Liz Wardley arrives in Antigua completing the 3,000 mile race. (Photos by Georgia Schofield)

Captain Of Visiting Sailboat Completes 3,000 Mile Race Across The Atlantic

By Sydney Kuhnel

A year ago Liz Wardley visited the Long Island and New York coastal waters with the sailboat dubbed “Maiden.” Her role on this vessel was captain, or as she called it being Australian, the skipper. The boat was touring the world, promoting equal access to education. While on tour Wardley saw many yacht clubs across Long Island, and recalls Oyster Bay as a beautiful place, remembering how “everyone was very welcoming.”

Wardley reacts to her finishing time of 44 days 4 hours and 47 minutes.

Wardley’s voyage on the “Maiden” was not unlike many others she had made before. Growing up in Papua New Guinea Wardley recalled much of her early years being spent fishing and inshore sailing. At the age of 20 she trialed and qualified to be on a yacht for “The Ocean Race,” which sends its competitors around the world traveling thousands of miles and racing night and day. From here on she was hooked to the sailing world. For much of her adult life she has worked on vessels like “Maiden” captaining the ships across the ocean. Professionally, she is an offshore sailor and has made a living running other people’s projects and boats. In 2020 Wardley found herself in Antigua watching racers cross the finish line after rowing thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. This January Wardley found herself in Antigua again, this time crossing the finish line herself. Wardley thinks back to watching the race finishers three years ago: “I think the cogs started turning then.”

Wardley holds up a banner celebrating her record pace.

The timeline from watching the race to taking part in it, in all took 3 years; however, Wardley’s training only began one year before the race when her boat arrived in Spain where she had been working. When the boat arrived the yard manager looked at the boat and told her it looked like a half-eaten Tic Tac. From then on that’s what the boat was called whether Wardley planned on it or not, “I couldn’t shrug it.” While training for a new form of sailing, she was also working full time offshore sailing and racing. She spent her free time in the gym, putting in mandatory hours on the boat, and performing drills at sea. One of the key differences in this race between her previous was her lack of company on the ship. Although Wardley started her training with a partner, by race time things had changed, and she was rowing solo. The biggest challenge in all this? “Just getting to the start line,” Wardley stated and laughed a little as she recalled all the equipment, and preparation needed to begin the race. One of the toughest requirements was the 85 days of food needed at a minimum of 3,500 calories a day. On top of this, tools and equipment needed to repair the ships over the course of the race were required. Luckily, for Wardley the repairs needed were minimal.
Wardley’s race spanned 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Going into the race dubbed “The World’s Toughest Row” Wardley had something in mind: “I wanted to break the record, that was my goal.” As the race went on, she was aware of her position, she knew that she was ahead of the record pace but tried not to focus on that. The challenge ahead of her was big enough, without a focus on how well she was doing. Wardley spent 44 days rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. She called the last 100 miles of the race emotional, with the realization that after over 40 days at sea, she would see land and other people again. Crossing the finish line, Wardley crushed the previous record with her 44-day pace taking 15 days off the previous time. Wardley recalled her thoughts “Oh wow I’ve actually done it, I’ve finished, I crossed that line,” as she completed the 3,000-mile route.
Following the completion of “The World’s Toughest Row” Wardley is taking some time to relax. Right now her goal is to just eat as much ice cream as she can. Soon she will travel home, and she looks forward to seeing her family. The time to relax is a short one for Wardley, who now has her sights set on performing another 3,000-mile row across the ocean, this time the Pacific. For this race, Wardley cannot go solo as the race has its competitors in more difficult waters and requires those competing to be in teams of at least two. You can follow Wardley’s continuing journey in rowing and sailing on her website and social media.

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