Karen Weekes aims to be the first Irish woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo
Karen Weekes already has her plans for Christmas Day 2021. She will be single-handedly rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.
Since her parents put her in a kayak when she was only two years old, the sense of adventure has anchored her life.
It started when she and a friend, Karen Kennedy, kayaked around Ireland. Later there were kayaking trips between the Lofoten Islands in Norway, along the coast of Croatia, and around the islands off the coast of Scotland.
Then she switched to cycling, undertaking a solo trip across Canada as well as bike rides in Alaska and along the west coast of the United States.
Karen has crossed the Atlantic twice. But his latest adventure, a 3,000-mile solo ocean trip in a rowboat, is his toughest trip.
Senior Lecturer at Cork-based Munster University of Technology, Karen lives in Kinvara, County Galway. “I was born in Dublin and have lived in many places, but I call Kinvara at home,” she says.
Her parents loved the outdoors and family outings with a focus on camping, fishing and sailing. These early adventures had a profound influence on Karen, who has been considering her solo attempt across the Atlantic for several years.
Karen has a PhD in Sports Psychology and has worked with rowers who have crewed boats on sea trips.
“I know what they went through. I had planned to wait a few years before doing so. Instead, I had planned to do more solo cycles in places like Mongolia and Uzbekistan.
But due to Covid-19 restrictions, I had to put those plans on hold.
“Last August I decided to ramble and have been training and planning the trip ever since.
Karen is attempting to become the first Irishwoman to complete an Atlantic solo row. Only 19 women in the world have completed the 3,000-mile journey, which she says will take at least 75 days. But as a precaution, she will pack enough supplies for 100 days.
Adventure planning is a mammoth task and Weekes is looking for corporate sponsorship to offset some expenses. She has purchased a boat which is currently being serviced in England and will be delivered to Galway later this month. Before long, she’ll be taking him on pirouettes around Galway Bay and along the west coast.
“There is a huge amount of logistics involved, like getting the right navigation and communications equipment. Recently I spent a weekend at the Cork Naval Base for a sea survival course.
“On some kayaking trips we have been hit by very high seas and you are still approaching danger. We had situations that we had to get out of.
“But I guess that’s my adaptation toolbox. It builds mental strength. Dealing with adversity on the high seas also gives everyone great respect for the sea. ”
The comforts of home will be scarce on the boat.
“Well, I won’t have a three-plate stove,” she laughs. “I will have a jet boiler and eat a lot of hydrated food, which means pouring hot water into a packet and eating its contents. So I’m going to check out what’s right for my stomach before I go. I will also bring lots of protein shakes and snack bars and have a watermaker on board to desalinate the seawater.
Rowing the Atlantic is a sure-fire way to lose weight.
“Typically, you’ll burn between 4,000 and 4,500 calories a day, and since you don’t eat heavy carbs and stuff like that, you’ll lose weight because you’re spending so much energy.”
Ultimately, she aims to row for up to 16 hours a day.
“I’ve spoken to many solo rowers who have all said that as the trip progresses you get used to rowing and get fitter so you can spend more time in the rowing. row. The rest of the time is divided between taking care of the boat, cooking, eating, sailing and sleeping. “
The mental challenge of being alone on the high seas for at least two and a half months fascinates Karen.
“When I was doing my PhD, I looked at the cognitive coping strategies of K2 mountaineers. I lived in their base camp in Pakistan for six weeks and interviewed them. I also interviewed elite runners who had competed in races over 100 miles.
“I tested the skills they shared when I cycled across Canada. I really pushed myself hard for 4,000 miles on the bike. So I think it gave me a good idea of how my mind works under pressure and stress. It goes to another level in terms of pushing the body and mind.
“But I can’t wait to explore my own headspace and see where the spirit goes. If you think about it – and a lot of rowers will say it too – it’s only 70 days of your entire life, so it’s probably not bad.
The underlying philosophy that governs travel is Weekes’ drive to encourage women to participate in adventure sports and step out of their comfort zone.
She also wants to highlight the UN’s sustainable development goals, in particular “gender equality” and “life underwater,” which focuses on the conservation of oceans and marine life.
Besides the obvious threat posed by storms and shipping, other dangers lurk in the Atlantic.
“Three of the boats in the annual race between Gran Canaria and Antigua were punctured by marlin. They did not attack the boats, but brushed under them and damaged their hulls. The crews had to come up with a quick fix, but when you’re on your own it’s a different ball game. “
His only luxury during the trip will be a robust sound system. “I love music and will have music from the audio system and hope I will also have the chance to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.”
For more information on Karen’s Travel Diary, visit shecando2021.org
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