A 54-year-old sports psychology lecturer at Munster Technological University has made history, becoming the first Irishwoman to row solo and unaided across the Atlantic ocean after more than 80 days rowing 3,000 nautical miles.
Dr Karen Weekes, from Kinvara, Co Galway, completed her record-breaking bid to be the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic and only one of 20 women to ever row an ocean solo. She started her marathon journey from Gran Canaria on December 6 and rowed into Bridgetown harbour in Barbados late on Thursday evening, her arrival delayed due to adverse weather conditions.
The feat was made all the tougher due to an absence of trade winds to help power her boat forward. She had faced mountainous seas, was forced to dive underneath her small self-righting craft to repair a broken rudder and ran into a storm just days after starting her voyage from Gran Canaria in early December.
Making light of the numerous challenges she faced, Ms Weekes told Barbados minister for sport Charles Griffith and local media gathered around her: “I love endurance sports; I am really not into records but I love the fact that I am making a little bit of history, and I love that I am also making history for my family”.
Ms Weekes undertook the massive feat as part of the #SheCanDo campaign, which aims to provide a platform for encouraging women and girls to push themselves outside their comfort zones and believe in their abilities to succeed both in their work and everyday lives.
Her voyage has raised funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute and Irish children’s hospice the Laura Lynn Foundation. She also wants to highlight the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically on gender equality and life under the water which focuses on the conservation of oceans and marine life.
She said of the adventure: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life; it really pushed me”.
There was many a time out there when I broke down in tears, many a time I screamed at Neptune and the wind and those huge waves.”
This isn’t her first feat: Ms Weekes had previously cycled 6,442km across Canada, circumnavigated Ireland in a kayak, sailed the Atlantic twice and climbed Africa’s two highest peaks — Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
She arrived in Bridgetown harbour to cheers of “she did it” from family and friends, including so