ExtraOARdinary Alumnae take on Boldest Challenge Ever
  • Alumnae
  • Charity
  • Rowing

When we asked our alumnae recently 'what's the boldest thing you've ever done?', we didn't think it'd be the truly astonishing fundraising challenge two former LEH students are taking on this year.

Can you imagine spending nearly two months at sea on board a 23-foot boat largely open to the elements, being tossed on the towering waves, facing the worst the weather can throw at you, braving sharks, salt sores and shipping lanes, and having to carry all your carefully calculated supplies with you, as you row non-stop across 3,000 miles of the Atlantic?

No, neither can we, but that’s exactly what Abby Johnston (Class of 2007 and current LEH Senior Rowing Coach) and Charlotte Irving (Class of 2008) are planning to do.  They have teamed up with a third team member, Kat Cordiner, to row across the Atlantic in December 2021, to raise a whopping £100,000 for cancer charities adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For them, this is a deeply personal challenge, as Kat having already beaten cancer once, is currently battling against the disease again.

Abby says: ‘This challenge not only represents a chance for us to raise awareness of the massively detrimental impact COVID-19 has had on the diagnosis and treatment against cancer, but also to inject a much-needed fundraising boost to our charities that have missed out on their usual opportunities this year.’

Abby and Charlotte both learned to row at LEHBC and were part of the crew that became National Champions in 2007. They then went on to row together at Newcastle University winning various national titles and qualifying for Henley Royal Regatta, but now they are taking on the toughest rowing race in the world.

As part of a three-woman team, EXTRAOARDINARY, they are rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in December 2021 in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

We are calling on our wonderful LEH community to show them all the support we possibly can. We will be following the bold trio over the next year as they step up their training regime and bringing you regular news and updates. Every LEH pupil, past and present, knows that Hope Favours the Bold, and what we all need more of right now is hope, so let’s do everything we can to help the ExtraOARdinary team achieve their bold endeavours. We will be cheering them on every inch of the way.

You can follow their progress on Instagram: @weareextraoardinary , facebook: @weareextraoardinary or on their website: weareextraoardinary.com. Crucially you can lend your support by helping them fundraise to buy the high-tech boat they need at Go Fund Me or via a range of corporate sponsorship deals (see their website for details).

The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is a rowing race like no other. More people have summited Everest than have successfully rowed across the Atlantic and with less than 20% of all ocean rowers being women, the team hope to show girls all over the country just what can be achieved when you are prepared to push the boundaries.

The crew will be living on a 23ft boat for up to 60 days, rowing two hours on and two hours off as they race across the world's second largest ocean, from the Canary Islands to Antigua. They will battle storms, 25-foot waves, sleep deprivation, hunger and a lack of home comforts. In fact, they will be lacking most things - including beds and a toilet! Christmas and New Year will bring little in the way of presents and pudding, delivering instead potential equipment failure and capsizes.

Abby and Charlotte have each had a taste of adventure over the past couple of years, with Abby having sailed across the mighty North Pacific as part of the Clipper Round the World Race and Charlotte walking the length of America on the Pacific Crest Trail, carrying everything she might need on her own back.

The crew are undertaking this massive challenge to turn the tide on cancer and raise much-needed funds for cancer charities Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. While the COVID-19 pandemic has had huge effect on every aspect of daily lives, cancer patients are being adversely affected by the current pandemic. One in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives and this is an issue that is sadly close to home for so many – including the crew.

Kat says: “For me, this challenge also represents something more - to live like I’ve never lived before. We grow up thinking we’re guaranteed 85 years of life and the ability to do what we want. I read somewhere that a cancer diagnosis helps you understand life is a gift and not a guarantee, and this creates opportunities.

“Even after my first diagnosis, I found I stopped stressing over a lot of things, I gained perspective on what was important, and I’m determined to make the most out of however much time I have. The challenge to row the Atlantic in aid of three epic charities with the hopes of smashing the world-record is one that the team and I are incredibly passionate about – and cancer won’t stand in our way.”

With just under a year to go before setting off on their journey, with a world-record time of 49 days, 13 hours, 49 minutes to beat, Kat, Charlotte and Abby are at the beginning of their rigorous training programme. With a target to raise £100,000 across the three charities, the trio have a number of fundraising initiatives underway and can be followed on their website and Instagram.

Let’s get behind them and show them some true LEH support.  Go team ExtraOARdinary! Go!

By Susanna Frayn (Alumnae Communications Officer)

  • LEH Alumnae