Michelle Lee has conquered the Atlantic, becoming the first Australian woman to row solo across any ocean. Photo: Robin Skjoldborg
Michelle Lee has conquered the Atlantic, becoming the first Australian woman to row solo across any ocean. Photo: Robin Skjoldborg

5000km, 68 days in a row boat for Australian woman

FIVE years after reading a book about a rowing adventure, Sydney's Michelle Lee has surfed down waves alongside whales, lost the equivalent of two plane carry-on bags in weight, racked up an immense phone bill talking to friends when lonely and become the first Australian woman to row across an ocean.

Just over two years after she rowed for the first time, Lee covered the 5000km distance between the Canary Islands and Antigua in 68 days 12 hours and 49 minutes to set the milestone.

She celebrated with her best friend Claudine O'Keefe, a burger, coleslaw and a rum punch.

"It is a relief to be here, I am so happy, " Lee said on Wednesday after her first sleep in a bed in almost three months.

"I have holes in my fingers from gripping the oars and massive callouses on my hands.

"I have sores on my bottom as well from 12 hours in the seat.

Michelle Lee was relived to end her gruelling adventure. Picture: Atlantic Campaigns
Michelle Lee was relived to end her gruelling adventure. Picture: Atlantic Campaigns

"I had tooth ache and ear ache which I managed to fix with a bit of self help - three course of antibiotics - it also made me realise how vulnerable I was.

"It was terribly confronting and frightening at times."

But on the flip side were moments former banker Lee said she will never forget despite the toll the voyage took on her mentally and physically.

The 46-year old rowed into English Harbour in Antigua. Picture: Robin Skjoldborg
The 46-year old rowed into English Harbour in Antigua. Picture: Robin Skjoldborg

"I was in awe of nature out there, the energy of it, the starts, the sky, the Milky Way, the wildlife," said Lee, who rowed from 5am until 10pm each day, fuelling herself with freeze-dried food but still losing 14 kilograms during the trip.

"I had pilot fish following me. I had the whale army, a couple of hours where whales were sharing waves with me. I had dolphins around me. I wondered who sent them, if they were my guardian angels to give me energy to continue."

After departing from the Canary Islands on December 12, Lee spent almost 70 days at sea rowing 5000km across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the gruelling Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

The 46-year-old was inspired to set herself the challenge after reading Rowing the Atlantic by Roz Savage.

News Corp Australia


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