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Jasmine Harrison Is The Youngest Woman To Row Solo Across The Ocean

Jasmine Harrison on her boat. (Atlantic Campaigns)
Jasmine Harrison on her boat. (Atlantic Campaigns)

It took 70 days, 3 hours and 48 minutes forJasmine Harrisonto row across the Atlantic Ocean — a 3,000-mile journey from the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa to the Caribbean island of Antigua.

At 21, Harrison is the youngest woman ever to row solo across an ocean. Her boat is 23 feet long, weighs about a ton, and includes a small cabin and a bunker that she slept in.

"It feels unreal and every different emotion you can imagine," she says. "I can’t describe it properly."

Harrison says her body told her to take the challenge and her mind wouldn't move on from the idea until she completed the journey. She didn't have experience rowing but teaching herself a new skill made the competition even more enticing.

Months after entering the race, she realized the boat can go backward. She traveled more than 60 miles on some days, she says, but sometimes bad weather sent her backward or in the wrong direction.

Navigating on her iPad or phone, which broke during the trip, was easy because she was heading straight west, she says.

It wasn't all smooth sailing: Harrison capsized twice. The first time, a rough wave hit the side of the boat, sending her overboard until another wave flung her back on deck. She says this experience didn't shake her.

But two days before she completed the journey, a bigger wave sent her flying into the cabin seat. Harrison hurt her head, lower back and her elbow — which made it difficult to bend her arm to row.

"At that point, I was kind of glad about the capsize because it made me want to actually then finish," she says. "I was ready to finish and ready to say goodbye to the ocean."

During the long 70 days at sea, she says her brain got used to the isolation. Alone in the middle of the ocean, she refocused her mind during moments of panic and overthinking.

The Atlantic's marine life kept Harrison company. She saw dolphins, whales, crabs, squid, birds and different species of fish such as triggerfish, dorado and pilot fish.

The experience changed Harrison as a person, she says. She anticipates realizing how much she's changed once she's back home in England.

The youngest woman to row solo across an ocean says this title doesn't matter to her. She embarked on this journey because she felt called to it and encourages people of all ages to take on challenges.

"If you’re scared of something when you’re 30, if you’re scared of something when you’re 3, it doesn’t make any difference. That’s you as a person," she says. "I just want everybody to feel you can do something if you feel ready for it. Don’t rely on somebody else telling you that."


Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Allison Hagan adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.