Female crew celebrates non-stop row round Britain

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The Independent Online

A weary crew of female seafarers were today celebrating on land after becoming the first women to row non-stop around the coast of Britain.

The four-strong team moored at Tower Bridge in London after spending more than 50 days at sea covering 2,000 miles.



As they sipped champagne and rested tired muscles, the quartet spoke of the "fantastic feeling" of completing the gruelling course.



In all, it took them 51 days, 16 hours and 42 minutes to row around the British mainland - around three weeks longer than expected.



They set off on June 1 as part of the Virgin GB Row 2010.



Billed as the world's toughest rowing race, it pitted the four - Belinda Kirk, 35, from Bristol, Laura Thomasson, 23, from Dover, Beverley Ashton, 29, from Wantage in Oxfordshire, and 50-year-old American Angela Madsen - against a men's team.



But two weeks into the challenge, the men gave up, leaving the Seagals - as the four are known - to carry on alone.



Bad weather and strong winds meant that the task was made even more challenging than originally envisaged



The crew were also hit by a string of setbacks. Huge waves almost sunk the vessel at one point, while other boats also proved to be a problem.



Ms Madsen, a wheelchair-bound former US marine, broke her finger after setting off a flare to warn off a ship on collision course with the rowers.



Earlier this week, an onboard power failure saw the women having to ration drinking water.



And the last 24-hours of the race saw them run out of food stocks.



But, overcoming these setbacks, the four rowed over the finishing line this morning.



Ms Madsen said she was "glad to be back", adding: "I have rowed both the Atlantic and the Indian ocean and rowing around Britain presented the most challenging and unpredictable weather patterns I have ever experienced.



She continued: "It was tough, it was long and drawn out - we just kept slogging along all the way around."



Skipper Belinda Kirk said: "To be the first women to row around Britain...it is a first and will never be broken. It was absolutely brilliant."



Ms Kirk added that her plan now was to "get home and sleep in a bed for more than two hours at a time".

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