Adventurer Shirley Thompson Will Cross the Atlantic in a Row Boat

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Organiser of one of the world’s most dangerous foot races Jungle Marathon, Shirley Thompson (or Shirl/Ultimate Badass) will be rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean to set world records, raise money for charity and celebrate her 60th birthday. The solo adventure will begin in December this year, Shirl will set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands and will end her trip in Antigua. This will be part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Shirley Thompson

YACHTNEEDS got together with Shirl for a little question and answer session to find out more about her upcoming expedition.

Who is Shirley Thompson?

I am a 60 year old Irish woman who has lived and worked in the South of France for the past 16 years. Prior to that I worked on private jets for over 20 years (and I also fly a little aircraft for fun). I am an avid ultra marathon runner and organise the world’s toughest adventure run: Jungle Marathon.

Why have you decided to row the Atlantic?

It’s my 60th this year and I wanted to celebrate by taking part in a huge challenge. I have spent all my spare time for the past 14 years organising Jungle Marathon but I’m not holding the race in 2018, instead I am focusing on my own adventure.

What do you want to achieve by doing this row?

I want to prove to myself that someone ordinary can do something extraordinary, even at 60. Society tends to dismiss women once they hit 50.

A secondary part of the challenge is the two world records I am going for – the oldest woman to row an ocean solo, and the first Irish woman to row an ocean solo.

As a by-product, I shall be fund raising once the row starts.

How long have you been planning this?

I have been planning to do a huge challenge for some years, but only decided which challenge in March this year. Less people have rowed an ocean than climbed Everest, so for me the ocean row was the one to go for.

Yorkshire Rows splash CREDIT BEN DUFFY copy

What have you had to do to prepare for the row? And what training have you done?

My preparation is ongoing. Training courses in: sea survival, SRC, First Aid, Navigation and Seamanship and ocean rowing. I needed to source and buy a boat (which is currently being refurbished) and address practical aspects such as my food for such a long period of time, purifying water at sea and learning how to repair everything on my boat in case of a problem during my crossing.

To date, my training is being done on my water rower- at the moment I am doing 4 hours a day and I am adding hours every week until I am comfortably doing 16 – 18 hours a day.

My boat arrives in the South of France at the end of May and then my training will continue on the water.

I get up to row in the middle of the night to get used to less sleep, I won’t be sleeping more that 2 hours at a time during the crossing.

I am also running 10km-15km daily which is part of my normal daily routine.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

I have done many endurances foot races over the years, so although the water is not my skill-set I do have experience in sleep deprivation, passing the pain barrier and having a strong mental tenacity. These things are all imperative for my row.

What is your motivation to keep you going?

That first ice cold Rum Punch when I reach Antigua 😉

Biggest fears heading into the row?

If I allowed myself to be fearful I wouldn’t even reach the starting line. My only focus is being 100% prepared when I reach the start. Once I am on my way then I have to get on with any obstacles the ocean throws at me, whether its rogue waves, storms, capsizes, salt sores, blisters or encounters with whales, sharks and sea turtles… Oh and maybe the odd collision with a super yacht that hasn’t seen me on their radar!!

You can follow Shirl’s journey online on her Facebook page or website and you can sponsor her too whether you’re a fan wanting to help out a charity or a company that would love some major brand exposure.

Yorkshire Rows complete Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge LtoR Janette Benaddi, Frances Davies, Helen Butters, Niki Doeg PHOTO CREDIT BEN DUFFY copy

Do you want your business seen by millions around the world? Check out sponsorship packages!

If your company is in a position to donate some equipment or money to Shirl’s cause then you can receive plenty of social media shoutouts and your company’s logo featured on her boat and sports gear. Here is a list of everything she’ll be needing for her journey:

Simrad NSS7 evo3
HH36 Hand held VHF
2xSD 10 Drive Unit
NAC-2 Core pack
DST 800 Plastic Tranducer
2 xGS25GPS Antenna
2 xIS42Colour Inst Display
1 AP44 Autopilot Controller
Simrad WR10 wireless remote


Sat phone
BGAN equipment for data upload
Air time


Katdyn 160e main water maker

Immersion suits
Fire extinguishers

Automatic Bilge pump


Heavy duty storm gear

Any contacts for berthing (Antibes or Cannes from June to November) Any contacts for shipping of the boat (she needs to transport from France to Canaries before the race, and Antigua to UK after the race. Any contacts for insurance.

rowing team

Download the Shirley Thompson Row PDF to see all sponsorship options.

We at YACHTNEEDS wish Shirley a fun and safe journey across the ocean, hopefully she’ll have loads of exciting stories to tell us all when she finishes her epic adventure!

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