Nationwide sponsor World Record breaking female pair

by | Feb 18, 2019 | News

Lauren Woodwiss and Jemma Rix celebrating their World record row in Antigua

The Rix family farms a couple of thousand hectares in the Stour valley on the Essex/Suffolk border. They grow mainly onions, potatoes, sugar beet and cereal crops and through their company Stourgarden, they are sole-supplier of onions to Tesco – not an easy job on a season like this! The O’Malley family have done business with the Rix family on an almost daily basis for over 30 years. My son, Cameron, was captain of the Junior team at Cambridge City Rowing Club and now coaches rowing while at University in Liverpool. So, there was no hesitation when Bill Rix asked me if we’d be a sponsor for his daughter Jemma and her friend Lauren to row the Atlantic. We even threw in a free rowing lesson with Cameron! We all met in Cambridge back in November when Jem and Lauren regaled us with the details of their amazing challenge. The plan was to set off from the Canary Islands in early December to row 3,000 miles in a boat to Antigua. If they were successful they would be only the eighth female pair ever to row across the Atlantic. They both play a lot of sport but had never rowed competitively….which didn’t surprise Cameron as they nearly fell in the River Cam several times during the rowing lesson! Furthermore, this pair of novice rowers were seriously aiming to break the World record! One jaw-dropping fact they dropped in the conversation was that one of their jobs would be to clean the bottom of the boat of barnacles otherwise they slow down the boat. So, one of them would have to hop in the water to scrape them off while the other would be on shark watch!

Jemma and Lauren taking a rowing lesson in Cambridge with Cameron O’Malley

They spent Christmas day eating dehydrated turkey and chocolate. Jemma even spent her 30th birthday out at sea. They literally never stopped rowing – mainly in shifts of 4-hours-on, 4-hours-off. But they found time to write a blog which kept us all posted back home on their progress and made us laugh with their tales of hearing dogs barking in the night and children screaming. Bill and his family were in regular touch with them via satellite phone. I spoke to Bill just before he set off for Antigua to meet the girls on terra firma and he said that despite their best efforts, with about a week to go it didn’t look as though they were going to break the world record. However, the world record was always just a bonus. The main concern for us all back home was that they made the journey safely. So, I was bouncing round the room when Bill texted me from Antigua on 4th Feb to say “Hi Tim. They basically rowed like ….. for the last 3 days and broke the world record by 1.5 hours!”. Yes, they made it! This pair of brave, female rowing novices crossed the Atlantic in a rowing boat in a World record breaking 50 days, 5 hours and 53 minutes!! I spoke to Bill on his return and he said he was bursting with pride….and alcohol as they’d partied hard in Antigua!

Jemma and Lauren enjoying a well-earned rest in Antigua

As well as breaking world records they were raising money for charity – Cancer Research UK, Fair Share which fights hunger, and the Mintridge Foundation which supports the wellbeing of young children. They’ve raised an astonishing £28,000 so far – just a couple of grand short of their target so please hop on-line and donate

Ladies….from all at Nationwide….we salute you!


Tim O’Malley