about collective encouragement and empowerment, especially among women in sports. Her journey is a beacon of inspiration for others, proving that age is merely a number and not a limitation.

A Record in Sight

A seasoned Ironman athlete (represented Team GB in long-distance triathlons, earning a silver medal at the European Championships), Linda is no stranger to endurance sports. However, rowing is a relatively new endeavour for her – she’s been ont he water only for 2 years. She aims not only to complete the journey but also to break the current female solo record, that is 40 days and 19 hours, set by Victoria Evans (UK) in 2022. Her competitive spirit, combined with a supportive community, underlines the essence of sportsmanship.

The Final Stretch

As Linda prepares for her journey, she carries with her the support and well-wishes of many, including heartfelt messages from the children she cares for. Her goal is clear: to do her best, regardless of the outcome. This journey is as much about personal growth as it is about setting records.

Supporting the Cause

For those inspired by Linda's story and wishing to support her cause, she can be followed on Instagram (@blakely.linda) and through her JustGiving page for Action Medical Research

In conclusion, Linda Blakely represents more than an athlete; she is a symbol of perseverance, female empowerment, and the boundless potential of the human spirit. Her journey across the Atlantic is not just a physical voyage but a metaphorical journey breaking barriers and setting new benchmarks in sports and life.

P.S.: When I enquired about the silver covering of the boat, presuming there was a particular reason, she responded: "I like shiny."

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