“I wonder if you can make a boat out of recycled plastic?”

An innocuous enough question, but one that started the search for a type of boat we weren’t even sure existed – along with a firm commitment that if we were going to do this thing, our environmental footprint had to be as small as possible.

So what is this great thing we are going to do? It’s something that only around 140 women have ever done. More people have been up Mount Everest than have done this. We’re going to row across the Atlantic Ocean!

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, The Norfolk BrOARds

We are the Norfolk BrOARds and in 2019 we’re going to compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – The World’s Toughest Row. We’ll leave La Gomera, in the Canaries, in December 2019 and row 3000 miles across the Atlantic to Antigua. Three women. One boat. One ocean. 3000 miles.

If that isn’t amazing enough, we’re going to be rowing a boat that is a one of-a-kind - the world’s first “eco” ocean rowing boat. Our new R45 ocean rowing boat – built by Rannoch Adventure – will be made from sustainable green glass fibre, recycled foam and a green epoxy. The build will have as minimal impact on the environment as possible – using manufacturing techniques such as hand rolling all materials and using off cuts to make bi-products lead to as little wasted materials as possible.

As three women who love the environment and enjoy coastal water sports it’s incredibly important to us that our boat is as eco-friendly as possible. We want to take plastics awareness, sustainability and environmental responsibility a step further. The irony of most boat building these days is that while boats allow people to get closer to nature and the marine environment, the boats themselves are not very environmentally friendly. Those of us who are often in the water, and who can see the damage to our environment first hand, need to be the loudest spokespeople when it comes to protecting it. 

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, The Norfolk BrOARds

Our rowing adventure started after we sent a cheeky tweet to Rannoch Adventure – asking a question about sustainable boats. As it turned out, we found kindred spirits. The team at Rannoch had already been investigating the possibilities of building more eco-friendly boats and we ended up encouraged them a little with our own unique brand of enthusiasm.

The resulting ocean rowing boat is our R45 – The Mermaid. Rannoch worked with world class naval architects and product suppliers to test the materials and construction methods. This resulted in (amongst other things) a laminate that is as strong and lightweight as other laminates, but is also nearly completely carbon neutral.

Virgin Unite, Ocean Unite, The Norfolk BrOARds

The three of us are all members of the King’s Lynn Coastal Rowing Club and are absolutely not professional athletes. We’re more used to a leisurely row along the coast than taking on the might of the Atlantic, but we wanted to see what we’re capable of – we want to push ourselves further than we ever thought possible.

We want to use Mermaid after the race for corporate events, school visits and training sessions to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and to get people out on the water in an eco friendly way. If we can inspire other people, especially women, to challenge themselves and to really believe that anything is possible, we’ll be overjoyed. 

If you share our passion for the environment, we’d love you to get involved and support our journey. Together, we really can make a difference. So what happens when a business analyst, a postie and a county councillor decide to row an ocean? We don’t know yet, but we can guarantee one thing – the world won’t be quite the same once we’ve finished. 

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

This post is part of a series produced by Virgin Unite in partnership with Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action.