Sydney woman Michelle Lee is set to become the first Australian woman to cross any ocean solo in a rowboat, when she arrives in English Harbour in Antigua this month.
The 46-year-old left La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12 and has spent the last two and a half months rowing herself 5000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean, taking part in the world’s toughest ocean race, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Michelle has battled injury, digestive issues, a broken rudder and a pipi infestation on her journey, which has lasted 57 days so far – an incredible feat for a woman who only picked up an oar for the first time two years ago.
It’s been a rapid rise to the top for Michelle, who last year became the fastest woman to row one million metres, bagging her a world record. It took her just five days.
In her first recorded phone call since setting off, Michelle admitted while the rowing schedule has been gruelling, she is in good spirits despite a few injuries.
“Holding up yeah, holding up,” Michelle said.
“I’ve got an open sore on my right hand on my ring finger – it’s giving me a little bit of curry and it just won’t heal.”
She’s due to finish her journey in 11 days after spending more than 60 days on the open ocean.
Her designated person ashore Tony Roberts said what she’s achieved so far is incredible.
“Her other two main competitors in the same type of boat are now way over 200 miles behind her,” Tony said.
“She was originally aiming to complete her crossing in just 55 days, but the weather and a few injuries have slowed her down a little. There is a high likelihood that she’s not going to be too far out from the original February the fifth goal, though. My belief is that it will be between February 15 and 20, depending on the easterly winds.”
This year 28 teams have taken part in the race, with teams made up of between one and five people.
An Australian-produced podcast called A While Away has been tracking Michelle’s journey, with interviews, race updates and satellite phone check ins with Michelle and her team.