MAKING WAVES: The Island Girls completed one of the world’s toughest rowing challenges
NOT HEROES, but “sheroes” – that’s how they hailed the Caribbean women who have become the first all-black female team to row across the Atlantic.
There was a huge homecoming for the Team Antigua Island Girls as they completed one of the world’s toughest rowing challenges. The team rowed 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in 47 days, raising money for charity.
Large parts of the island came to a halt as people flocked to the welcoming ceremony at English Harbour. Politicians even shortened the day’s budget debate to join in.
For team captain and all-round athlete Kevinia Francis, who first had the idea of an all-women crew, it was a dream come true. Kevinia told the crowd, which included small girls perched on their fathers’ shoulders: “Anything you want to do you can do, of course. Put your mind to it, work for it, and go for it.”
The Island Girls left the Canary Islands on December 12, alongside 27 other teams making the Atlantic crossing in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Row Challenge. They finished in 13th place, arriving home on January 28.
By the time Kevinia, Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing and Samara Emmanuel reached their home shore, the harbour was hosting a national celebration, with schools and offices closing early.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who had donated EC$10,000 with his wife, was on hand to present the Island Girls with a gift.
PICTURED: The team with West Indies Cricket Board president Whycliffe ‘Dave’ Cameron
The “Sheroes”, as they had become known, attracted local and international media attention. America’s Black Entertainment Network reported their arrival as “Antiguan women become world’s first black people to row across Atlantic Ocean by choice”.
Kevinia, 40, said that she had been thinking about an all-woman crew since 2015, when an Antiguan male team first entered the Talisker challenge. A health and fitness trainer and retired road racing cyclist, she described the event as a challenge that “epitomises all that I live for in one go: sports, travel, competition, country, charity, new experiences and creating memories”.
Elvira, 36, whose day job is as a flight dispatcher with airline LIAT, describes her aim as “to rise and conquer”, while 32-year-old Samara has more than 12 years of sea-faring experience as a day skipper and yacht master.
Christal, 28, made her name as the first female swimmer to represent Antigua and Barbuda in the 2004 Olympics.
The team have continued to make waves since they arrived home, sharing the message of their journey and their hope to inspire other young women. They were feted during the second Test between England and the West Indies in Antigua, taking pictures with the cream of Windies cricket and being interviewed by the producer of BBC’s Test Match Special.
Money raised by the team went to support the Cottage of Hope, a non-profit, non-denominational Christian organisation that helps abused, neglected and orphaned girls.
The Island Girls posted on their Facebook page: “We continue to celebrate and thank our media friends who have kept us in the hearts and minds of their audiences over the last few months. We have enjoyed sharing the journey.”
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