Since taking her first oar strokes out of the harbor at Monterey, California on June 9, Great Pacific Race rower Elsa Hammond has been pushing hard against the waters of the Pacific, en route to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Today has been frustrating as I’ve struggled to make any progress west at all,” she wrote in a June 24 blog entry. “Rowing as hard as I can I’ve still been travelling a gentle south-east… I need to make that west as well, and I know how far there is still to go.”

Elsa, 29, is Ph.D candidate from Bristol, U.K. Rowing unsupported, she is now the only solo rower left in the race, and one of eight boats remaining from the original 13.


Among those that have withdrawn is the four-man team Pacific Rowers, which dropped out on June 20 when their electrics system failed and with it their electric bilge. Battling 20-foot waves and 30-knot winds, they called for a rescue as they were taking on water. Solo rowers Jim Bauer and Daryl Farmer have also ended their bids; Bauer had capsized five times and had taken on water, and Farmer was suffering extreme dehydration and seasickness.

Rowing into 25-30 knot winds, Elsa continues to push south and west. Among other challenges, she’s reported that violent waves have broken several of her oars (see photo at right). The waves are also making daily life difficult. 

“I’m getting quite adept at ‘speed cooking’ – trying to time my food preparation between waves,” she told the race organizers on June 24, day 15 of the race. “I take a good look out towards the waves and wait for a quieter patch, then quickly open up my ‘cooking’ hatch, and snatch out my stove, gimbal, gas canister and bag with lighter. I balance them between my knees and quickly close the hatch up again before a wave can break over it.

“Then I put everything together, carefully holding onto loose bags and bits and pieces (at the moment I’m tucking them under one of the broken oars while I cook). I choose an expedition meal out of another hatch (using the same wave avoidance method), and check the amount of water I need. Tucking that under my foot, I fill the stove with the right amount of water from my water bladder – again trying to time the pouring between waves so I don’t spill everything… Once the water has boiled, I pour it into the meal and stir, and then close the pouch up and tuck it behind the broken oar while I put all the stove pieces away.”

Of the 10 women who have rowed an ocean alone, only two have rowed the Pacific. Elsa was the first Great Pacific Race rower to approach ASC, essentially helping build our partnership with the race. As Elsa and the other teams row those 2,400-plus miles to Hawaii, they’ll also be collecting ocean water samples for our microplastics project. 

In addition to working with us, Elsa is supporting the Plastic Oceans Foundation, which works to raise awareness of marine plastic pollution and combat the issue, and the GREAT initiative
, which works to eliminate gender inequality.

Visit our Great Pacific Race page for more information about the race, the crews and our microplastics project. Learn more about ASC projects on our blog, and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.