Lauren “Nini” Champion, an Annapolis native, and her Canadian partner Lisa Roland have recently set a new world record for the fastest women’s duo to row across the Atlantic Ocean. The formidable pair completed the daunting 3,000 nautical mile journey from La Gomera, Spain, to English Harbour, Antigua, in an astonishing 45 days, 1 hour, and 27 minutes, beating the previous record by nearly 6 hours.
The race, known as the World’s Toughest Row, saw the duo battling against mountainous waves and gusting winds of over 30 knots in their boat, “Invictus.” Despite the grueling conditions, Champion, driven by a desire to live life to its fullest, and Roland, a sailing captain, rowed tirelessly in shifts, alternating every two hours.
Reflecting on the challenge, Champion, a rigging technician with a background in sailing, said, “The first week, we were kind of acclimating, but then the next two to three weeks we were at sea, there was really light wind, and when we were in those conditions, we were learning diligence of getting up for your watch. So very vividly, I remember you would have your alarm go off, and your mind wakes up. You feel your body come into itself. You are aching everywhere, and all of a sudden there is something deep within yourself saying – I gotta get up for my watch and keep going, so there is this driving force that keeps you going. Maybe not the hardest moment, but it’s definitely a moment where you overcome something” The race was a test of physical endurance and a mental battle, with both rowers pushing through extreme fatigue.
Team Ocean Grown’s journey was a record-breaking feat and a mission with a cause. The team initiated the Bridges Over Water Fund, aimed at helping ten young adults who aged out of foster care to start a maritime career. The fund opened applications on December 12, 2023, the day the race commenced, and will continue for three months.
Champion, who grew up sailing around Annapolis and later joined her brother in Antigua to become a professional sailor, remarked that joining the sailing industry was a path that found her. Champion and Roland boast over 60,000 nautical miles of sailing experience between them.
Their boat, equipped with a desalinator capable of producing 20 liters of potable water per hour, carried 90 days’ worth of food. The team estimated the journey would require 1.5 million oar strokes, and rowers typically lose an average of 26 pounds during such crossings.
This incredible achievement by Team Ocean Grown is a testament to their physical and mental strength and a source of inspiration and a means to support others in pursuing maritime careers.