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“We’re rowing the Atlantic together in 42 days but we’ve only met once!”

Daring duo, Lizzie Gill and Mark Agnew will set off on a remarkable 3,000-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean, having only met once. In fact when the pair signed up for the 2018 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge they had never even met!

Lizzie gill rowing challenge rafForty-three-year-old teacher Lizzie is training in the UK while her partner, Mark, 27, is based in Hong Kong full-time. The distance has meant that the pair have only managed to meet once and more importantly, only clock up one training session together. Nonetheless, in just a few months the twosome will make their way to Spain to begin their mammoth race to reach Antigua in under sixty days in a bid to break the world record.

Lizzie, of Walton on Thames said: “In this day in age, we see more and more students aspire to be the next blogger, reality tv star or instragrammer. But that can be a lot of pressure for young people and often very misleading and unrealistic. I was keen to be a positive role model for my students and show them that if you work hard anything is possible!”

The impending challenge has not been an easy ride for Lizzie though, with four of her previous partners dropping out of the race. But the Surrey maths teacher did not give up and has now paired with Mark, who works as an adventure sports journalist in Hong Kong.

Helping them along the way are Lizzie’s students from Fullbrook School, Surrey, who have been instrumental in helping her with the project. From designing her website, to helping her gain sponsorship, the teenagers have all rallied to help ‘Miss Gill’ on her Atlantic challenge.

Lizzie said: “From the offset, I was adamant that I would involve my students as much as possible and help them gain some useful skills along the way too!”

As well as completing this endurance challenge, Lizzie will be raising money for the RAF’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund at the same time. As the daughter of a former RAF airman it is a cause close to her heart.

Lizzie explains: “Moving around as a child means I know only too well the strains service families face. You can be really settled one day and then have to move the next. It can be really stressful especially for the families. My Dad served for 33 years as a medical officer and so supporting a cause like the RAF Benevolent Fund is really important to me.

“Last year the RAF Benevolent Fund spent £4.4 million supporting serving personnel and their families.”

The feat will see the pair row in shift patterns of two hours on, two hours off while battling the unpredictable elements.

If the conditions are against them they could be facing howling winds and 40ft waves, all in a boat that measures seven meters long and two metres wide and with just a small cabin for protection. The race is completely unaided, meaning that they must carry all of their food and equipment on board their vessel.

Once the safe haven and party atmosphere of port of La Gomera is left behind – they will be left with their own thoughts, an expanse of the ocean and the job of getting the boat safely to the other side. There is a constant battle of sleep deprivation, salt sores and the physical extremes that the row will inflict. And to top it off the pair are nothing short of strangers!

Louise Gibson, Head of Individual Giving at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “We are extremely excited about the upcoming challenge that Lizzie has planned. The countdown is well and truly on and we can’t wait to track her during the race. We rely on our wonderful supporters who take on these, often crazy, challenges for us and this one really is unique! Thank you so much for choosing to support us Lizzie, best of luck to you and Mark.”

www.rafbf.org