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20 April 2015, 06:18
A group of six women, including one from Saffron Walden, are setting off on one of the most challenging expeditions on the planet - rowing across the Pacific Ocean, this morning.
The women, dubbed the Coxless Crew, are heading out from the west coast of America for a journey of 8,446 miles across the world's largest expanse of open water.
Their daring challenge is expected to take around six months, during which they will set foot on land just twice as they travel the equivalent of more than a third of the distance around the world.
All being well, the intrepid group will stop off for around five days in Hawaii and Samoa before they come ashore for the final time at Cairns on the north east coast of Australia.
During their voyage they are likely to contend with ocean storms, changing currents, a glaring sun that will send temperatures soaring to more than 40C (104F) and possibly the company of an odd whale or two.
And the only thing to shelter them from treacherous seas is a small pink boat, less than 30ft long.
Leading the Coxless Crew - all single women - is Laura Penhaul, a 31-year-old Cornish native now living in Putney, south west London, who is the lead physiotherapist for the British Paralympic team.
Manning the oars are Emma Mitchell, 29, an expedition team leader from Marlow who lives in Portsmouth, and Natalia Cohen, 40, an adventure tour leader based in London.
The rowing quartet will be completed by three different women. Isabel Burnham, 30, a solicitor from Saffron Walden, will join them for the leg from mainland America to Hawaii; Lizanne van Vuuren, 26, a south African osteopath who grew up in Newbury, will take over from Hawaii to Samoa, while Meg Dyos, an estate agent from London who at 24 is the baby of the bunch, will help see them home from Samoa to Cairns.
Barring any mishaps they will become the first all-female team to row this route across the Pacific, the first team of four and will set the record for the fastest Pacific row. They also hope to raise around £250,000 for two charities, Walking With The Wounded and Breast Cancer Care.