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Rowing to reduce ocean plastic – Bella Collins tells us what it takes to be an Ocean Sheroe!

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Bella Collins

As they row 2,700 miles across the Pacific Ocean, Bella Collins and her Ocean Sheroes teammates face the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance.

Bella, Purusha Gordon, Lily Lower and Mary Sutherland are participating in the Great Pacific Rowing Race, from San Francisco to Hawaii, on 25 May.

While more than 4,000 people have climbed Everest and 566 have been into space, only 60 individuals have rowed from mainland USA to Hawaii.

Rowing boat

The team’s vessel, and home for over a month, is a 28ft by 5ft ocean rowing boat.

With a tiny space for sleeping and a bucket for a toilet, there’s little room for creature comforts – or privacy.  

The inspirational Sheroes are attempting to finish the race in 40 – 45 days, breaking the current female-four World Record of 50 days, 8 hours and 14 minutes.

In order to be successful, they will row in shifts, two at a time, two hours rowing and two hours off. When not rowing, they will have to wash, eat - and try to sleep!

Inspired by Mums

It’s not first time Bella has faced such conditions. Not yet a parent herself, Bella says it was the thought of sleep starved new parents that got her through sleepless nights during her 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, in 2016.

“Sleep deprivation was one of the biggest challenges,” says Bella. “There were so many times when I was out at sea and I thought, ‘I'm really struggling’.

“Then I would think to myself, all I have to do is row. There are mums out there who are waking up every two hours and they've got to not only look after themselves, but also care for another human being, and this is new to them.

“Honestly, that thought would get me through so many shifts.” 

Keeping oceans and bottoms clean

As part of the race, the Ocean Sheroes are hoping to raise £60,000 for the Seabin Project, which reduces global ocean plastic pollution with innovative “rubbish bin” solutions. Each Seabin installed in the ocean can intercept floating debris and micro plastics in the water. 

ocean plastic

Helping the Ocean Sheroes to protect their skin and the ocean during the race, Pura is donating 4,000 of our 100% plastic-free, biodegradable, Water UK certified Fine to Flush baby wipes for the crew to ration throughout the race.

“We will use two wet wipes per shift per person,” says Bella. “So one is for a pee every shift and one is for cleaning yourself every shift. Then we get two wet wipes per day for a number two!

“So that equates to 4,000 wet wipes for the entire journey for us all. And we have to be really, really careful with that. We have to limit the amount, because of the weight.”

Pura’s flushable wipes disperse in moving water, so the used wipes can be discarded overboard into the ocean, lightening the load as the race progresses without causing any plastic pollution.

Our wipes also have gentle cleansing and skin soothing properties which should help keep the crew’s skin in good condition.

“We have a medical kit, but you're really far from any sort of hospital or help,” says Bella. “So that is also why the wet wipes are really important because we have to clean ourselves after every shift.

“You've got salt and sweat all over you and you have to make sure that you clean that all off and that there's no bacteria left. Hygiene is really, really important.”

flushable wipes

Sea sickness, bum sores and pressure sores from being constantly seated are all further ailments the crew can face.

“You never stand up,” says Bella. “You row then kind fall into your cabin so you don’t walk around properly for weeks and can get a sore bottom and pressure sores.  

“You can also get lots of bumps and bruises. Quite often the oars can bash into your chest or your shins, and if they break the skin it can get infected. It’s the same with your hands, where you can easily get calluses and blisters.”

Small changes

Sore bottoms, bumps and bruises aside, Bella says one of the highlights of her Atlantic row was disconnecting from the rat race and enjoying breathtaking seascapes.

“I remember two days where the water was a perfect turquoise and we saw silhouettes all of these different animals. There were turtles, a shark, dolphins and flying fish. It was just amazing. It's not like you see this every minute of the day, it might be once every three days. But when you do, you're like, oh, wow!”

As well as raising money for the Seabin Project, Bella has been busy making more sustainable and plastic-free choices in her personal life and hopes to encourage others to follow suit.   

“It can seem daunting, so people often don't start at all, because they think there are too many things in their life that they need to change,” she comments.

“But if they could make even one small change a month, I think people would be surprised by just how much they could reduce their yearly plastic usage.”

Bella says that she’s also taking a keener interest in the brands she uses and their eco credentials.

“It’s about having a bit more awareness about the brands I am buying from and what their values are,” she says.

“We've got such wonderful partners for the race and we are so over the moon to have Pura on board.”

Going for it

Ocean Sheroes

Bella hopes that she, and her Ocean Sheroes teammates, will inspire other women and girls to believe in themselves that little bit more.

“I've struggled with self-esteem and confidence and that's where this drive comes from,” she says.

“I'm always pushing myself to do better and I also love working with a team and having a challenge in my personal life, whether it's working or looking to raise money for charity.

“I'm so passionate about inspiring young people and I would just love to show more girls that they’re capable of so much.

“It doesn't mean you need to go and row an ocean. But if it means you pursue that job you're after, or go against the grain by not going to university, or whatever it might be.

“Just have bit of belief in yourself. If we can inspire just one person through this, I'm happy.”

You’ve certainly inspired us Bella. Look out for our interviews with the rest of the Ocean Sheroes team in the lead up to the big race.

 

 

 

 

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