The all-female crew, team Ithaca, completed a continuous lap around Great Britain within 44 days, supporting scientific research along the route.

Who are Team Ithaca?

Six inspirational women, otherwise known as ‘Team Ithaca’, have set a new Guinness World Record for completing the GB Row Challenge within record time around Great Britain’s coastline.

The GB Row Challenge is widely referred to as the ‘toughest rowing challenge in the world’, and it’s safe to say that the race lived up to its name for these strong rowers. The team battled their way through torrential rain, strong winds, and thunder and lightning all whilst rowing two hours on and two hours off consistently for 44 days.

The race started on the 4th of June 2023 departing from Tower Bridge as Team Ithaca left the river Thames and headed south to begin their 2,000-mile journey around the entire coast of Great Britain.

Silhouette of Great Britain on a map with arrow to show Team Ithaca's route around the Great British coastline (colours: Navy blue, light blue, red, white).

2,000-mile route around Great Britain’s coastline [Source: GB Row Challenge]

Emma Wolstenholme, skipper from Team Ithaca, had much to say to GB Row at the finish line: “We’re absolutely ecstatic that we have broken the world record and a little bit relieved that it’s all over after the constant headwinds down the East coast.”

She finished by saying, “My highlight has been seeing the team dig deep, as I pushed them hard in often harsh conditions and my low came when we realised we weren’t going to make a Tuesday finish due to even more headwinds, with family already at the finish line waiting for us. I’m looking forward to being able to walk around, have showers, and also to sleep in a bed!”

Emma Wolsternholme, Skipper from Team Ithaca [source: GB Row Challenge News]

Image of Team Ithaca. Emma Wolstenholme, Amy L Wood, Maggie Hodge, Clair Fennessy, ​Sandra Gates, and Emma Haxell with two rowing oars creating a cross, or an 'x'.

Team Ithaca. Emma Wolstenholme, Amy L Wood, Maggie Hodge, Clair Fennessy, ​Sandra Gates, and Emma Haxell [Source: GB Row Challenge]

Where Sport meets Ocean Science

Despite the intensity of the rowing challenge itself, these six rowers had another important achievement in mind.

The GB Row Challenge and the University of Portsmouth collaborated to combine the sport of rowing with scientific research, to form the ‘Row with a Purpose’ mission.

A micro-plastic sample being taken on-board from the coast of Great Britain [photo credit: Team Ithaca]

A micro-plastic sample being taken on-board [photo credit: Team Ithaca]

The rowers were responsible for collecting valuable samples of data, such as microplastics, temperature, biodiversity (e-DNA), and noise pollution underwater recordings. All data collected on board have been handed over to specialised scientists at the University of Portsmouth to be analysed. The findings will hopefully be released further this year.

“I’m delighted to see all the rowers back safe and sound, beating a world record no less! This is an amazing achievement on its own, made more so by their commitment to collect an incredible scientific dataset whilst rowing.”

“The team has collected over 1,000 hours of underwater sound data, over 80 eDNA samples for biodiversity analysis, over 40 microplastic pollution samples, and a comprehensive UK-wide sea surface temperature data set during the worst marine heatwave we have experienced. I am truly thankful for their fortitude in collecting this data for us, and I am eager to get the samples and data back to our labs for analysis.”

Dr Fay Couceiro, expert in biogeochemistry and environmental pollution at the University of Portsmouth [Source: GB Row Challenge News]

Underwater Noise Pollution

At RS Aqua, we have supported the GB Row Challenge for the past few years, however, now we have officially become a sponsor for the 2023 race.

Terry Edwards, Technical Director at RS Aqua, integrated the RS Aqua Porpoise OB1 underwater noise technology onto the rower’s challenger boat. The Porpoise OB1 sits above board, with a hydrophone embedded into the rudder of the rowing boat.

Ryan Mowat from RS Aqua, holding the rudder from the GB Row Challenge boat.

Ryan Mowat, Director of Fisheries and Research at RS Aqua holding the GB Row Challenge rudder.

In total, there were over 2.8 terabytes of underwater noise data collected on this year’s 2,000-mile journey.

In previous races, we installed the original underwater noise recording system – Porpoise, into the race boats. Thanks to independent projects like the GB Row Challenge and the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, they have enabled our technical team to adapt the original Porpoise technology to develop ‘Porpoise OB1’.

The Porpoise OB1 is designed with ease of integration, connectivity, and extended power supply in mind. Read more about the Porpoise OB1 development here.

Unlike previous years, switching from the ‘Porpoise’ to the ‘Porpoise OB1’ technology has meant that for the first time ever, the rowers do not have to manually turn on/off the system between rowing. This time, the Porpoise OB1 has allowed the team to focus on other vital sampling whilst the recorder was collecting noise data continuously during the rowing challenge.

The Purpose

Ryan Mowat, Director of Fisheries and Research at RS Aqua, told GB Row Challenge “Using our new Porpoise OB1 underwater noise recorder has meant that for the first time, they are recording high fidelity underwater noise without pause throughout their journey.”

“This is a world first and opens lots of opportunities for research. The data will help us study wildlife, such as whales and dolphins, and identify noise pollution along our coastline.”

Ryan added: “By comparing this year’s data with those of previous years, researchers hope to gain insight into how the warming of the oceans has affected patterns and behaviours of marine life around the UK.”

In 2022, the noise data that was analysed by the University of Portsmouth reported that snapping shrimp, commonly found in the south of England, were present further north than expected, which suggests that the water is too warm for their liking. Look at the 2022 noise data unpacked, here.

Our message to Team Ithaca

We would like to wish the biggest congratulations of them all to Team Ithaca for their exceptional performance. At RS Aqua, we are beyond thrilled to have been involved with the GB Row Challenge and all the great work that the team has put into their legacy.

Team Ithaca celebrated their success on the 19th of July 2023 at Tower Bridge, London. Champagne is being sprayed by one team mate over the others. The team are holding a silver trophie and banner that reads 'New Guinness World Record'.

Team Ithaca celebrated their success on the 19th of July 2023 at Tower Bridge, London.


GB Row 2022: The Data Unpacked Back to news
Previous RS AQUA LAUNCHES INNOVATIVE PROJECT MARLIN Next Marine Heatwave Poses Threat to UK & Ireland