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Four Pembrokeshire women to take on ‘world’s toughest row’

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Denise Leonard, Liz Collyer, Helen Heaton and Heledd Williams will join teams taking part in one of the toughest races on earth – The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

The ladies will be joining teams rowing more than 3,000 miles unaided across open sea from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean in 2025.

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The race involves a gruelling row for up to 60 days, with bodies and minds being tested to their limits. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat is not for the faint hearted. More people have climbed Everest than have crossed this treacherous stretch of sea, with up to 20-foot waves to battle.

Denise said: “We are four ordinary women from Pembrokeshire who want to do something extraordinary. We want to show that nothing – not gender, not our aging bodies, not even our own minds – can stop us from achieving great things. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re grabbing it by the oars.

“We’re made of tough stuff, living by the edge of the sea, so we know that we have the determination and motivation to complete this test for ourselves and for our chosen charities; RNLI, Sea Trust Wales, Action for Children and The Popham Fund. We have called our team Merched y Môr (Women of the Sea).”

Denise said she was undertaking the challenge to, “show my children what can be achieved if you take a chance in life and are brave enough to try; and for all women who can think of a million reasons why it shouldn’t be them.”

As part of her training, Denise will spend time at University of Wales Trinity St David’s new Academy of Sport, which aims to provide students with the opportunity to work with individuals involved in high performance sport to maintain and develop their performance. 

Former student at UWTSD, Liz added: “Whilst at UWTSD I had the opportunity to explore what adventure means to me, now I get to push that boundary with three amazing, capable, strong women.  

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“Challenge by Choice is going to be taken to the next level!  

“Every part of this journey will be an emotional, physical, and intellectual grapple but I am supported by everyone that counts … so why not?!”

Geraint Forster, UWTSD’s Individual Sports Academy Coordinator said: “Working with Denise and her team will provide the students with an excellent opportunity to work with individuals preparing for a uniquely challenging event. Developing the resilience to be able to cope with rowing for weeks on end with no respite will be key.”

Professor Wendy Dearing, Dean of the University’s Institute of Management and Health said: “We are proud to be supporting Denise and her team and delighted that the University’s new Academy of Sport will be able to help develop their training programmes.”

Lead image: Heledd Williams, Denise Leonard, Helen Heaton & Liz Collyer (Image: Daniel Phillips)

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