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Rowers sorely tested by doldrums and raw flesh

FORTY-YEAR-OLD Annie Januszewski and her rowing partner Melanie King, 37, dreamed up the idea of rowing across the Atlantic after a few drinks in a pub 18 months ago.

For 58 days these two women have been rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. With about two weeks and 800 nautical miles - or 1,400km - before they reach their destination in Antigua, POLLY MANSER established crackly contact by satellite phone

FORTY-YEAR-OLD Annie Januszewski and her rowing partner Melanie King, 37, dreamed up the idea of rowing across the Atlantic after a few drinks in a pub 18 months ago.

They are now almost three-quarters of the way into a 5,200-mile journey that began in the Canaries and will end, in about two weeks' time, in Antigua.

The women are rowing 24 hours a day, two hours on and two hours off - one rowing while the other sleeps, prepares meals or does other chores.

The sleeping quarters in their 25ft vessel are so small they will accommodate an adult only in the foetal position.

Annie, originally from Seer Green, is currently suffering from severe sores on her bottom - her flesh is red raw with a condition she has described as 'nappy rash'.

On a crackly line via satellite on February 22, she confirmed that she and Melanie are in good spirits. However, since then, contact has been impossible and even their sponsor, Explore, after whom the boat is named, has not heard from them.

It was easier for us to get in touch with Annie's father, Mark Januszewski, of Long Grove, Seer Green.

"They are suffering terribly from sores; effectively they are rowing for 12 hours a day on raw flesh, and they also have hand sores. Sleep deprivation and scorching heat during the day are other major problems," he said.

"It is turning out to be more difficult than they had imagined. Of course we are very proud. Yes, we are worried too, but we know that they will get there."

He and Annie's mother, Michelle, were not particularly surprised when Annie told them she planned to row the Atlantic.

He said: "She's always had an adventurous spirit, done bungee jumping and so on. If there's something to be done then Annie will do it."

Annie, who works as a rowing coach in Bristol, and Melanie, are hoping to beat the world record for two women rowing across the Atlantic - currently 75 days - although that looks more and more unlikely because of a long period of doldrums which has slowed their progress.

So far, according to their blog, they have had their laptop rendered unusable by a large wave, they have encountered a Sainsbury's bag full of crisp and cigarette packets, and they have had radio contact with the captain of a cargo ship who wondered what two women were doing in a rowing boat thousands of miles from land.

Despite the risk of encountering sharks, Melanie has been into the water to scrape barnacles off the bow of the boat with a car ice-scraper, while Annie kept an eye out for circling fins.

Annie wrote in her blog: "The scenery is amazing. We have seen some fantastic sunsets with 360-degree horizons of oranges, yellows, pinks and purple - just breathtaking.

"Phosphorescence has also been incredible. I was rowing on Friday and the puddle around the blade glowed bright yellow, like glow stick bright. The light fanned out and faded and then the droplets coming off the spoon set off more sparks, making it look like it was dripping off the blade. It is truly beautiful."

They celebrated the halfway mark with a slug of whisky and the 1,000 nautical-miles-to-go mark with a miniature bottle of Champagne; a welcome luxury given that their diet consists mainly of freeze-dried food, which they describe as 'disgusting'.

Paul Bondsfield, of Explore, confirmed that the sponsors had had no contact with the boat since February 22, but the onshore team - a friend in Bristol - had received a text on Sunday (February 28).

He said: "They are still sitting in a deep low pressure. Without the wind and swell to help them along, progress can be very slow. I think the pressure sores must be causing problems."

Just before we went to press, however, we received a text from Annie, saying that the wind had finally picked up.

It read: "Got about 800 miles to go and good wind behind us, so maybe 10 to 15 days."

When they do finally reach land, their challenge will not have ended. It will take several days for their bodies to adjust to being back on terra firma. Then they will have to find their air fare home, which they do not have, having spent £20,000 each on the trip.

But they will worry about that after they have celebrated with a big steak, a shower and a massage. **Annie would love to receive messages of support from anyone who remembers her from Seer Green CofE Primary or Wycombe High School.

Go to www.atlanticworldfirst.co.uk , where you can also track their progress, and find a link to help her raise money for Macmillan Cancer Research.

 

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