Saffron Walden rower returns to Britain after Pacific voyage

Coxless Crew arrive in Hawaii

Coxless Crew arrive in Hawaii - Credit: Archant

After months at sea, Saffron Walden solicitor Isabel Burnham has returned to life on land. ABIGAIL WEAVING speaks to Isabel as she got back to the UK to discuss life on board and resuming normal life.


CoxlessCrew - Credit: Archant

She has braved tropical storms, seen some of the world’s most remote wildlife, and survived at sea with a broken Kindle, but now Isabel Burnham is back on British soil after completing her leg as part of the Coxless Crew.

The team arrived in Hawaii on July 20, having spent over 80 days rowing across the Pacific Ocean in a bid to raise money for Breast Cancer Care and Walking with the Wounded.

“We did not realise how many people would be there,” Saffron Walden solicitor Isabel, 30, told the Reporter hours after she stepped off the plane.

“There were so many people there from the yacht club all ready with Hawaiian leis and champagne. It was amazing.”

Coxless Crew launch day

Coxless Crew launch day - Credit: Archant

Even walking again proved overwhelming, with the girls posting a Facebook video showing them trying to put one foot in front of the other.

Isabel said: “My legs are alright now, although I feel a bit wobbly on my feet first thing in the morning.”

Most Read

It was not long, however, until Isabel adjusted to life on land again.

“It is surprising how quickly you slip back into life again. You think that going away will make showering and things like that seem like they are totally brand new again, and do not get me wrong it was very nice having a proper shower again, but after a day you think, well, this is what is normal now.”

And, despite being thousands of miles from home in the middle of the ocean, Isabel confessed there were no grand epiphanies on the boat, which they nicknamed Doris.

She said: “I think with any kind of trip like this, where you go away for a bit, like camping, it does make you realise how simple life really is and it does make you appreciate it a bit more, but I had no great epiphanies or anything.”

There was, however, one thing which did stay on her mind throughout the trip – her family.

“Being away from my family was one of the hardest aspects. We were all conscious that they were at home, reading the blog and keeping an eye on our progress and where we were each day.

“We would put online that we were experiencing bad weather, and it was difficult to say to them, ‘Don’t worry, we are all fine’, so you would sometimes worry about how they would interpret those sorts of updates.”

The girls’ navigation and communication system was easily clogged up and this meant limiting emails with family, making sure weather updates could still get through.

Although Isabel was without her family, she and her teammates, Laura, Natalia and Emma, grew close over the journey.

“As far as the girls are concerned,” she told the Reporter, “I do not think it could have gone any better. They are great girls.”

In fact, the team gelled so well that even on down days they always managed to find something to lift their spirits.

“One of the things that was great was that we all just ended up having a laugh in difficult situations, and we always managed to find it hilarious. In moments of frustration we could just make it something funny.”

She added: “If you were having a wobble though, or your rowing shift did not go well because of the weather, or you were sore, or the time passed really slowly, it was only for two hours, and then you could go and do something else in the cabin.

“By your next shift it was usually completely different conditions; the light would have changed or the weather would have adjusted, so if you were having a low moment it was great because it was always over quite quickly.”

Now back in the UK, Isabel will keep in touch with the rest of the team as they set off for Samoa; the second leg of the journey, which is due to end later this year in Australia.

Isabel, now having raised over £14,000, will also be in close contact with Breast Cancer Care and Walking with the Wounded.

The team hopes to raise £250,000 for the charities by the end of the challenge.

She added: “Most of the fundraising after events like this comes afterwards, so hopefully it will go onwards and upwards.”

INFORMATION: To donate £3, text DORIS to 70300 or go online at to give more.