Ocean rower from Burnley breaks Guinness World Record as part of fastest female team to complete the GB Row Challenge

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An inspirational Burnley woman who only took up rowing during the Covid pandemic is now celebrating being part of a world record-breaking team.

Emma Wolstenholme was the skipper in a team of six ocean rowers who set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest female team to complete the GB Row Challenge.

The former Christ the King and St Hilda’s RC High pupil served 16 years in the RAF as a training officer before swapping the clouds for the waves when she sought out a new challenge during the pandemic.

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Departing from Tower Bridge in London, the crew of ‘Team Ithaca’ rowed continuously and unsupported for 2,000 miles around the entire coast of Great Britain.

Emma Wolstenholme from Burnley skippered a team of six who set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest female team to complete the GB Row ChallengeEmma Wolstenholme from Burnley skippered a team of six who set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest female team to complete the GB Row Challenge
Emma Wolstenholme from Burnley skippered a team of six who set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest female team to complete the GB Row Challenge

Emma, who now lives in the Outer Hebrides where she works for BAE Systems on training for nuclear submarines, still visits her family and friends in Burnley regularly.

Her latest achievement marks another proud milestone for Emma who is a National Ambassador for the Air Cadets alongside television personality Carol Vorderman, after a brave attempt to row solo across the Atlantic.

Emma said: “It was such a proud moment for me, a girl from Burnley, to be made an ambassador for the cadets. I failed in my solo row and so believe my new shared world record is a great example of never giving up.

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“We were 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. The GB coastline is beautiful and I feel privileged to have seen it from the water.

‘Team Ithaca’ rowed continuously and unsupported for 2,000 miles around the entire coast of Great Britain‘Team Ithaca’ rowed continuously and unsupported for 2,000 miles around the entire coast of Great Britain
‘Team Ithaca’ rowed continuously and unsupported for 2,000 miles around the entire coast of Great Britain

“My highlight was 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.”

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Ocean rower from Burnley determined to complete race around Great Britain's coas...

In addition to completing this remarkable feat, the team collected valuable data on microplastics, temperature, noise pollution and biodiversity, which will be analysed by scientists at the University of Portsmouth.

They collected microplastics using a specially designed sampling system, thanks to an innovative collaboration between University of Portsmouth scientists, and engineers from Harwin and Porvair Filtration Group.

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Dr Fay Couceiro, expert in biogeochemistry and environmental pollution at the University of Portsmouth, said: “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.”

Their boat ‘Challenger’ recorded 2.8 terabytes of underwater noise pollution data.

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.

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