The hockey players taking on the world's toughest rowing race

Astro To Atlantic 1
For many club hockey players the thought of travelling outside of a 25 mile radius to play at the weekend can be quite a daunting one.

But such a distance is nothing for four Kingsbridge & Salcombe Hockey Club players who are preparing to embark on 3000 mile row when they take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.

Gemma Harvey, Chloe Harvey, Helen Symons and Lou Read make up the ‘Astro to Atlantic’ team set to compete in the race that starts in San Sebastian, Canary Islands in December 2018. In doing so they are hoping to become the fastest all-female crew to reach the finishing point of Nelson’s Harbour English Dockyard in Antigua. The current record stands at 40 days.

Helen and Lou came up with the idea while cycling from John O’Groats to Lands End a couple of years ago and a Prosecco-fuelled text last New Year’s Eve confirmed their decision to enter this non-stop race.

Before long they had recruited cousins Gemma and Chloe to create a quartet with plenty of experience of working together, having been team-mates for over a decade, a factor the latter believes will prove crucial to a successful voyage.

“I believe our hockey experiences together will be a great advantage on the challenge,” competitive CrossFit athlete Chloe said. 

“We have played hockey together for 11 years and been through some extreme highs and lows. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses without having to say very much. Our ability to recognise when someone is feeling low and how to boost them on is a huge advantage. 

“I personally have had the privilege of captaining our hockey team for the last three years which has taught me a lot in terms of enthusiasm and positivity. I believe our resilience, persistence and grit will serve us well on the Atlantic.”

Astro To Atlantic 2

As a group they are fully aware that this will be possibly the toughest thing they have ever done, a feat much harder than taking on even the toughest of hockey opposition.

It will be physically demanding and mentally draining, something that Lou – who will celebrate her 50th birthday during the row – is already acutely aware of.

She explained: “We will all have our own individual challenges but I think some of the hardest ones will be the sleep deprivation, dealing with prolonged periods of being cold and wet and missing our families and friends back at home. 

“But I think inevitably the biggest challenge will be mentally - the monotony of being at sea on what seems like an endless ocean with no other company or entertainment than each other.”

Despite that they are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to row together across the world’s second largest ocean, with Gemma believing their togetherness will spur them on during the toughest of times.

“It is amazing to be able to complete this challenge together. Being able to share that sense of achievement with each other once we’ve made it to the other side will be the best feeling,” the University of Exeter graduate said.

The ‘Astro to Atlantic’ team is raising money for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust and also offering a range of sponsorship opportunities during the challenge. For more information on this and the race you can visit or email

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