AN IRISH woman who comes from a long line of sporting greats will embark on the challenge of a lifetime this year.
Victoria Carroll, who descends from the infamous Casey family of Sneem in Co. Kerry, will take on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge with sailing partner Saf Greenwood.
The 3,000-mile race will see teams battling to make it across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean in December.
The pair, both aged 35, who will race under the Tideway Odyssey team name, are hoping to break the female pairs record of 50 days but admit “winds and weather could mean it takes 60 or more days”.
Held in December each year to avoid the storm season, the race is entirely unsupported so the women will have to be totally self-sufficient once they set sail.
“We will be sleeping, eating, washing etc. on the boat and will need to bring all supplies with us,” Ms Carroll told The Irish Post.
“We have a desalinator on board which turns the sea water into drinkable water and our food will be stashed in the bottom of the boat,” she explained.
Regarding their planned schedule for the race, Ms Carrol added: “Each team will approach the race differently but most start off with a routine of two hours on, two hours off, 24 hours a day, for as long as it takes to get to Antigua.
“We will be rowing through the night and trying to keep the boat constantly moving,” she added.
Ms Carroll, who learnt to row in Sneem at the age of 10, has been a member of the Vesta Rowing Club, based on the Tideway River Thames in London’s Putney, since 2012 and coached their Novice Women’s Squad from 2017-2019.
Having competed at National Championships and qualifying for Henley Women's regatta several times as part of the Club, she is no stranger to competitive rowing.
You could even say it is in her blood.
Her mother Bernadette Carroll (nee Casey) rowed for Great Britain, her grandfather Noel Casey was the Olympic coach for Great Britain and Juniors rowing coach for Ireland and her great-grandfather Jack Casey, a fellow rower, was one of the seven Casey brothers from Sneem who were such accomplished rowers – and wrestlers - that they were once dubbed ‘the toughest family on earth’.
With less than 12 months to go, Carroll and Greenwood, who met at the Vesta Rowing Club, are already in training.
“A challenge like this involves not just the obvious physical preparation, but also logistical, financial and mental,” Carroll admits.
“With regards to physical training we are focusing heavily on weights and also building up endurance on the rowing machine.
“The stronger we are, the more our bodies will be able to cope in the later weeks of the row and the stresses on our bodies.”
She added: “We are also taking time to find out where there are any niggles and strengthening where we have old injuries which is very important.
“A big part of this is making sure that we prevent injuries.
“We are currently training for around six to eight hours a week but will be increasing the volume as we get closer to the start date.”
Their preparation has also meant gaining the necessary qualifications to embark on the challenge.
“We have also needed to complete a number of courses around marine navigation, first aid and sea survival,” says Carroll.
“These are mandatory courses set by the race organisers and will mean we are fully prepared to take this challenge on.
“This was totally new to us so was really fun to learn,” she added.
One of the biggest challenges, however, is raising the money needed to enter the race.
“Financially it is a huge undertaking,” Carroll admits.
“In order to get to the start line, we need to raise around £100,000 in sponsorship.
“This covers our boat, equipment, food and shipping costs.
“Then on top of this we are aiming to raise as close to £100,000 as we can for charity - it feels like a full-time job sometimes.”
So, are they feeling confident about completing the challenge?
“Absolutely, I really can’t wait to do it,” says Carroll.
“Of course, we may come across things that are out of our control - strong storms, shark or whale damage to the boat or injury.
“But we are not only confident about finishing, we want to break the current female pairs world record of 50 days.”
Tideway Odyssey is supporting London Youth Rowing, who use rowing to support disadvantaged young people, and The Fawcett Society, in particular their campaign for gender equality and women’s rights, as their chosen charities.
“We will be relying on corporate funding to complete this challenge, so if anyone is working for or owns a company and would like to partner with us please get in touch,” Carroll adds.
“Once we have our corporate sponsors in place we can really focus on the most important thing - which is raising £50,000 for charity.”