On Thursday March 17, with blisters on her hands and sores on her bottom, sailor Lia Ditton rowed into Antigua, a proud finisher of the Atlantic Rowing Race. For 73 days, she and a partner rowed in 12-hour shifts from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. They crossed 2,500 miles nonstop with no assistance. Rowing in close quarters for over two months proved to be both physically and mentally trying for Ditton, but the 29-year-old knew it was just the challenge she needed to prepare her for the Barcelona World Race, which she plans to compete in later this year.
Going into the Atlantic Rowing Race, Ditton had completed 12 ocean crossings, three solo races and numerous deliveries spanning 75,000 miles. She was the youngest competitor and only woman to finish the Farady Mill OSTAR in 2005 and one of only four women to enter the Route du Rhum in 2006. Her sights are now set on the second edition of the Barcelona World Race, which begins on December 31, 2010 and sails from Barcelona to Barcelona, rounding all three capes in IMOCA Open 60s.
Like the Atlantic Rowing Race, the Barcelona Race is a double-handed event that requires not only superb seamanship, but also the ability to live and work with another teammate for months on end. Over the course of 73 days, Ditton lived and rowed with her partner, 44-year-old Mick Birchall. The two met only two weeks before taking off and didn't discover the extent of their differences until they were far at sea. Living on a small rowboat leaves little room for privacy, so the team found ways to divide their time above and belowdecks, and give one another as much space as possible.
In addition to the interpersonal challenges aboard her boat, Ditton also experienced physical pain. She suffered chronic tendonitis in her fingers and had to rely on high doses of painkillers to get her through her shifts.
Still, in spite of the many obstacles, Ditton and Birchall crossed the finish line seventh in their class, competing against 18 men's pairs and one women's pair. Ditton is hoping this experience will give her the edge she needs to finish in the top three in the Barcelona World Race. In the Open 60, she will need extreme mental and physical toughness for up to three months.
For more on the Barcelona World race, click here.