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Nova Scotian breaks world record as part of fastest women's pair to row Atlantic

Rowers Lauren Champion, left, and Lisa Roland completed the Atlantic crossing in a little over 45 days. (World’s Toughest Row - image credit)
Rowers Lauren Champion, left, and Lisa Roland completed the Atlantic crossing in a little over 45 days. (World’s Toughest Row - image credit)

Halifax's Lisa Roland and American partner Lauren (Nini) Champion rowed into the record books last week as the fastest women's pair to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

It took them 45 days, one hour and 27 minutes to cover more than 5,500 nautical kilometres.

Roland was raised in Ontario but moved to Nova Scotia as a teenager. She calls Halifax home.

The two women set off from the Canary Islands, off the western coast of Africa, on Dec. 13 as part of the World's Toughest Row (Atlantic) competition.

Competing as Team Ocean Grow, Roland and Champion completed the crossing on Jan. 27 when they arrived in English Harbour, Antigua. They broke the previous record by about six hours.

Speaking from Antigua to CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax, Roland said she and Champion worked in the sailing industry in Antigua at one time and each decided separately to participate in the rowing event as a personal challenge.

She said neither of them had experience in the sport but they discussed it and decided to team up. That was in 2020.

Team Ocean Grown rested and rowed in two-hour rotation.
Team Ocean Grown rested and rowed in two-hour rotation.

Team Ocean Grown rested and rowed in a two-hour rotation. (World's Toughest Row)

According to Roland, they took turns rowing in a two-hour rotation during their record crossing.

"In that two hours off that you have between your rowing shifts, that's also when you have to take care of your nutrition, you have to take care of your hygiene," she said.

She said they carried freeze-dried food and tried to consume 4,000 calories a day each to give them enough energy to keep going. Participants will burn upwards of 5,000 calories per day.

Roland said their boat partially capsized late in the race but they were able to right it. She said there was no damage to the equipment but she lost all of her personal items.

She said she made some makeshift shoes out of neoprene socks and pushed through.

They were both very stiff after the race, she said, but they're happy to be finally able to catch up on sleep.

Haligonian Lisa Roland and Lauren Champion of Maryland  broke the previous record by almost 6 hours.
Haligonian Lisa Roland and Lauren Champion of Maryland broke the previous record by almost 6 hours.

Champion and Roland broke the previous record by almost six hours. (World's Toughest Row)

Roland, who grew up in foster care, used the race to raise money for Ocean Grown, a charity she started with Champion.

She said the charity provides a unique maritime education scholarship to allow former foster youth from North America and the Caribbean to pursue maritime careers.

"I found the sailing industry at 19 years old and it vastly changed my life," Roland said.

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