Cardiff alumni pair smash Atlantic Ocean race world record

Two friends who met at Cardiff University have set a new world record for the fastest women’s pair to row the Atlantic Ocean.

Despite having no previous rowing experience, Cardiff alumnae Jessica Oliver (BSc 2014) and Charlotte Harris (BA 2013), beat the previous female pair’s world record by five days. Team ’Wild Waves’ completed the gruelling Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to the English Harbour in the Caribbean island of Antigua in just 45 days, seven hours and 25 minutes.

The pair met when Jessica, who studied Biomedical Sciences, and Charlotte, who studied History, both joined the University Hockey Club.

"We met at Cardiff University ten years ago and have been best friends ever since! Being at Cardiff together was some of the best years of our life and something we talk about constantly even still. We are adamant that the strength of our friendship is what allowed us to be an incredible team in the build up to the row and then throughout the crossing itself. We worked hard for ourselves but also for each other and more importantly looked after one another so the adventure was as easy as possible."

Jessica and Charlotte began preparing for the race two years ago and undertook much of their training during COVID-19.

The challenge, often called the ’world’s toughest row’, saw them face 30ft waves, their boat capsizing, sleep deprivation, severe heat and blisters. Around day 20, they even ran out of snacks, making the journey even more difficult.

"Having had no rowing or ocean experience, we’re amazed that we even completed the challenge, let alone set a new world record... and we’re still friends at the end of it despite being at sea for months in a tiny boat," laughed Charlotte. "It shows that you really can do anything you put your mind to, which has always been our motto as friends since university, and we hope it helps inspire others."

Jessica and Charlotte beat 35 other teams from around the world in their boat ’Cosimo’ and were greeted on their triumphant arrival in Antigua by friends and family.

The pair shared their experiences with fellow Cardiff University alumna Emma Barnett (PGDip 2007) on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour.