epic endurance challenge

epic endurance challenge

east midlands mum uses waterways to prepare for epic endurance challenge

Jooles Paillin, trans atlantic rowerAn East Midlands mum is making the most of living beside an inland waterway as she prepares to tackle one of the toughest endurance challenges in the world in just a few months.

In December, 39-year-old Jooles Paillin, who lives just outside Nottingham, will be taking on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge and rowing for almost two months 3,000 miles across the Atlantic.

Jooles Paillin Amy on River SoarWith the country in lockdown, Jooles has been making the most of having the River Soar just a few footsteps from her front door as she prepares for a challenge so tough that more people have been into space or climbed Everest than rowed the Atlantic.

Competitors row for two hours and sleep for two hours constantly, for 24 hours a day, until they complete the journey. In 2019 finishing times ranged from 32 days to 86 days!

“At the moment I feel very lucky to live where I live” said Jooles. “I can literally go from my front door to being on the water within seconds. With social distancing in place the ability to get outside in the fresh air and row has been a godsend.”

Being on the water is natural to Jooles, having lived on a dutch barge for the first half of her life and being around the canal system from five-days old. She has travelled on a whole host of rivers - the Soar, Thames, Trent, Ouse, Ure, Severn, Witham, Nene, Avon in Bristol and Avon in Stratford and the Kennet to name just a few.

The list of canals she has travelled on is even longer and includes the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union, Llangollen, Oxford, Coventry, Ashby, Caldon, Ripon, Macclesfield, Grand Union and various branches, including Aylesbury Arm, Staffs & Worcester, Aire & Calder, Sheffield & South Yorkshire, Kennet & Avon, Middle Levels, Manchester Ship Canal, New Junction Canal, Montgomery Canal and Bridgewater Canal.

Jooles Paillin, 1981
Jooles Paillin, 1982

It is no surprise she fully admits to being a water baby and feels the need to be by the water on a daily basis:

“I do feel drawn to the water and have lots of fond memories from my younger years living on a dutch barge. I used to love visiting Ellesmere Port Boat Museum for the Easter gathering of working boats. Meeting up with other younger boaters was so exciting for me at that age!

Jooles Paillin, 1984
Jooles Paillin, 1988

“Getting my first Dunton Double and having my initials engraved on an antique windless single are other memories. I won’t forget when I was 13 being left to steer a 72-foot working boat in the torrential rain on the Northern Oxford Canal. We were coming towards Marston Junction, with my stepdad and mum unusually in the cabin inside having dinner due to the somewhat inclement weather, when I shouted to them ‘There’s going to be a bump, a big bump!’.

“Not knowing ‘the road’ I mistook the start of the Ashby Canal for the main line of the Northern Oxford and had to attempt a very sharp bend under the first bridge on the Ashby. There was a hefty bump but no permanent damage was done!

Jooles Paillin 1991
Jooles Paillin, 1991

“As a young person I either lived and holidayed on four different boats and slept in some unusual places! One vessel was the Frederick Whittingham, an ex-port of London quarantine launch from the 1930s or 40s. My sleeping places included the tiny wheelhouse floor, a too short hammock and next to the six-cylinder Gardner engine.

I was also actually named after a Lister JP3 engine in NB Emerald! JP stood for joint production as indeed I was. “

Jooles Paillin, 1991
Jooles Paillin

Jooles took up rowing in 2007 and currently holds two Boston Marathon records, an indoor Concept2 record, rowed 30 half marathons in 45 days and most recently rowed 100km in 36 hours.

She has also taken on and won river marathons and undertaken multiple indoor rowing marathons, but is under no illusions rowing across the Atlantic Ocean will be a different league altogether.

“The challenge is a huge physical test for anyone, but the biggest battle of all will be in our own minds and as a team we are using a hypnotherapist to prepare mentally for the challenge. We will return changed people and how we overcome each and every battle in our heads, broken equipment, pain, injury, etc will shape the rest of our lives” said Jooles.

Jooles will be undertaking the epic challenge with friends Mark Sealey, Amy Wood and Gemma Best - the quartet have dubbed themselves Force Genesis.

Force Genesis - Jooles Paillin, Mark Sealey and Amy Wood
Force Genesis 4th team member Gemma Best

The beginning of the race will be extra special for Jooles - it starts on her 40th birthday! Beginning on 12 December Force Genesis, along with 34 other teams, will leave San Sebastian Harbour in La Gomera, just off the coast of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands to race to English Harbour in Antigua.

The race is totally unsupported, which means teams take all of their food with them and make water with a desalinator. They will battle with sleep deprivation, salt sores and physical extremes inflicted by the race, not to mention waves of up to 20 feet high and the fact they will at times be closer to space than people on dry land!

As part of the challenge, Force Genesis will be raising money for  Blood Bikes charities including  East Midlands Freewheelers and Devon Freewheelers - with an aim of helping them buy new vehicles and train volunteer riders and support call handlers.

They will also be raising funds for the new Duty to Care charity that is supporting NHS staff by offering free mental health and wellbeing facilities by matching up practitioners to front line staff, which is more important now than ever in the current pandemic crisis that could have ongoing ramifications for front line staff for years to come.

Jooles explains why they chose both of these charities:

blood bikes“Blood Bikes do an amazing job and their bikes and cars that are in service are all provided free of charge to the NHS through dedicated volunteers all over the country. Each £100,000 raised for Blood Bike charities will save the NHS half a million pounds by not having to use ambulances, taxis and couriers during out-of-hours operations.

“Anyone could be involved in an accident or need lifesaving blood, platelets, organs, donor breast milk or the mother’s milk transporting between hospitals.

“As for Duty to Care, I have experienced first hand this year, in an intensive care unit, the amazing work the NHS do and, in recent weeks and months, I think we have all realised what an incredible asset each member of the NHS is.

“The services Duty to Care offer are important to the mental and physical wellbeing of NHS staff and are hugely needed at the moment.”

Just getting to the start line has been a huge challenge for the team, as Jooles admits:

“I am just a single mum, business owner and rower with all the challenges that brings at home. So trying to shoehorn this gargantuan project into normal life has been interesting to say the least and I know it has been the same for the others.

“Just to get to the start line has cost us in excess of £100,000 already. This includes £45,000 for a second hand boat, £20,700 in race entry fees, £11,000 shipping the boat, £6,000 in food, £3,000 in marketing, £9,000 for boat refit, electronics and additional safety equipment, £3,000 in essential Royal Yachting Association courses and £7,000 in travel.

“We still aren’t there yet, so any support would be appreciated - once we get to the start line we can raise some serious money for our chosen charities.”

epic endurance challenge force genesis

The team has a variety of sponsorship packages, from big to small, to help them make their dream of crossing the Atlantic a reality. For more details visit the Force Genesis website or contact Jooles directly by email.

You can also be part of the campaign, and help ensure they get to the start line, by becoming an armchair supporter via their newly launched GoFundMe page

If you want more you can even be part of the crossing and have your name on the boat for the duration of the adventure by joining the Force Genesis 250 Club

To raise money for the charities you can visit their JustGiving page

Follow the team on Facebook

For more information on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge visit the race website

Editor's note:

Due to circumstances beyond Joole's control, she has had to pull out of this year's challenge. She is going to undertake the challenge, and is looking forward to joining a team in 2025. Meanwhile our best wishes are with Jooles, and we wish the remaining members of her team all the best in their endeavours this December.