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British rower completes trans-Atlantic -- despite abandonment by husband

Jan 1, 2003

Everyone must row with the oars he (or she) has -- so says an old proverb. Evidently, a woman from London, who has successfully completed a 3000-mile row from the Canary Islands to Barbados, has made good use of the oars life has given her!

Debra Veal and her rowing partner/husband Andrew entered the Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge, setting off Oct. 7, 2001, in their specially outfitted 23-foot rowing craft Troika Transatlantic from the port of Los Gigantes, Tenerife.

Of the 36 teams in the race, team Veal was the only married couple entered. After just two weeks at sea, however, Andrew had had enough, being unable to adapt to cramped conditions onboard (he's 6' 6"). With the race expected to last upwards of 100 days, both Veals decided it would be best for Andrew to withdraw to a safety boat, leaving his 26-year-old, former physical education instructor/wife to continue the grueling journey alone.

The day Andrew left was one of Debra's lowest days at sea. She recorded in her race diary (available at www.troikatransatlantic.co.uk): "As I watched the yacht sail towards us on its way to pickup Andrew, we held each other and cried. I couldn't help thinking that if anything went wrong, we might never see each other again."

A determined Ms. Veal doggedly stuck it out ... alone, dealing with the attentions of an inquisitive shark and a near-miss with a tanker, in a true challenge of her own personal limits. She didn't win the race, but she did finish. Debra arrived at Port St. Charles, Barbados, to a hero's welcome on Jan. 26 after 112 days at sea, becoming only the third woman to row across the Atlantic alone.

(The Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge (www.wearc.com) was created by Sir Chay Blyth's Challenge Business and is easily the world's most exhausting rowing race.)


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