Record-breaking rower talks teamwork and resilience at Woldingham

Last Updated on : 1st December 2016


Emma Mitchell, who completed a world record breaking row across the Pacific, spoke at Woldingham as part of our ‘Thinking Big’ Speakers Programme.  The coxless rowers spent 257 days at sea, at times spending hours rowing against unfavourable currents just to stay on course.

Emma talked to the girls about the importance of teamwork, values and resilience.  The all-women rowing team relied upon six core values to keep them focussed and motivated, often in the face of setbacks and extreme weather.  These were encapsulated in SPIRIT: Strength; Perseverance; Integrity; Resilience; Inspiration; Trust.

Wildlife highlights included rowing beside a humpback whale, Fernando the shark and albatrosses.  There was less enthusiasm for the flying fish that would hit them at night and the desolation at being overtaken by a turtle.


There were fascinating insights into the reality of a life in the middle of the Pacific; the team rowed continuously as pairs in two-hour shifts, sleeping 90 minutes at a time.  Food revolved around freeze-dried meals, washed down with desalinated sea water – by the end they were left with just their least favoured dried meal of apple and custard.

The coxless crew were the first all-female team and the first team of four to row the Pacific in 2015, starting at San Francisco and finishing in Cairns, Australia. The 9,200-mile (14,800km) expedition took nine months, three months longer than originally planned, and has set two world records.

The expedition raised over £65,000 for the charities Walking with the Wounded and Breast Cancer Care, and has been filmed for a documentary called Losing Sight Of Shore.


Head of Sixth Form, Josephine Lane, said, “Girls have been introduced to eminent speakers from a wide range of backgrounds through our ‘Thinking Big’ lectures, each of whom have broadened the students’ academic horizons, given them amazing examples of courage in adversity, and shown them how they too can make a difference in the world.”

Upper Sixth student Eleanor said:

“The inspiring message that many of us came away with from Emma’s talk was that we all have our own Pacific Oceans to cross, and all we need is the strength to cross them. What stood out significantly for me was when she said “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Hearing about Emma’s journey against the odds, met by storms, sharks, and sunburn was extremely uplifting and reinforced the idea that as independent young women we are capable of anything we set our minds to.”


Woldingham is an independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11-18, providing an outstanding education within a supportive and inclusive Catholic community, rated as 100% excellent in every category (ISI Inspection Report 2012).  Set in a 700 acre valley and just 25 minutes from Clapham Junction,  Woldingham train station is in the school grounds.

The Good Schools Guide describes it as having a “Long‐standing reputation for creative excellence now matched by burgeoning academics.”  Over the last two years 16 girls secured Oxbridge places and the top leavers’ destinations in 2016 were to the Universities of: UCL, Oxford and Manchester.


For further details or to arrange a tour, please visit

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